Emily T. Wierenga | How Writing Saved My Life (and Giving Away My Debut Novel)
April 4, 2014
I was the little girl who had chubby cheeks and a mushroom cut at seven years
A smattering of freckles on my ski-slope nose, and corduroy skorts—a
shorts and skirt combination--sewn by my Mum because we had no money, my dad in
seminary to become a minister and working part-time at the skim milk factory.
I didn't speak until I was four, because we moved to Africa when I was two, and
I was too busy eating mangos and watching the beautiful Congolese people to
learn their language, but when we came back to Canada I began to find my tongue.
And at seven I began to write poems, the kind that told the paper how sad I was
because I had no friends. We were homeschooled and I'd moved ten times by then,
and a seedling shrivels up if it has nowhere to plant roots.
My blue ink scrawled across the page and maybe if it were pretty enough, maybe
if the poems rhymed, maybe then Dad would see me, and Mum wouldn't be so tired
and we wouldn't be so poor, maybe if I put them into words, good things would
They didn't, and no matter how beautiful my prose I still cried myself to sleep
because no one wants to be friends with the fat preacher's daughter.
And then I lost a woman I'd grown very close to, a woman I called Grandma
Ermenie—we played cards together and she taught me how to knit—and
one day, she died.
No one had told me I could love so hard, only to lose.
So the next day I stopped eating.
But I kept writing, even as I became skinny those long four years between nine
and thirteen, even as our house smelled like Mum's homemade bread and granola.
But my script shriveled up with my knees, so tiny the letters knocked together.
I was in school by then because doctors prescribed it, but all school did was
introduce me to a lot of people who were skinnier and prettier than me, and I
aced my classes but the teachers couldn't read my tiny prize-winning prose.
The words weren't free to fly, they had to be perfect and neat, just like my
outfit—planned weeks in advance, scheduled on the wall on a sheet of
loose-leaf, just like my bed—tucked in with nurses' corners and Cuddles my
bear in the center of the pillow, and I cried myself to sleep every night, my
fingers around my wrists.
But still, the words spoke what my parents couldn't hear—up and down the
rose-print pages of my journal--I screamed so loud the ink jumped off the page.
I was taught to be seen and not heard and so I wrote loudly, and the writing
saved me. It gave me a voice when I had none.
I started to eat again at thirteen because nurses said I was a miracle, that I
should be dead, and the more I wrote poems and short stories and speeches, the
more I grew to like the girl behind the voice. The words, like seeds all
germinating and bursting into bloom because finally they could breathe. All
loopy and large in blue script.
I was the girl with chubby cheeks and a mushroom cut, and now I'm a woman who
takes care of that little girl, blankets her, nurtures her—because I'm
proud of her.
For daring to speak.
Today I'm pleased to be giving away a copy of my debut novel, A PROMISE IN
From the back cover:
It's been more than 50 years since Clara cared for injured WWII soldiers in
the Women's Army Corp. Fifty years since she promised to deliver a dying
soldier's last wish. And 50 years since that soldier's young widow gave her the
baby quilt—a grief-ridden gift that would provide hope to countless
newborns in the years to come. On her way to the National World War II Museum in
New Orleans, Clara decides it's time to share her story. But when the trip
doesn't go as planned, Clara wonders if anyone will learn the great significance
of the quilt—and the promise stitched inside it.
Download the first three chapters for free HERE.
To win a copy, just leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen by
midnight. You'll also get a Starbucks card
Emily T. Wierenga
is an award-winning journalist, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as
the author of four books including A Promise in
Pieces, releasing April 15 with Abingdon Press, and Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look
(Baker Books), releasing July 1. She lives in Alberta, Canada with
her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter
24 comments posted.
Re: Emily T. Wierenga | How Writing Saved My Life (and Giving Away My Debut Novel)
What a touching and heartbreaking story! I'm so glad that you found redemption in writing and the true meaning of beauty, but so sorry it required such a painful path. Looking forward to reading your latest.
(Anna Mekus 10:51am April 4, 2014)
Good for you. You sound amazing.
(Lisa Hutson 11:00am April 4, 2014)
What a heartrending story. Your life has been filled with
trials and tribulations but you are strong and have now
written a wonderful book. Best wishes.
(Sharon Berger 11:00am April 4, 2014)
Although I didn't move to different countries, nor was I homeschooled, I can relate to your story, and my heart aches for you more than you realize!! I can't go into detail here, but know the sadness inside growing up, and wish that I lived closer so that we could get together and talk over coffee. I'm thrilled that you wrote your book, because I also did some work for the National World War II Museum, and will continue to do so. This story holds so much meaning to me, that it's going straight to the top of my TBR list!! Thank you for bringing such a great Organization to light, as well as keeping History alive!! I'll be looking forward to reading your book!!
(Peggy Roberson 11:10am April 4, 2014)
you do sounds amazing i know when i lost my mom last year it
was very hard i felt the same way
(Denise Smith 11:25am April 4, 2014)
I am glad you made it. Keep going.
Just finished a book in which a hankie needed to be given back
to the wife of a Civil War soldier who died. He had carried it
Appreciate the giveaway.
(Leona Olson 11:55am April 4, 2014)
What an amazing story! You overcame so many odds to become the person you are today. Thanks for sweepstakes.
(Anna Speed 12:15pm April 4, 2014)
I am so grateful to be here today, friends--thank you for your kind comments. Bless you, e. (www.emilywierenga.com)
(Emily Wierenga 12:56pm April 4, 2014)
That is a very powerful story. I applaud your strength and
your boldness-- and the rewards I hope they bring you more
and more of.
(Mary Ann Dimand 1:35pm April 4, 2014)
Thanks for the insight into your life! Sounds like a great
(Denise Austin 2:19pm April 4, 2014)
You sound like you were an adorable child! :)
This book sounds very intriguing and I plan to add it to my TBR list right away. Thank you so much for sharing your f
childhood with us and for offering such an insightful book.
(Ann Martinisi 2:36pm April 4, 2014)
You've come a long way - proud of you!
(Mary Lynch 2:59pm April 4, 2014)
Good luck with your new release and wonderful Starbucks giveaway.
(Susan Coster 3:06pm April 4, 2014)
This story is amazing and inspiring
(Jeri Dickinson 3:12pm April 4, 2014)
Very moving, thank you
(Diane Pollock 3:16pm April 4, 2014)
How awesome. Congrats on the novel and continued success!
(Vicki Hancock 3:43pm April 4, 2014)
Your story was touching. I'm glad you nurtured that girl inside with the big voice. Congrats on your debut book!
(Marcy Shuler 9:09pm April 4, 2014)
Amazing bio clip---you should be writing an autobiography.
A story like yours should be told.
(Richard Burr 10:47pm April 4, 2014)
What an interesting post and an interesting Emily has had. I am intrigued
by her book and am keeping my fingers crossed for the win.
(Melanie Backus 11:13pm April 4, 2014)
This story seems heart touching! Thanks for the giveaway!
(Kalynn Dresser 12:48pm April 5, 2014)
(Carol Woodruff 7:17pm April 5, 2014)
This sounds like a very touching story. Looking forward to reading it.
(Carol Woodruff 7:19pm April 5, 2014)
You moved me so much.
(Mary Preston 11:35pm April 5, 2014)
There is something about a hand-made quilt. It has history with every patch and stitch sown together to form a quilted blanket. I just love stories that have a quilt in it. There is always a story with a quilt to tell.
(Kai Wong 12:18pm April 9, 2014)
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