My uncle was a horse


I have one major rule I follow when I write:  Do no harm. It’s the first rule I teach my journalism students. As easy as it seems to keep, we all break it, though rarely intentionally. Words are powerful. Occasionally they get away from us.

So in keeping with my primary DO NO HARM rule, I hesitate to print this blog. But it’s a story that has stuck with me for decades. It deserves to be told, and I certainly mean no harm.

My earliest influence on me as a writer may have been my great uncle, Charlie Pat, a WW2 veteran. I was much too young to understand the complexities of my uncle’s condition. All I knew is that something happened to him in the war. I was told he was hit my shrapnel and suffered brain trauma. He was never the same.

Of course, I never knew him to be any other way.

My Uncle Charlie Pat thought he was Black Beauty.

Yes, I’m talking about the horse in Anna Sewell’s 1877 novel. I don’t remember how old I was at the time. I just remember I was horse crazy, and Black Beauty was my favorite book.

Back in the old days, we didn’t have Mindcraft or other computer programs to enhance our creativity. We had to rely on household ordinary stuff. My favorite “toy” was a black broom, the closest thing I had to a stick horse. And I rode it nonstop at my grandmother’s house, where, as you might guess, my Uncle Charlie Pat lived for a while.

I don’t think my parents or my aunts and uncles realized Charlie Pat thought he was a horse, but I did. I was too young to roll my eyes or criticize. I just sat down in the chair next to him in my grandparent’s itty bitty den, and I listened to all the stories he told of what it was like to be Black Beauty.

I never laughed. I had read the story at least a dozen times, and I knew every detail by heart. So did Charlie Pat. And when he told me the story, he told it in first person, just like the book. I sat enthralled. I knew my uncle wasn’t really a horse, but I bought into his reality, and I listened intently as he retold each chapter.

I always thanked him for sharing with me, and he smiled. There’s nothing more wonderful for an artist than to have an appreciative audience.

As odd as it may sound, Charlie Pat may have been the first person to inspire me to write. Although he didn’t write Black Beauty, his convincing personal narratives held me spellbound. He was able to quote every page verbatim.

As I grew older, I started to write. I became the characters in my stories. Today they’re bound in a three-prong folder, sitting on a bookshelf in my son’s room. He doesn’t even know they’re there. Maybe his children will find them someday and be inspired by their crazy grandmother who thought at age nine that she could be a writer, somewhat similar to my great uncle, thinking he was a horse.

If you think about it, all of us are quirky in our own way, and that’s what makes us so beautiful. We are works of art, but some of us are an acquired taste.

I was always perceived as that shy kid in class who never talked. I hated that stereotype. I’m not really shy. I just don’t talk much. In my decades here on earth I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve really opened up to.

But there’s a reason for that, I think. God gave me the gift of listening. God gave me acute hearing and sensitive (in)sight. I can see what others cannot. He also gave me the gift of storytelling.

I guess I am the only person in my family to interview a living, breathing Black Beauty proxy.

As I said, I was a major fan of Anna Sewell. Charlie Pat brought the book to life for me. And while his reality had been suspended long before I was born, I learned how to suspend my reality and to enjoy living in the moment whenever I took the time to be still and to listen to him. Charlie Pat pulled me into the story. For a short time in the den of my grandparents’ house, I talked to Black Beauty.

And I think that’s one reason I have been compelled to write ever since. Books let us live a thousand lives. Charlie Pat, for some reason, spent the last years of his life living as a horse.

Go ahead. Laugh. Life is funny. And frustrating. And tragic. But I’ll take funny over the other options any day.

What unusual occurrences in your life sparked your desire to write?

Rebel with a cause

A writer who is a real writer is a rebel who never stops.

~ William Saroyan  ~

A year and a half ago I knew if I didn’t come up with 250 words in 15 minutes I would never become a writer.

I was supposed to meet a friend so that we could ride together to Lebanon to a writer’s conference. I had planned to submit the first page of my novel for critique, but there was one problem. I didn’t have a novel. I certainly couldn’t write one in 15 minutes. But all I needed was a page.

In a tear, I sat down at my computer and tapped out the introduction to a story that had been echoing in my head. I hit print, and off I went, first page in hand.

Art by Michelle Spiziri (

I put my page in the basket with the work of the other writers’, and when it was my turn for critique, the editors actually showed an interest. They said it showed potential. That’s all I needed. Just a smidgen of encouragement.

Within a year of that conference, I wrote my first manuscript, The Edge—without having attended a major writers’ conference, without having talked to an editor, without having  worked with a critique group.

What was I thinking?

I was thinking I wanted to be a writer. Nobody told me that I should do all of these things. I learned them the hard way—by making my mistakes and then by having some kind, patient, compassionate, unselfish soul gently show me how to correct them.

