For this challenge, I decided to write a poem based on the protagonist in my book. This story has, in part, been told through the lenses of poetry and short story. Perhaps, one day, it may even be the inspiration for a song (as long as I get a royalty deal, a la “Mr. Wonderful”). Since Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature, music lyrics are considered as such now (according to my English Composition II professor). Though this poem is a stand-alone work, the query letter below it will add context.
Her face and figure were such
that they blended into the backdrop
of the Deep South like white-lily camouflage,
but when she spoke her mind,
she found her way into the crawl space
of their hearts.
Like a thorn,
she would prick those hearts,
this Queen of the least of these,
placing them in a waking sleep—
unlike that of Princess Aurora’s—
her words echoing
in their chambers.
My debut novel, “Because of Mindy Wiley”, begins at what Katryn Nolan refers to as the summer of her Mormon soldier.
Katryn is a teen when she falls in love with a Mormon missionary, which leads to her joining the LDS Church—and enters an insular world of peculiar people. It is within the Church that Katryn finally experiences belonging outside her close-knit family, and yet it will be her mother’s involvement in it that will lead to its destruction.
Born into a well-bred, artistic family, the Nolans (and the man David, with whom Katryn’s mother is attached) are considered outsiders in their small Southern town, where few move out, but fewer move in; where the heat and humidity is like another force of gravity, where the air is as thick as the azaleas that burst into bloom every spring, and where time seems to pass just a little bit slower.
Yet never does Katryn question why her mother and stepfather chose this enclave that is as foreign to them all as the Mormon Church.
Overloved by her stepfather, but underloved by her mother, Katryn never grasps why her mother won’t marry the man she has idolized ever since he came into their lives.
Neither does she question why her father was barred from being buried in the Catholic cemetery, though it seems no one in the town remembers him. Who is the mysterious couple that Katryn and her stepfather see, that Katryn’s mother must never know of? And why does her mother, who was a concert pianist, never touch it anymore?
Never, does Katryn question anything, for life is idyllic in Green Haven, despite their outsider status. It is only after her mother joins the Church that she begins to change, and long buried family secrets begin to come to light, ripping off the shimmering facade that was the Nolan family. Blinded by years of fanciful storytelling, Katryn must sort through the mystery that surrounds her life, to know who she can trust…and who would do her harm.
My love for crafting stories on paper rather than with paper dolls began as soon as I learned to write. Cutting up every paper in the house had served as my creative outlet before then. I have lived in Pensacola, Florida, almost all my life, where churches outnumber bars, where the air is as thick as molasses in January, and where the summer weather is as volatile as the preachers of the Pentecostal meetinghouses–much like the town of Green Haven in my book.
Having grown up in a Southern town situated in the buckle of the Bible belt, and having been a practicing member of the Mormon Church for several years, has given me great insight, knowledge and experience of what it’s like being a convert to a religion in a region that is somewhat intolerant to that religion. Having grown up Protestant, but with no inclination to go around declaring myself saved, one could say I was an outsider even on the inside looking out, much like Katryn Nolan.
The completed manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sarah Lea Richards