Pushing Aside My Pride to Make Sure His Story Is Told

My Novel Project by Lisa Womble

I am a terrible fundraiser. I simply hate asking for money. For this reason, I have never taken a salary for the full-time work I do for our church plant. I just couldn’t raise funds for my own pay when the ministry needed the support. Almost two and a half years ago, I drew up plans to start a crowdfunding campaign for the book I’m writing (lacking a paycheck greatly hinders my ability to travel for the last leg of research I need to do).

But two days ago, I swallowed my pride and finally pushed the button on the campaign. As I’ve written before, I simply must get this book done as soon as possible. The friend I’m writing about has lived under an assumed name for over two decades and it’s time for him to reveal the truth about his life. He desires to do so in order to more effectively help others escape from the kind of life he used to lead. I’m honored that he’s asked me to help him tell his story. And now I’m asking if you would like to help, too.

The Go Fund Me campaign I’ve created offers rewards for this who choose to give to the project. Each reward level helps donors become increasingly more involved in the process to get this book written, published and promoted. I look forward to working with all who come along side me to get this story told. I am convinced many will be blessed by the book and by my friend’s ability to finally share how God brought him out of the “slimy belly of the underworld.”

To check out my Go Fund Me page and see the rewards I’m offering, click here or on the icon in the sidebar of this blog. And please, feel free to share with others. Your prayers will also be appreciated.

On Writing the Grisly Scenes of My Friend’s Former Life

It would be easier to write the scenes of murder, torture, drug-trafficking and all the other evils that come with the life of organized crime if they weren’t true stories, or at least if they weren’t true about the friend I’m calling Newman.

It is hard for me to imagine the man I know doing these things. And it’s an agonizing process to interview him for details, forcing him relive the things he’s tried so hard to leave behind. Seeing the pain in his expression, watching him unknowingly clutch his chest as if to stop the pain, and hearing him swallow down tears makes me want to stop pressing.

I hate when I’m in the throes of writing and I need to message him to get clarity on something. He’s commented on how this will sometimes interrupt an otherwise normal day and take him back to a place he’d rather not be. I’ve offered to send my questions via email so he can open them at his discretion, or save them up and let him initiate a time to go over them. He’s understanding, though, of my need to get the information quickly so the writing process is not stalled. So, we’ve continued in this manner – though, I do try not to do this unless absolutely necessary.

We’re both determined to push on with this book project, but I sure will be glad when it’s done. Sometime today or tomorrow, I’ll post an excerpt from the scene that prompted this entry. For now, though, I just wanted to take a break from it and bawl out into the blogosphere this is stinking hard.

Update 1/31/15 – I have published the promised excerpt from the book. At first I made it a password protected post so the “grisly details” and language would not pop up on the feed for followers who may not wish to see them. I have since decided to go ahead and post it without requiring the password. I will explain why I changed my mind in a follow-up entry.

No Time for Writer’s Block: Why I Must Finish Writing this Story NOW!

With a story as intriquing and inspiring as the one I’m writing (see details here), I never imagined how much trouble I’d have with writer’s block when I first started on the project. Yes, I know, that was the naiveté of a beginner. Still, when writing about a friend who is living under an assumed name provided by the Federal Government because his testimony was key to bringing down a crime syndicate … well, lack of good material is certainly not the problem. So, what is?

As Tony S. put it in a recent blog post on writer’s block, I’m a PROcrastinator. He gave physical, mental/emotional and spiritual reasons for combating that tendency. I found those to be helpful for me, but more importantly, it got me to thinking about the physical, mental/emotional and spiritual impact the delay is having on my friend.

My friend needs to have this book finished. Living in anticipation of his former identity being revealed brings with it a roller coaster of emotions. Will the friendships and professional relationships he’s come to know in this new life be jeopardized once people know the details of his past? Will the demons he left behind come back to harm him once they know where to find him? He’s willing to take on whatever may come, but needs to get on with it. Dealing with “what is” would be a welcome relief from pondering “what might be.”

