The wonderful historical fiction writer for young people, Deborah Hopkinson, gives the main character in her book, The Great Trouble, an important job to do. Eel, an orphaned “mudlark” and caretaker of a doctor’s guinea pigs and other animals during the time of the 1854 London cholera epidemic, is asked by the doctor to draw a detailed map of the affected area of London. When Dr. Snow adds, “Be sure to mark the location of the public water pumps,” Eel feels a bit overwhelmed and responds, “My friend Florrie Baker is a lot better artist than I am.” “Ask her to help if you like,” he said. “We’re not creating art, though. The key is to make the map clear and readable. And most of all, accurate.”
With a map in hand not too long afterward, Eel proudly reflects on his situation: “I wasn’t just a mudlark anymore, or even a messenger boy in a brewery. I was a real assistant to a famous scientist and investigator (even if I’d needed help from Florrie with my first assignment.”
Reading that, I remembered a slightly despairing conversation I had a number of years ago with my twin sister. She had just helped me substantially with a scene from my first novel (Bon Voyage, Sophie Topfeather, to be published by Sunpenny Publishing), and I was feeling like I could never be a good writer because I needed so much help. “I need a team just to get it right!” I moaned. Her response was fast and unequivocal: “But Sonja, you’ve got a team! Me.” She’s right–there are characters and scenes where it’s impossible for me to remember what was her idea and what was mine. The Northwest Christian Writer’s Association led me to my wonderful friend, Debbie, has given me the gift of being willing to read every word I write and to help with everything from broad themes to the nittiest, grittiest details. Others pray, encourage, identify plot holes (thank you, Jonathan!) or even connect me to individuals like Father Tony, who took me on board a cargo ship for a fun day of research. Where would I be without them all? I’m so very thankful.
Famous writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien also had a support team (the Inklings writing group, and especially each other), which helped bring their most famous works about. Maybe we’re made for teams. When Jesus sent seventy-two followers to “every town and place where he was about to go” he sent them two by two (Luke 10:1). They could support each other, especially in places where they weren’t welcome.
Moms make good support teams, too! My mom and stepmother are Sophie Topfeather’s biggest cheerleaders, and they both have helped me through the long publishing journey through their words, prayers, and owl-themed presents! My mother-in-law helps support our family in innumerable ways, most recently by chauffeuring our daughter home from tennis matches when Jeff and I are at Bible study on Wednesdays. We couldn’t do it without you!
Thank you, Team Sophie! Thank you, Team Mom! I love you all!