CANCER IS CANCER IS CANCER. No matter the type of cancer those of us who have it, or are experiencing it, we share common fears, questions, and strengths. Shirley Corder, author of Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer, offers inspiration and hope for all of us.Today Ms. Corder shares two important lessons: believe and wait upon God, and follow your life's path.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Sometime after a year’s tough treatment for cancer, I realized I wanted to get it all down in writing in the hope that it would one day help others facing the same ordeal. I wrote a 78,000 word book with the working title, Victory over Cancer. It was never published, but it gave me the material which I subsequently used to produce Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. If I hadn’t written that first book, I don’t think I would have had the knowledge and experience to tackle the book of meditations.
How did you come up with the title?
For Strength Renewed I actually didn’t. The publishers did. However when I was going through treatment, one of my favorite haunts was a botanical garden not far from my home. I would spend hours relaxing and watching for the pair of magnificent eagles that lived high on a cliff overlooking a waterfall. I often wished I could fly over the cancer valley the way those eagles flew over the gardens.
Isaiah 40:31 became a favorite verse for me; “They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings as eagles.” So when I began writing the meditations, I chose the working title, “Rise and Soar over the Cancer Valley.” The book includes a number of devotions based on the life of the eagle, with Isaiah 40:31 as the key Scripture. I always knew the publisher would change the title, but I was thrilled when Revell came up with Strength Renewed. It sums up my desire for the book—that people will have their strength renewed as they learn to wait upon the Lord.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The book comprises 90 devotions based on events in my own life, which occurred around the time of my cancer journey.
What books have most influenced your life most?
I love “story”. Whether it is a magazine article, a novel, or a non-fiction book, I like to read anecdotes and stories that I can visualize. I think this love was first sparked by the many delightful stories of Enid Blyton. I loved the way I could be transported to foreign, magical countries, and experience amazing adventures, often aided by a flying carpet, a wishing chair, or an exciting tree that grew through the clouds. This trait has followed me all my life, and I only read books that grip my attention. As a result, although I mainly write non-fiction, I write narrative non-fiction, with the use of stories and anecdotes.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I don’t know if mentor is the right word, but the writer who has most influenced my writing life is definitely Cecil Murphey. (http://www.cecilmurphey.com/) Thanks to Cec I have attended two Christian writers’ conferences, not to mention all I have learned from him as a result of belonging to writers’ groups where he is actively involved.
What are your current projects?
I am busy with several different writing projects at the moment. One involves my cancer journey once again but with a totally different approach. Another is a book of devotions based on the life of Naomi.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Without any doubt, my faith in God. I am so grateful that I already had a strong relationship with Him before cancer struck. I could lean on Him and know He would always be there for me. I would have hated to try and cope with that awful year without His love and support.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would ask to have the word “breast” removed from the title. Although my own cancer was in the breast (with spread to the glands), the devotions apply to the person dealing with the disease, not to a specific cancer. In fact, many people have actually written to tell me how the messages have spoken to them in situations that didn’t even include cancer.
A few weeks ago I overheard a conversation at a conference bookstall. A lady stood with my book in her hand, but was glancing through other devotional books. The saleslady pointed to another book on the table and said, “I would rather suggest that book. It is more general. The one in your hand is only for breast cancer.” The customer returned my book to the table and took the suggested one. I only hope she wasn’t buying it for someone who had cancer.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Balancing my time. I never have enough. Since Strength Renewed was published, I seem to spend far more time working on promotional and marketing material, and not nearly enough time on writing.
Who designed the cover?
A team at Revell Publishers. They set me an exercise to give them some idea of the sort of cover I would approve of, and then they went to work. The only thing I knew the cover had to have was a picture of an eagle. When I opened the picture of the new cover, which came attached to an email, I loved it on first sight. But . . . there was no eagle. It had to be a mistake. Then I took a good look at the woman on the cover and I rejoiced. She is the eagle! She is about to rise and soar. It was perfect.
Wondering how I would ever get a publisher. I live in South Africa, where we don’t have publishing houses like they have in the States. As it happened, I didn’t have to wait long. I received an incredible gift of a trip to attend a Christian writing conference in the States, and while there I met the acquisition editor for Revell publishers.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I discovered I’m a perfectionist! I did fifteen edits of the manuscript before I sent it to my editor at Revell, who of course had many more suggestions. I find it difficult to let go of my writing, as every time I read I spot something else I could do better.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes—write! Painters paint. Nurses nurse. Pilots fly planes. Writers have to write. I meet so many people who plan to write a book “one day”. You don’t wake up one morning and discover, “I’ve become a writer.” Writing is a craft like any other, and if you plan to get published, you need to learn the techniques and put them into practice. Write. Submit. Above all, be patient with yourself. It takes years and thousands of words to train as a writer.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope you never “need” my book, but the key to coping with cancer or any other life-threatening disease or crisis, is contained in Isaiah 40:31. “Wait upon the Lord . . .” Wait. He will renew your strength. You don’t need to do that yourself. Your job is to wait.
My many thanks to Ms. Corder for doing this interview. Please feel free to leave comments, suggestions, or questions.
Ms. Corder can be found at www.shirleycorder.com