Friday, July 22, 2011
The senior warden at church one Sunday morning asked for volunteers in our small-town Oklahoma congregation to write to people in our sister parish in Uganda. They were learning English. I wrote and the priest himself responded. We were happy pen pals for several years until he began insisting I come for a visit.
Americans were NOT advised to visit Uganda then. If one did, s/he must tour with a large group and stay only in cities. Father Charles Kapson, a young Anglican priest, insisted I visit his remote village. Few there had ever seen a white woman. I guess I was for show and tell.
Husband Bill is bolder than I and said he would take me if I wanted to go. I did not. My solution was to stop corresponding. Father Kapson began writing more often, more urgently.
By then, through his letters and pictures, I knew a lot about the priest, his family, his village, their lifestyle. He advised us to avoid coming during “the hungry season.” That did not encourage me. I had no intentions of visiting any place during the hungry season.
About that time, I had nightmares about losing Bill and visiting Uganda. A speaker at a writers’ conference suggested we write our worst nightmares. What an amazing idea.
My heroine had to be a strong woman with a strong name. Ruth! I borrowed the last name of a newly widowed friend, Pedigo, and Jusu and Mother Earth was born.
All my angst, my regard for Father Kapson, the nightmares, rolled easily onto the pages.
Jusu was my eighth novel-length manuscript. None had sold. After 17 years of trying, I was convinced I would never sell a book at all, so I wrote to suit myself. Anger, fear, sex, whatever motivated was what I wrote, after all, I was the only person, besides select family members or close friends, who would ever read it. Jusu was the first to sell. It was a miracle. Father Kapson and the villagers loved it. I sent several copies as gifts, more when they requested more.
I now have nine print-published novels and a backlist on Kindle. I’ve never been to Uganda. Bill is still fine. Our four children are grown.
Recently, a 14-year-old granddaughter sighed and said, “Nana, I can’t wait ‘til Mama says I’m old enough to read one of your books.”
Maybe I’ll write one for her...pretty soon.
About Sharon Ervin:
Sooner born, Sharon has a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Once a newspaper reporter, she now works in her husband and son’s law office half-days, gleaning material for her ongoing novels. She is married to McAlester, Oklahoma, attorney Bill Ervin and has four grown children.