He also needs his life to be unified instead of fragmented. There are many things he’s set out to accomplish, but the process is hindered by having to guard his secret. He is a pastor, the founder of an outreach ministry to help those who come from a background similar to his own, and a mentor to urban youth. Each of these roles requires a certain amount of transparency he is currently unable to offer.

My friend and I are both excited about the greater impact he will have once he can freely communicate the fullness of his own transformation to people who need to believe transformation is possible. His is a story that will bring hope to many. We both feel God brought us together to collaborate on this book.

Remembering these reasons for taking on the project in the first place now has my creative energies flowing. I’m tempted to elaborate on this newfound method of fighting my writer’s block. Instead, though, I think I’ll get back to the book. Stay tuned for an excerpt.

(To see all posts about my book, click here.)

Post #1 about My Book: How I Got This Assignment to Write

When he walked into my office and said, “You need to help me write my life story,” I knew this was a “God-thing.” For a full week prior to his request, during my quiet times of contemplation and prayer, I felt strongly pressed to begin the writing I’ve known I was meant to do for most of my life. Several books had been rolling around in my mind for years, so I figured God was encouraging me to finally get started on one of those. But life was busy for me, a workaholic, and I was thoroughly enjoying my position on the faculty of the Bible college where my friend and I met.

As always with such promptings towards adding writing to my agenda, I initially pushed the notion aside and relegated it to my “some day” pile. This time, however, my spirit continually went back to the thought, each time with a greater sense of urgency. At the end of that long week of feeling almost nagged about “getting to it,” in walked my friend with his proposal.

Besides the whole “God thing” (as if that wasn’t enough), I was intrigued by the possibility of writing his story because I already knew things about my friend’s life that were fascinating. I also had an inkling there was much more to it that had not yet been revealed.

Despite his current middle class lifestyle, I knew he had once led a life that was well connected to people above that status. He had friends in professional sports, in the music industry, and in Hollywood. He once arranged for my family to get VIP passes to a movie opening because he knew the star of the film. We were actually going to meet that actor. My kids were thrilled because they had grown up watching this particular star’s television show.

When we arrived at the event, my friend showed the organizers his personal text from the star himself and we were ushered into place immediately. It was amusing to see the reaction on the face of the girl who had come to see why we were butting in line once she got a look at that text.

I saw hints that day of my friend’s “other life” even in the way he dressed for the occasion and the way he carried himself. He easily blended in with the elite crowd. It was a strong contrast to the humble demeanor he usually maintained on our small Midwestern college campus.

My friend did not stay for the event after getting us into the VIP area. This was puzzling to me as I figured he’d like to see his old friend. Later, after I learned his full story, I understood why he didn’t stay. Having escaped his former life, he is very careful not to get too close to the things that once drew him into it. He’s had enough of the glitz, glamour and prestige his former dealings brought to him. He now leads a much simpler life, and prefers to keep it that way. It also now makes sense that we had to say we knew “Shots” (my friend’s former street name) when we were able to shake the actor’s hand. The actor wouldn’t have known him by his current name.

The information I learned about my friend that day in my office shed light on all these mysteries for me. He told me he is currently living under the name given to him by the FBI when he entered the Federal Witness Protection Program. His testimony at a trial that brought down the criminal organization he was once part of is the reason for his new identity.

We will reveal his identity – well, identities, both past and present – in the book we are writing. Until that time, I will refer to him in all future posts as Newman, because he is indeed a new man. And just FYI, “Shots” is also a fictitious street name. His actual nickname is well recognized in his former circles, so it won’t be revealed until later either.

As I shared the concept and drafts of this book with a few close friends, I learned not everyone is able to overlook someone’s past, even when that person’s repentance and transformation is obvious. Some still want “justice” but forget about mercy. It’s no wonder that few will really reveal their hearts and their histories, especially to “church folk.” Maybe that’s why God prepared me to view this project as divinely inspired the week before Newman revealed to me the full nature of his past.

His is a story of true transformation and I am honored to help him tell it. I believe this book will be a “must read.” For now, though, it is a “must write.” I’ll take any prayers, good vibes, mojo or whatever you want to send my way to help me make sure this assignment stays on the front burner of my still busy life. After all, this is a “God-thing” and I probably should make it a priority.