For Australian writer Sheryl Nostrini, another blood test at the hospital during a bout of health issues was an unusual place in which to be inspired to start writing.
While sitting in the waiting room, Sheryl happened to stumble across a magazine called ‘Country Style’. Inside, she read about a writing competition, which got her excited.
“Writing a book had never been something I thought I’d do,” she said, “and I had always been in awe of authors, for I love to read. Then a first paragraph exploded in my mind about my husband’s parents’ story.”
She couldn’t get the idea out of her mind and had to write it down. From there, she got inspired and decided to enter her 1,500 word short story, submitting it to the magazine. While she never did win a prize, the experience gave her the confidence to take her writing to the next level.
“After sharing the story with family, I learned even more about Jack and Emily that I hadn’t known before and discovered it was a story that needed to be told and not lost or forgotten,” she added. ‘Emilia and the Monument Builder’ is therefore a true story, written as fiction, as Sheryl’s Italian immigrant parents-in-law passed away in 1989.
Sheryl read many books on writing fiction, writing to be published and took two Summer School Writing classes in 2017 and 2018 to learn how to make her project come to light.
“I loved writing it, loved the research and discovered many more aspects of the story that were intriguing. It took me four years to complete.”
“While I was in the throes of the last part of writing ‘Emilia and the Monument Builder’ a seed was sown for a purely fictitious story about Courtney – the same thing happened – the story flowed, and I felt it was God-inspired,” Sheryl continued.
‘Courtney’s Keys’ is thus the story of twenty-year old Courtney Lancaster, raised as a ward-of-the-state in New South Wales in Australia, who becomes the beneficiary of her unknown great-uncle’s estate in 1980.
She arrives in Mt Barker in the south-west of Western Australia to discover treasures from her past. A desire for a new beginning after a chequered past and poor decisions allows Courtney to learn new life lessons and growing faith in a loving God from her trustworthy neighbour.
Discovering love, care and affection never experienced in her institutionalised upbringing helps her find keys that reveal resolutions to her confusion. However, trials and temptations create stumbling blocks along the way and confrontations conspire to undo her. She harbours a secret, that once revealed, changes everything.
“It is as interesting to me to see how the story unfolds. Sometimes there are twists and turns I did not expect and it was fascinating to watch the story emerge as I wrote it.”
“’Courtney’s Keys’ had been written, proofed, edited and sat silent while I found the courage to submit its synopsis to Ark House Press. My writing friend, Audrey, whom I meet with every Friday since Summer School 2018 (where we met) insisted I stop procrastinating. She told me to trust God for his leading.”
“I knew she was right. I put the fleece out, to use Gideon’s exercise in faith – submitted it, was asked to send the first two chapters which was the next step. I received an email from Ark House Press stating they had accepted it. There, God had opened the door and I had to walk through it.”
Writing and storytelling ran in Sheryl’s family. “My father was a great story-teller and I’d had the experience of learning ‘not to wait’ because I’d intended to give my Dad a special book and pen for Father’s Day in 1996 to write down his stories.
“Sadly, he was in a serious traffic accident, in a coma for a week and died the day before Father’s Day. Now his stories are lost, we only remember some of them and not particularly well. It showed me the importance of writing things down while you can.”
“I love, love, love writing,” she said, “and I feel truly blessed that God has seen to offer me this opportunity. It is my desire and prayer to nurture the reader’s faith in God and to draw them closer to Him.”
“These stories can be used as an evangelistic tool for those seeking to know God for themselves.”
‘Courtney’s Keys’ touches on some social issues and perhaps the guidance to resolutions of these problems in the story could help those who face similar situations. ‘Courtney’s Keys’ is Book One in the Plantagenet Trilogy. Book Two, ‘Seth’s Solace’, is due out in November 2020, while Book Three, ‘Miranda’s Mother’, is set for a 2021 release.