Writing The Shepherd’s Song
Your rod and your staff they comfort me. Psalm 23
The Shepherd’s Song is contains stories about twelve people whose lives are changed by Psalm 23.
When it was time to write about the rod and staff, we started with research. We learned that the rod and the staff are the tools that a shepherd uses to protect and discipline the sheep. The rod is a club that the shepherd uses to ward off predators. The staff is a crooked stick that the shepherd uses to guide the sheep and pull them back from danger. If we look at God as our Shepherd the rod and staff would be his protection for us. How would we show this in a story? What does this look like in a real life?
The first of many drafts was the story of a young girl taking a job on a cruise boat as a piano player. Research on cruises ensued, bringing us to the conclusion that to write the story we really needed to go on a cruise ourselves. Reason prevailed and we finished the story. The staff (like a musical staff) was compared to our character’s upbringing and moral values. Now in the environment of a cruise ship she was challenged by a different set of values. We liked it, but the story was not quite right.
We started again. A blind man meets a younger man in a café. His walking stick is his vision. We would use the walking stick to symbolize how God leads us spiritually. Again we liked it, but it too wasn’t quite right.
All the while we had this vision of a young woman running across the plains of Kenya. The African landscape was vivid to both of us. The idea of the rod and staff being in the hands of an actual shepherd drew us in to start the story. Showing the shepherd caring for his sheep would give a picture of God caring for his people. We liked it.
How could we set the story in Africa? The psalm in the book is written on a piece of paper that travels around the world. Logistically the paper would have to get to a small village in Kenya. Hmmm.
The second piece of the puzzle came into place. We would set the story in Italy, a marathon. We could wrap a story within a story as Kioni, a Kenyan runner, ran the marathon. Then we decided it was time for a love story told in flashbacks. No spoilers here – you have to read it yourself!
The time it took to write the story:
First draft on the cruise boat, six months
Second draft in the cafe, two months
Final story, the marathon, six days
We trust God for the right stories but we do our part. Sometimes the right story comes after the wrong ones get out of the way.
One of the hardest things for us to do is to let go of writing. Our mother always told us that no writing is ever wasted. The same is true in the experiences that God provides. Nothing is wasted.
But sometimes we have to let go to receive.
Betsy and Laurie
Title: The Shepherd’s Song by Betsy Duffey & Laurie Myers
Publisher: Howard Books
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Fiction
Length: 240 pages
Shortly before suffering a tragic car accident, Kate McConnell wrote the simple but powerful words of Psalm 23 on a piece of paper to give to her wayward and confused son. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. . . . As she loses consciousness from her injuries, she wonders if she’s done enough with her life.
When a lonely dry-cleaning employee finds Kate’s humble, handwritten copy of the psalm, it begins an incredible journey around the world, forever changing the lives of twelve very different people. From a soldier wounded in Iraq, to a young Kurdish girl fleeing with her family to Turkey, to a Kenyan runner about to begin the Rome Invitational Marathon, the power of the ancient words begins to take shape in various ways, drawing us into these stories inexplicably linked by the passing of the psalm from one recipient to the next.
Eventually, Kate’s paper makes it back to its starting place, and she discovers the unexpected ways that God moves and changes lives through even our smallest actions.
Read my review HERE.
The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers were born into a writing family, and began critiquing manuscripts at an early age for their mother, Newbery winner Betsy Byars. They went on to become authors of more than thirty-five children’s novels. Their first book for adults is The Shepherd’s Song, Howard Books, March 2014.
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