By Kathleen E. Kovach
Back in the early eighties, a movie about dancing inspired a generation to don their leg warmers and oversized t-shirts, and to hit their aerobics classes with an energy never before experienced. With a song by Irene Carra titled "What a Feeling," Flashdance burst on the scene, empowering anyone with a dream to "take their passion and make it happen."
I had a dream. A couple actually. One was to have a body like Jennifer Beals, the other was to write for publication. In 2002, my second dream was set in motion at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. The next six years were testament to how God took my passion and made it happen.
Right now, if this article were a movie, you'd see me gazing dreamily toward the ceiling, my face blurring in a wavy distortion to signal a memory . . .
I'm a four-year-old sitting next to my mother in church. She has just handed me the small spiral notebook from her purse that she uses for her grocery list. I reach for the stubby pencil conveniently sticking out of a hole in the pew in front of me. I spend the next half-hour scribbling nonsense, but in my head I'm writing a story. This, I believe, is my first Pulitzer worthy work of art. It's a shame no one can make sense of it.
Now I'm about eight, bent over a piece of construction paper in my room and working diligently to finish a poem about a "Fat Cat in a Black Hat." I draw something that looks like a black snowman with whiskers. On his head is a top hat, tilted in Fred Astaire fashion. It looks goofy. Art is clearly not my passion. However, I sell my poem to my friends for a nickel and make twenty-five cents. I am now a self-published author!
For the next seven years I fill up pages and pages of notebooks with poems, short stories, and plays. Then, I enter the Ninth Grade Writing Contest with "I Was A Female Dog—An Autobiography By George." I win the grand prize. Three dollars! Now, I'm not only a published author, I'm a contest winner!
At this point, my passion to become published sparks anew. But, I don't know how to pursue it. How do you make your passion happen when you're fifteen?
Even so, it would be nine more years before I attempt a full-length novel . . .
I'm a mother of two now, with hardly time to work on my Jennifer Beals body, let alone write a novel. My husband is in the Air Force and we're living in Frankfurt, Germany. With one television station to occupy my downtime, I buy a nifty new notebook with narrow ruled lines (wishing that Bill Gates would get his act together and invent the computer) and launch into my attempt at a romantic suspense.
I write when I can during this time. A paragraph here, a chapter there. Eventually, by our second tour in Germany, I find others with a passion to write and we form a group that we call The Inkslingers for our enthusiastic critique style of slinging red ink all over each other's work. At the end of that tour, I leave Germany and my crit buddies with an unfinished manuscript and a deflated dream. I'm in my mid-thirties and still have no idea how to submit a novel. My passion has been side-tracked but not derailed. It still chugs away in my spirit, waiting for the day to burst out of the dark tunnel of buried dreams, where my life has become family first, volunteer work, and globe trotting.
The year is 2002 and my now retired hubby and I are living once again in our beloved Colorado. I finally finish my suspense novel that I title, Once Was Lost. Birthing that novel and typing "The End" was akin to a twenty-three year pregnancy and delivering a baby with the head the size of a basketball.
Relief is soon replaced with a sense of "now what?" I have a first draft of a novel and still nowhere to turn. Researching markets seems as foreign as trying to learn conversational German.
In May of 2002 I find myself at the YMCA conference center in Estes Park, mingling with other passionate writing friends, and feeling a touch of what heaven must be like. I had written and submitted my article, "If Anyone Hears My Voice," and at the end of the conference I sit in delirious anticipation as the director, Marlene Bagnull, announces the winners of each of the contests offered that year . . .
Her voice is coming from the bottom of a swimming pool and I realize my heart is pounding so hard the swooshing of blood in my ears is making it hard to hear. I've surrounded myself with friends whom I've bonded with throughout the weekend. If Marlene calls my name, I'll want someone to celebrate with. If she doesn't, I'll cry on the closest shoulder available. I tell myself not to get my hopes up. Not since the Ninth Grade Writing Contest have I ever won anything. Yet, if I win, I'll feel validated—as if God has heard all those pleas through the years.
In slow motion, Marlene's voice now sounds like Darth Vader's, only scarier. "And the winner of the 2002 Unpublished Writing Contest is—" Breathe, Kathy, breathe. "Kathleen Kovach."
Hugs of congratulations envelope me and I'm grateful that I choose to sit in the middle of my friends. I race to Marlene who is holding out the most precious piece of paper that I'll ever own, aside from the birth certificates of my children. This is my birth certificate, where years of passion is birthed into this one single moment. As I walk back to my seat, I hear God clapping and He asks, "What are we going to write next?"
Three years after that conference, my first book, Merely Players, was published through Barbour's Heartsong Presents line. This is not the book that took me twenty-three years to write. That one still sits in my computer waiting for God to release it. Once I put "The End" on that piece, I knew I could finish something. This gave me renewed courage to start another story, the idea of which I pitched to the then Heartsong editors, Tracie and Jim Peterson, at the 2002 conference. That story, six years after I received my writing birth certificate, is now bundled in a compilation with two other authors, Lynn Coleman and Kristy Dykes, called Florida Weddings.
I'm still working on my first passion, to have a body like Jennifer Beals, but the older I get, the more that dream fades. However, after hearing God's encouragement that day in 2002, I realize writing is God's passion for me. More specifically, our passion together is to write spiritual truths in an entertaining and subtle way—with a giggle.
If you have a passion, be it writing or anything else, you can do as the song writer suggests: "Take your passion and make it happen." Even if you find it side-tracked in some forsaken tunnel. Even if it takes you nearly five decades to birth it. With God's help and timing, it will happen.
Oh, what a feeling!