6/17/15

Geust Post~ Victoria Schwimley

The question I’m asked most often as a writer is how I came up with the idea for my faith series. I would like to talk about that here today.  I was part of a youth ministry team at the time, and we were brainstorming ideas for a spring fundraiser for our annual mission project. I had been running the idea through my head for quite some time, and it suddenly seemed to fall into place. As a youth leader, I watched the behavior of the teens I worked with. I became concerned with the amount of caffeine they were drinking as well as how late they stayed up at night. It seemed as if a large majority of the kids were spending a considerable amount of time visiting the neighborhood coffee house. I wondered how they were able to function through the day. 
       In church one Sunday, I watched as one of the youth from the church put his head down on the back of the pew in front of him. Of course I became concerned and quickly went to see if I could be of assistance. What I discovered was the fact that he could not keep himself awake because he had stayed up all night playing video games. His solution was to excuse himself from the service and rush off to the closest coffee house Now, let me establish something right away, I have nothing against coffee houses or caffeine in general. I drink it every day and visit some sort of coffee house at least twice a week.  My concern was the abuse of it. 
A few weeks later, I stopped at a gas station and went in to pay the clerk for my gas. While waiting my turn in line, I happened to notice a display containing a wide array of products containing massive doses of caffeine to help one stay awake. I had heard of the products, but never paid much attention to them.   I knew long-distance truck drivers used them to help them with their driving, as well I had heard some people working graveyard shifts relied on them, but I certainly didn’t think teenagers were using them.
At the next youth meeting, I asked the kids in my group if they knew about them. They all did and many of them had actually used them repeatedly. While the knowledge disturbed me, I knew not what to do with it. I could talk to the kids about it, but that might just come across as yet another adult lecturing them.  I was scared for them, though, and knew I needed to address this. What would happen to them is they continued on this path. From my research I learned that excessive use of caffeine could cause body tremors, and even cause the body to crash. Would one of them fall asleep at the wheel while driving if this “crash” happened? If so, what would happen then? 
During the planning meeting, I shared my concern and my idea of doing a play on the subject. There the kids could learn about the effects of caffeine on the body in a fun environment. There were hesitations, but I convinced the pastor to let me write the story before rejecting the idea. I set about the task of researching data and writing the play. I was surprised at how much information I gleaned about the effects of caffeine on the body.  
I was eager to share the information. It took me a few months to write the play, and when it was done I took a deep breath and hit the button to send it to the pastor for approval. I waited anxiously while he read, checking my email on a daily basis to see what the answer would be. It was worse than any of the times I had waited for an answer from an agent or a publisher.  
Finally, I opened the email, my heart beating rapidly.  This was a big moment for me. I was in love with this story and really wanted to produce the play. The first words I read were Great story. Let’s do it. My heart soared, but then I read the next words***spoiler alert here***I can’t help but wonder what would happen if she died. I was shocked. I had thought about writing a death scene, but I wasn’t sure it would go over, yet here was the pastor suggesting I write it. I went back to the computer and immediately rewrote it. I was pleased with the change, which had so much more impact. When I sent it back for approval, he responded almost immediately with a “yes.”  
The kids were excited and eagerly clutched scripts, rehearsing the parts for which they wanted to audition. The play was a huge success and the kids really learned from it 
Despite the success of the play, though, I wasn’t satisfied. I felt the story was incomplete. It needed more depth. I wanted to delve into the lives of the characters, explore the grief of friends and family, talk more about what it meant to Chelsea to become a Christian, and how it might have felt to have caused a death.  I needed to reach more teens, and their families, than what the limitations of my church alone allowed. I decided to turn the play into a novel, to be distributed worldwide. 
The story, Capturing Faith, explores the lives of several teens as they go through the stages of grief, life together growing as Christians, how they deal with the pressure of the secular community, and how important community and family are. It is the first in the Faith series that features Pastor David Owens as he guides these youth through the trials and tribulations of growing to adulthood 
The second book, Twisted Faith, deals with teen pregnancy, the shunning of a vulnerable girl by the community and family she once trusted, and the love of a pastor for both God and his injured flock.  
I’m currently working on the third book, untitled as of this posting, which deals with depression.  I don’t know how far I will take the series. There are so many issues that plague young people these days. I hope the kids will learn something about tolerance, God’s love, and the importance of supporting the communities in which we live.