Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Why I Wrote The Lawrence Children

Selfie at the Norris cemetery... I went to look for inspiration for last names. And... found one for the "bad guys" ;D 

When I was in my early teens my mom hired an Amish friend, Rebecca Yoder, to teach us. We would walk, ride our bikes, or drive a pony cart a couple miles to a small mobile home where we had school. Though there were only about seven of us we had a name for our school . . . Acorn Melody.

It was an experience, to be sure. We were used to homeschooling. All at once we had a strict schedule, sat at desks, and had specific lessons and assignments.

I loved going to school and I loved our teacher. I loved learning. And I loved reading so many interesting Amish books! I only attended one year as I graduated eighth grade, but it is a year in which I will always look back in with fondness.

Though I loved school, I didn't enjoy all of my subjects equally. I've never liked spelling much... probably because I wasn't very good at it. But there was a lot of spelling for me to do (or so it felt like).

I normally had fifteen – twenty spelling words. And I had to write a coherent sentence for every single word. Wow. So... I wrote a story.

The Lawrence Children.

My grandma had given me a stack of Boxcar Children books, which I devoured and loved. Rebecca Yoder introduced me to a lovely series by Arleta Richardson called The Orphan's Journey. Needless to say I was fascinated with orphans. Plus... that was one of my spelling words.

My family had just gone to Montana for the first time a few months back. Something told me to set it there... so I did. But it wasn't until I moved here years later that I actually decided to set it in the town I live in: Norris. The original draft was set sometime in the 1930's – 1940's.

There were six lessons that formed the original draft of the Lawrence Children.

Here are the words that made this story find life:
Lesson one: anxiety, sorrow, assured, retire, insurance, thoughtful, motive, graduate, sadness, salesman, worthy, co-operate, issued, premium, utter, despair, differ, interviews, orphans.
Lesson two: compel, apartment, crimson, anniversary, fourteenth, childish, unimportant, beloved, folio, costumes, masquerades, brood, groan, sober, hockey, leased, economy.
Lesson three: apology, bashful, enthusiastic, personality, proceed, cultivate, detail, selection, topic, vocabulary, response, informal, introduction, composed, correspondent, assembled.
Lesson four: organized, glimpse, reveal, conscious, grief, mournful, humorous, compliment, congratulate, sympathize, affectionate, communicates, scribble, indented, margins, corrections, affection, gossiped, truthful, formal.
Lesson five: merit, correspondence, rumor, scandal, essential, acquainted, communications, condensed, application, courteous, recommended, phrases, inquiry, excessive, complaint, recommendation, requested, conclusion, confirmation, clause.
Lesson six: tremble, elegant, imitate, congratulations, utmost, edition, freshman, cemetery, heartily, vivid, signature, distinguish, essay, fiction, novel, glory, horror, ridiculous, rejoice, saluted.

And I will add, I tried my very hardest to use all these words in the final draft of this story. Just to honor the Lawrence Children’s origin, and Rebecca Yoder’s encouragement of my story.

Back when I first started this story I knew I wanted to write. And I tried. But... I hadn't learned very much about writing at the time. I didn't know the secret: just write your story. And so, though I loved my Lawrence orphans and loved how my teacher appeared to love them, I never was able to actually finish the story or the mystery.

That is until years later when I had written many stories and realized I still loved the Lawrence Children. Life had changed. And with it came a determination to write this story and to do it correctly!

I talked to many friends in Norris to get the historical aspects just right. A neighbor of ours first told me about Alex Norris, thus the mystery of the story was truly born. She had heard he was murdered, robbed for what he had in his pocket and left to die along the Bozeman railway. But then another woman told me that he hadn't died, but had been sent away to a mental institution, and no one knew why. I read as much local history as I could find on the town of Norris and the man that founded the town, but found nothing on the matter of Alex Norris' death. So I used writing liberties.

I originally planned to have a black couple in my story as friends, but sadly realized that just wasn't realistic.

As one guy in Norris told me, "When I was a little boy my mother told me a story of when she was a little girl and didn't want to wash her arms before going to Bozeman for shopping, but wear long sleeves instead. 'You must wash before we go to town,' my grandmother told my mother. She washed up and then they went to town. My mother had never seen a black person before, but in town she saw this little black boy, and she whispered to my grandmother, 'Mother, why didn't he have to wash his arms?'"

I realized I had to cut that couple out of my story, which I was very sad about.

Besides talking to many people, I also visited our local cemetery for further inspiration, and to find the perfect last name for my "bad guys". I really enjoyed that, despite how dismal that may sound. There is a lot of history there.

I want to thank a couple people, for without them I would have not had near as much inspiration and motivation for writing this story. First, of course, I want to thank Rebecca Yoder, and amazing teacher who read my story when it was still in its ugly stage yet "raved" about it in her notes. I still love the little notes she made on my early "manuscript". Jolene Brush and Deannie Jackson for answering so many or my questions and giving my my initial inspiration about Alex Norris. Alfred Hokanson for sharing Norris history and facts with me. Lauren Grinder, Esther Allison, and Bethany Doran-Smith for being the most amazing beta readers and helping me with edits before making the story live on the blog.

I hope you all enjoyed this story of mine. I am so glad to finally have it told and shared... for it had been kept inside much too long.

Norris cemetery plaque 

Norris cemetery... the place that proves history lived 

Did you enjoy the Lawrence Children's story... and the history behind it? Who was your favorite character? What was your favorite part? Or least favorite anything... I want to hear your thoughts! 

Also, I'm thinking of doing another serial. I have two prospective ideas. 

  • The eighth Narnia book, What happened to Susan Pevensie after everyone died on the train? Will she believe in Narnia again? And is she going crazy... for every time she looks into a mirror she sees Lucy's face. And hears her voice... "Susan! Why don't you believe anymore?"
  • The sequel to the Boxcar Children, All the boxcar children are grown. Henry and Jessie are married with children. Violet is getting married, and everyone is wedding spirits! Which means the cousins get to spend a week with Uncle Benny... the funny, nice uncle who writes stories and collects old books and loves to visit a certain restaurant where a certain available woman cooks the most amazing food... the cousins decide it is their time to solve mysteries and when one of Uncle Benny's most valuable books disappear. And also, he needs help proposing to the woman who has touched Uncle Benny's heart... and stomach. 

You choose . . . which serial do you want to see on the blog next? And I'll start writing! 


  1. Oh, I'll definitely have to go back and read the Lawrence Children, it sounds fantastic! I love how your spelling lessons sparked a story, and how your love for the idea stayed with you through the years. And it's so very cool that you did historical digging in the actual setting.

    Both those serial proposals sound phenomenal...I DO want to know what happens to Susan. But. The Boxcar children are so fun. :)

    1. Can't wait to hear what you think of the Lawrence Children!

      And yes, I so love how this story came to be :) It's so much fun.

      Can't wait to write BOTH books. I'm glad you like both ideas ;)



    Cool post! I loved seeing where you got the inspiration! :)

    1. HAHAHAHAHA! The Eight Narnia book will be so hard to write (because I want it to be perfect!). But I'm thinking I'm leaning toward that one ;)


  3. That's really neat!!! I love learning the history behind stories like this!!

    NARNIA??? I'm in. When does it start?? lol

    1. Thanks! I'm so glad you all enjoyed it ;)

      Well, looks like as there are three for Narnia I shall start writing it sometime in January. If all goes as I hope, I should start posting in February or March. I know, it seems like soooo far away into the future. But I can only write so fast ;)


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