UPDATE JULY 2015:Shari Edwards is happily writing a new book, THE PRAYER JAR . She will announce on this web site as soon as it is available. Thank you to everyone who have encouraged me to keep writing.
Shari writes....I have just given birth to my fourth book, Murder in Mendocino, my first fiction. I began writing when I returned to my small home town of Willows, California in 1986 to care for my father who suffered from Alzheimer's.
I found myself with time on my hands and a need for a creative outlet. That is when I joined a circle of women who wrote together one day a week. That turned into an amazing adventure that lasted ten years. They fanned the flame of a writer's heart within me. They gave me confidence and encouraged me. They urged me to take my little stories to the Willows Journal. John, the manager, took them home and called the next morning asking if I would like to write a column for the Willows Journal--and so it began.
Every Wednesday, for three years, I shared my life which included growing up in Willows in the 50"s. After three years, management changed and it was determined they couldn't afford me any longer. So, I was jobless.
Tim Crews saw my husband at the grocery store and asked if I had a job. My husband said, "No". Tim said, "She does now". I wrote a column in the Sacramento Mirror for three years. It seemed the entire town supported my writing and read the columns.
For six years, I was allowed to sit at the kitchen table of some of the most interesting people who had incredible stories to tell. Stories that later I was able to share with my readers.
Hattie Gillaspy, a one room school teacher, being my most memorable. I sat with Hattie every Wednesday for three years reading my column to her as she had lost her sight. I attended her funeral with great sadness. She had become a special friend.
After six years of writing columns I found myself jobless again. I began to get phone calls, letters and visitors telling me how much they missed the column. They asked me to write a book. I had no experience as a book writer, but with my husband's encouragement I began. The result, As I Remember...
The birthing at times was difficult as I was in a strange new land. Evenually, the joy of its birth made me forget the labor. I had more stories to share, so Still Remembering... became a part of my book family. The response to my books was overwhelming and yet, I was reluctant to call myself an author-writer.
It was the death of my husband Ted, which produced my third book, Sometimes Memories Are All We Have. Ted was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a week after our 25th Wedding Anniversary. It was terminal-perhaps six months to live we were told. Ted chose to do radiation and chemo in an experimental program at Davis. It changed nothing. Six months later he passed away, a few days before Christmas.
How could I go on without him? My life changed in every way. What could I do? I'm a writer. I wrote. Those little essays helped me find my way through the grief and sorrow. It was then that I wanted to write a book that would perhaps let others know that they were not alone.
In this book I would tell how I took a wrong turn, stepped off the safe path and suffered for my bad choices. It was when I wrote of Ted and our life together, I found those healing memories. I looked at a story about my aunt and uncle who I still consider the greatest love story I will ever know. Through writing I was able to emerge from my dark cave and seek the light.
In this writing, I see some reasons that my writing life had begun. There are many, but when a high school teacher gave me an assignment to write my family history, I realized I didn't have one. My father never spoke of his family and my mother told me very little about hers. My father's past was a mystery. I asked my mother about father's past and she replied,"Ask your father."
Reluctantly, my father began to tell me little stories about his childhood. He was born in an Indian camp above Redding, California. His father was a railroad man who went in and out of their lives. He had a little brother, Niles, who died when he was 27 years old. His grandmother, co-li-ta-mit-wit, was a full blood Wintu Indian.
His mother passed away at twenty-nine,leaving her two small sons, five and seven. His father came to get them and place them in an orphanage in Sacramento. He disappeared out of their lives. The boys were adopted by a couple in Bayliss who needed farm laborers.
It was the stories about his mother and her courage I clung to and thought about. Finally, I asked if he had a picture of my grandmother. He didn't respond and I didn't push for an answer. Several days later he showed me a picture of her. I stood mesmerized! I looked exactly like her. The first piece of a big puzzle was in place. It was after Dad's story of his grandmother, at age five, running for her life down a dusty, dirt road with men on horses chasing her. She was the only witness to the murder of most of the people in the camp. That is when I began to write.
I wrote out of anger and resentment for the loss of my heritage and our family of Native Americans! Over the years, I've continued to search for my family. Just recently, I discovered two cousins living in the Redding area. I've talked with them and placed another puzzle part into the hole in my heart.
I did not know of my grandfather's present life until my father received word, when I was twelve, that grandfather had died in San Jose, California-suicide. He left a note on the television that he had two sons. (Only one son now that my uncle passed when he was twenty-seven.) I have followed the trail to untangle some of my grandfather's life. I believe that story will be my next books. A few years ago, my daughter and I started a genealogy search of the truth, hopefully one day it will be found.
My recently published book, Murder in Mendocino, began as a challenge. Someone had suggested that I write a fiction and I laughed saying" No way! I write memoirs." That challenge stirred my writing fire and one evening, sitting on my bed, I began to write. The story sprang from a memory from childhood. I wrote for a month with total joy! I don't outline or predetermine where the story goes, so it just evolves. I couldn't solve my own mystery. So it sat in a cubby for a year waiting for an ending. There was always a nagging within me to complete it. So again, I began to write. That resulted in TWO endings. I finally consulted my publisher and together we selected one.
Driving home from the publisher's office I realized I would need a cover, and there was only one person I wanted to do it. I called my former high school art teacher and asked if he would design and paint a cover for me. He agreed. When he finished the painting it was perfect, just what I wanted! Within three weeks, I was holding Murder in Mendocino in my hands.
Writing is a passion. It fills my life, it completes me. Now, I can finally put the word AUTHOR behind my name and believe it! Shari Edwards