Bobbi Junior is our 2014 Free Publishing Contest for non-fiction, for her manuscript The Reluctant Caregiver. We sat down with Bobbi to find out more about her writing journey thus far
WAP: Tell us a bit about yourself (what do you do when you’re not writing, what’s your background, etc)?
BJ: I only have a high school education, but I love learning — these days, reading and indulging in podcasts from sites like Ted Talks and RZIM while I walk the dog. I work as Communications Coordinator for a great company here in Edmonton. Interests? I’m treasurer for InScribe Christian Fellowship. I belong to The Word Guild and two local writing groups. Hubby and I have two wonderful kids, grown and launched. After 32 years of marriage, we relish the peace we’re experiencing at this stage in life.
WAP: How long have you been writing?
BJ: I began by journalling my teenage angst and turmoil. I stopped when life settled. Family crisis started my pen moving again as a means of processing. In my mid-50’s my writing changed to an exploration of the spiritual lessons I was learning, and that’s where I’m at now.
WAP: What inspired you to write The Reluctant Caregiver? What came first: the manuscript, or your blog?
BJ: As Mom’s dementia progressed, she often couldn’t find words to express herself. One day, in frustration, she declared, “This is happening in other people’s brains. Somebody has to write about it.” That evening I updated my journal. Somebody needs to write about it, but it sure won’t be me. Where would I find the time? It was as though God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Ahem.” I’d been journaling Mom’s story all along. One day I heard that memoir could take a narrative form, and away I went. I started my blog around the same time, and began to do some speaking as well.
WAP: What are your hopes for The Reluctant Caregiver?
BJ: Dementia is the backdrop, but the real story is God’s faithfulness. My prayer is that some might read the story and find ways to give Jesus the chance to prove his promises—to equip, provide rest, and carry our burdens. I had always yearned for that kind of peace, but didn’t know how to accept it. Through being a caregiver, Jesus taught me how to surrender. Maybe my story will help others discover what I discovered.
WAP: What are your goals as a writer?
BJ: I’m not much of a goal setter, but I do have a need to express what I learn, and compare notes with others. I do that on my blog, and enjoy the exchanges we have in the comments section.
WAP: What are some of your favourite books?
BJ: I need variety. I especially love the wide range of books coming from the writerly folk of InScribe and The Word Guild. Many are self-published—important stories that need to be told; stories I need to read.
WAP: In your manuscript, you are very open and honest with the readers. Was it a conscious choice to be vulnerable? Or, what gave you the courage to be that vulnerable with your readers?
BJ: In 1999 our daughter was severely disabled as the result of an accident. One day I made an angry demand of the Lord. “If we have to go through this hell, you’d better find a way for it to serve some purpose!” When I began writing my mother’s story over a decade later, that prayer came back to me, along with Phillipians 2:7: Jesus made himself to be of no reputation (NKJ). I felt he was saying he would answer my prayer, but it was conditional. If I would tell the story honestly, and set aside any desire to protect my reputation, he would honour my prayer and bring purpose out of the struggle. Trying to be open and honest has become a way of life now. I don’t always manage, but when I do there’s a sense of freedom that doesn’t exist with my old self-protective attitude.
WAP: Was there ever a point when you were tempted to give up on this project? If so, what made you persevere?
BJ: Absolutely. In fact, that’s how I ended up entering the WAP Contest. My manuscript was close to completion, but I was bored as all get out. I told my writing group I planned to set the manuscript aside and get on with something else. They were aghast. One said, “I know too many artists who drop one project and switch to another. As a result, they’re never fulfilled.” Around that time I saw ads for this contest and decided to make it my deadline. I would meet the submission criteria to the best of my ability, send it off, and be done. I entered the contest to finish. Now it’s become a start!
WAP: Your book is called The Reluctant Caregiver. Do you still consider yourself to be reluctant? If not, how would you describe the process of moving from reluctance to willingness?
BJ: Many times I asked the Lord, “If you’re going to keep putting me in a caregiver role, why not gift me to do it? Why must it be a struggle?” He always brings to mind James 1; only in the trial will I turn to Jesus, persevere, mature, and come to know him more deeply. I understand it’s because he loves me, but sometimes I still whine, “I don’t want to be mature!” Paul talks about our natural man. For me, that’s the part that will always be a reluctant caregiver. My willingness comes only through a desire to be obedient to my Lord. I think Jesus is okay with that tension.
WAP: At what point did you decide that this project would be for a wider audience?
BJ: My mother and father were divorced, but each needed caregiver support these last few years. This spring both of them passed away and suddenly caregiving demands ended. Today it feels as though the Lord has freed my energy to focus on sharing our caregiving story. The book is coming to fruition through this contest. My prayer is that when it’s published, the Lord will bring it to the right audience, and that I’ll be able to speak to groups and tell them the difference between caregiving without Jesus, and caregiving with him. It’s a lesson worth learning.
Bobbi Junior works as Communications Coordinator for a Human Services group in Edmonton Alberta. She writes and speaks about caregiving, drawing from two life-altering experiences—a devastating accident which left her teenage daughter paralyzed, and her mother’s journey with dementia, the basis for her book, The Reluctant Caregiver. Bobbi explores the topic of caregiving and more on her blog. Publications include a short story in a recent anthology, Telling Truths; Storying Motherhood, and articles in FellowScript Magazine. Bobbi serves as Treasurer for InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, and is Chair of her church Board of Directors.