By Sandra Ardoin
When I was first asked to share about an author who made an impact on me, several came to mind. I wasn’t sure which person to choose.
Did I write about how Dee Henderson introduced me to the O’Malleys and taught me that Christian fiction can be both exciting, suspenseful, and heart-touching?
Did I write about becoming absorbed by Tamara Alexander’s gentle writing voice and how it made me long to write like her? Did I mention how she brought her research to life through story and all I learned of those who “lived” in a previous century?
Did I discuss the many critique partners, editors, and mentors who have helped me to see where I need to improve my writing and what works or doesn’t?
In the end, I’ve chosen to tell you about my friend, Phyllis Keels. Phyllis and I went to the same church and discovered we both had a love for writing. I’d been looking for a local Christian critique group to attend and hadn’t found one, so she and I decided we would become our own group—or duo.
When we were both pretty green in the ways of novel writing, we met at the library in a tiny tutoring room and shared our stories with the intention of teaching one another. As with most critique partners, she had special talents and I had others.
For Phyllis, I emphasized the need to put her characters through the wringer. She wanted them to look perfect, be perfect, and always prevail. You see, like so many authors and readers, Phyllis considered her characters as friends, and she hated making them suffer as much as she hated seeing real friends suffer.
As for me, she’d say, “I want to see the poetry.” She wanted to read the beauty of description in my stories, not “just the facts, ma’am.” So, I learned how to use more similes and metaphors. I learned how to let a train’s engine drag “its cars down the track like a caterpillar dragging its body along a tree limb.”
We had fun in those hours and, one night, attracted too much attention. I think I was in elementary school the last time I’d been shushed by a librarian. Of course, that brought on more giggles.
Phyllis’s talent for whimsical drawings were showcased when she illustrated a couple of children’s books. She wrote Emma and the Paper especially for her dad. She used her fur baby, Emma, as the main character in the story. Her charming watercolors also illustrated Kimberly Rae’s book When I’m With Jesus: For Any Child with a Loved One in Heaven.
And Phyllis was a fount of spiritual knowledge, willing to share it with whomever crossed her path. She learned much of it from her mama and daddy. In fact, several times, she wrote the narrative for the church choir’s Christmas and Easter programs.
In my opinion, Phyllis’s greatest talent rested in non-fiction and her ability to share the gospel through her blog posts and devotions. God used her posts to show His love to all readers, but especially those in the midst of grief. It became her ministry after experiencing her own tragedy. At book selling events, I’d see her sympathize and empathize with people who were going through tough times, often gifting them one of her books if she felt it might help.
In Phyllis Keels, I saw the value of poetry, following God’s will, and viewing a reader as more than a customer. So, with this post, I hope I’ve honored my friend on the cusp of the one-year anniversary of her presence with the Lord where she now rejoices with her father, daughter, and sister.
Phyllis’s books remain on Amazon. If you need encouragement, please check them out.
Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. She’s the author of the heartwarming novella, The Yuletide Angel and the award-winning novel, A Reluctant Melody. Rarely out of reach of a book, she’s also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.
A Reluctant Melody
Kit Barnes’ drinking ruined more lives than his own. Now sober, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. The most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past and the one person he hurt the most.
A pariah among her peers, Joanna is all too eager to sell her property and flee the rumors that she sent her late husband to an early grave. But she will let the gossips talk and the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she’ll allow Kit back into her life.
When a blackmailer threatens to reveal her long-held secret, she must choose between trusting Kit or seeing her best friend trapped in an abusive marriage.
Will Joanna risk another betrayal? Or will she find a way through the pain of the past to love and trust again?