I am now a member of a writers’ group and a critique group. I’ve attended several conferences this year, including the impressive ACFW in Indianapolis. I’m already planning on going to St. Louis in September, and I am polishing my Genesis entry.

I don’t know when or how God will grant the desires of my heart. But I do know that whatever He gives me, I will return to him.

I hope if God chooses to grant me publication that he will bless me with the desire to show kindness, patience, compassion and unselfishness so that I can encourage other people like me to pursue their dreams.

I’ve always been the kind of person who zigs when other people zag. I don’t follow the same scripts other people do. Not that I’m an intentional rebel, mind you. I just see things differently, so I act differently. When everyone else is watching the drama unfold on stage, I like to go behind the scenes and find out what makes people tick.

I don’t have an ulterior motive. That’s just the way I’m wired.

I write because God is doing something with my life, and I want to share the experience with as many people as possible.

I may not be an authority in the publishing field. But I do consider myself an authority on being a quirky, clumsy goof ball with little self-confidence and a whole lot of self doubt. Is there anyone else out there who feels this way too?

I’m a dreamer—I’ll admit it. But if I can provide a smidgeon of encouragement that helps other people overcome their fears and purse their dreams, then I will have succeeded.

Monday Mentor: Emily Wierenga

Dancer ~ Original Artwork by Emily Wierenga

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to be over.

It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.  ~  Author Unknown


Welcome to Serendipitee Blog.

I don’t know if you serendipitously stumbled upon this site or if you are a subscriber, but I’m glad you are here. Today freelance journalist, author, and artist Emily Wierenga offers a few words to encourage all of us setting forth on our own writing journeys. Emily lives in rural Alberta with her husband Trenton and their son Aiden Grey. Her work has appeared in Christian Week, Faith Today, Adbusters, Geez, The Anglican Planet and Focus on the Family. When she is not writing or painting, Emily loves to travel. She has been to the Dominican Republic, Australia, Korea, Lebanon, Jordan, Japan, China, Mexico, Holland, England and Germany. One of her most enjoyable trips was to a writing workshop in Lake Como, Italy. When she was a little girl, she lived in Africa with her parents, who served there as missionaries. As a firm believer in Jesus Christ, she encourages all to live in love.

What can you tell us about your latest projects?

I freelance regularly, writing articles for Christian publications across Canada. This involves finding story ideas, pitching the ideas, then fulfilling the assignments which are paid per word. Sometimes, due to familiarity with editors, I am sent assignments. My favourite kind of article is profile; then, feature, and finally, news.

I’ve been paid twice to write books; once, by an organization, and another, by a family. By doing so, I write other people’s stories—something called ghostwriting. One of my books, Save My Children, was published in 2008 by a small Christian Canadian publisher called Castle Quay Books (

I have a couple more manuscripts with my literary agent, Sandra Bishop, of MacGregor Literary Agency. There are many kinds of agencies; MacGregor only takes previously published Christian authors who have established a unique voice. My latest book, Chasing Silhouettes—how to help a loved one who refuses to eat, is currently with Standard Publishing. (

 I also blog, participating in various online communities and organizing my own community of literary writers, Imperfect Prose on Thursdays. My friend once told me, a blog is a way for a writer to minister to the world. So I use it for that purpose, while honing my God-given prose. I also use it to market my self-employed efforts. (

 Finally, I paint. I do commissions, and I sell prints. (

Why do you write?

I don’t have a choice. If I don’t write, my soul shrivels. I write, because I must. I write because God has given me a gift, and I believe, for me, it would be a sin not to.

How do you find joy in your creative journey?

Everything about the creative journey is joy. It’s the marketing/selling/corporate side that isn’t… and that’s where one must constantly return to a place of worship, remembering that He has called us to this work, and will carry it out to completion. He is doing a good thing through us, and we just need to keep creating. He’ll do the rest.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer just getting started?
Failure is a stepping stone to success. Rejection is merely a challenge to try again. It only takes one “yes.”

Please answer the question I didn’t ask but that you wish I did.

My favourite genre to write is non-fiction. I like to take the day-to-day and put it to prose. I find no greater inspiration than the real-life stories happening around me. I try to seek simple moments of beauty, and to sing those moments into poetic existence.

Finally, please leave us with your favorite Bible verse, inspiration quote or song lyric. Tell us what it means to you.

 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

Sometimes, when the rejection slips paper the walls and I have no seeming promise of “yes,” the only way I can produce more words is by turning to The Word. It’s in Him that I move and have my being. It’s He who gives me strength, not publishers. More of Him; less of me. Always.

Please take a moment to visit the sites associated with Emily’s work. You’ll be blessed, and you’ll, in turn, have an opportunity to bless another. If you have questions or comments, please add them. We look forward to your feedback.