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Jean Brashear
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A few years ago, I took a crazy gamble and tried to write a book. Unlike most writers I know, I never thought being a published writer was remotely possible for me. Never scribbled little stories as a child. I've loved reading all my life, yes, and spent a great deal of my childhood in the tiny library in the small town where I grew up. I'm never far away from a book, would just about as soon read as eat. My kids learned early on to discriminate between the times I was actually listening and the murmured responses that meant I was still deep in the story. I propped books up on the counter while I made bread, while I folded laundry...and if my current book wasn't nearby, I'd scavenge for any reading material at hand. But have my name on the cover of a book? A pipedream, pure and simple. One of those gee-wouldn't-it-be-wonderful ideas...but things like that don't happen to people like me, do they? Then one day, in the middle of one of those "what are we going to do with the rest of our lives?" conversations, I mused to the man I love, making that gee-wouldn't-it statement. To Mr. Get Things Done. Mr. Don't Talk About It-Do It. Mr. Bottom Line. And the man went a step further-put his money where his mouth was and encouraged me to come in a couple of hours late each day to the business we were running together, so I'd have the time to try. Uh-oh. Busted. No reason not to proceed except...well, cowardice. Common sense, maybe. But I lived in a state of blessed ignorance at that point-knew nothing about the craft of writing, no idea how to proceed and, Most Important, no idea how enormous the odds were against me. If I'd known then what I know now...I'd guess the fear thing would have won. Because I didn't know then how important writing would become. What it would mean. So my master plan, my technique (you should laugh here-I am) was to read what I'd written the day before, then do the ingénue thing, tip of finger twirling in imaginary dimple in cheek: "Golly, where shall I go from here?" And somehow, at the end of six weeks I had-more or less-a book. Just under 300 pages, a beginning, a middle and an end and maybe, just maybe...a real story. And the beginnings of a new love affair, for writing is now as important to me as breathing. I can't imagine not doing it, can't envision my life without it. And could kick myself around the block for not trying sooner. But you know what they say about hindsight. I proceeded to make just about every mistake in the book-not understanding the market, firing that book off to the agents of every author I loved, not having a clue about appropriate publishing houses for what was a decidedly amateur effort...etc., etc. But fortunately for me, embarrassing as that book is to me now, somehow those who knew more than I did saw a glimmer of talent in it. As the scales fell from my eyes, one by one, I received just enough encouragement to keep me following those kudos like breadcrumbs as the rockslide of publishing realities thundered down on my head...and I didn't quit. I wanted to-a million times, at least, but I didn't. And the man who dubbed himself The Shovel Man is the biggest part of why. He gave himself that name to describe the rollercoaster his life had become. As he said, he never knew when he came home at night, if he'd be scooping me off the floor or scraping me off the ceiling. But bless him, he persevered, having faith in me when I so often had none in myself. My first book is dedicated to him, but they're all really his. Without his love and faith and unflagging support, I wouldn't be here, conversing with you. I'm far from a finished piece-a work in progress, to be sure. I've been fortunate to win a number of awards and receive a lot of great reviews, but I've got a lot of lost time to make up for-though I can't really call them lost, because I don't regret at all the years I focused on my family. Family, as you can probably tell from my books, is everything to me. But I've got a lot of stories to write, a lot of work I'm still building the writing muscles to tackle. I'm not through taking crazy leaps.

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Photo: Jean Brashear
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9 Months Later
Deep in the Heart
Mother & Child Reunion
The MacAllisters
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