Thursday, February 18, 2021

How I Became a Writer

I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. How I ended up in Alaska is a story in itself, one of which I share in my new memoir,  Footsteps of Faith, a Faith-Building True Story of God's Direction, Provision, and Protection in my life. Available now in paperback. Coming soon in e-book.

 I grew up in Alaska in the fifties and sixties in a missionary family. We were avid readers. My Grandma Personeus was a storyteller and kept everyone entranced with her accounts of her and Grandpa’s early days in Alaska (1917-1982). When we visited them each summer during my childhood, she read books aloud to us—books she’d enjoyed as a child. 

Grandma was a prolific poet and wrote curriculum for Sunday school quarterlies and articles for church magazines. My mother also wrote continued stories and composed songs for us and for her Sunday school class.

As a young teenager, I discovered Christian fiction. We had no TV in Alaska back then. To provide good reading material for cold, dark winter evenings, my father subscribed to a Christian book club. We could hardly wait for the two selections that arrived each month. Those pages influenced my worldview and my attitudes about life and love. When I read the nine Christian fiction books written by my great aunt under the pen name of Zenobia Bird, I dreamed of writing my own novels.

 In high school, I began writing about the sights I’d seen and the experiences I’d had. I got my start in writing for publication while my husband was in seminary when I worked in the editorial area of Gospel Publishing House. The editors I worked with encouraged me to write and submit short stories and articles for their publications. Soon, I was given assignments to write Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and children’s church curriculum. When we began pastoring, I continued to write on assignment for Gospel Publishing House for more than 25 years. 

Alaska provided the setting for my stories. It wasn’t hard to fictionalize my family’s experiences of living by faith in Alaska, stories that are carriers of truth about God’s love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy, because I learned to know God there.

 In 1973, while my husband was in seminary and I was working at Gospel Publishing House in Springfield, Missouri, my Personeus grandparents visited us from Alaska. Grandma gave me a packet of papers, saying, “Many people have asked me to write our story, but I’m too old to see it through by myself.  So I’m placing all my written accounts in your hands to do with as you think best.”

 Nearly 10 years later, while we were starting a new church in New York State, my mother-in-law invited me to her home to write the first draft of my first book. For one week, I holed up in a bedroom in her house and wrote on an electric typewriter, stopping only for meals, which she prepared. I wove together the short accounts my grandmother had written about their experiences and filled in the spaces between. Due to the downturn in the economy, though, I was unable to find a publisher. In the next few years, I retyped the manuscript into a Smith-Corona word processor. In 2002, I discovered a print-on-demand publisher and was able to get the word processor disc converted to MS Word. My uncle (their son) paid to have Frontiers of Faith published, and I reimbursed him from book sales.

While writing Frontiers of Faith, I came across several stories that triggered my imagination for historical Christian novels. For years, I’d been writing them my head. In 2007, I joined a writer’s critique group at the local library to begin fulfilling my lifelong goal of writing novels. 

I learned a lot from that group that included published authors and began writing a minimum of one chapter a week. In 2013, I published Till the Storm Passes By. By 2017, my next two books, A Star to Steer By and Beside Still Waters, completed my Alaskan Waters Trilogy, the life and death saga of a fictitious Norwegian immigrant family who battles the beautiful but often treacherous waters of early twentieth century Southeast Alaska to find love and happiness in the midst of tragedies, based on the stories Grandma Personeus told.


During those years, I started this blog, “Nuggets of Faith,” including many stories from my life. When I read a book about how to blog a book, I decided to develop these stories into a memoir, Footsteps of Faith, that has just been released by ReadersMagnet. It is now available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble in trade paperback. The e-book is coming soon on those sites as well as iTunes.

 Why do I write?

Writing is hard work and involves a great investment of time, but I can’t not write. I write because I have stories of faith to tell. God has called me to write stories that are carriers of truth about His love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

On a personal note: In January, we became great-grandparents when Phoebe Ray Conti joined our family. What a thrill!





Twitter: @AnnaLeeConti