I started writing all because of Agatha.
It was a meaningful encounter, unfolding scene by scene on a fall, non-football Friday night when I was eleven. Agatha wasn’t an adult mentor, classmate, nor the exceptional girl of a young boy’s dreams. Agatha was a mystical character in my local high school’s senior play: All Because of Agatha by Jonathan Troy.
The comic storyline concerned the trials and tribulations of newlyweds who’d purchased a haunted house. More than just plot proved intriguing. It was the combination of acting, sets, lighting, costumes, makeup, all enriched with laughter and applause. I was mesmerized. When the final curtain fell, I knew I wanted to one day write a play.
The stage wasn’t a total stranger. At age six, I’d played Peter in a theatrical adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. Not realizing I’d scored the coveted lead, I thought the drama teacher didn’t like me because of her casting of the mischievous, disobedient rabbit. Even so, I was much too shy to relish first-grade stardom.
Perhaps I should have.
In the fifth grade, I declined to audition for a character in Jack and the Beanstalk. My sentence? To play the bottom of the human beanstalk—ugh—and the south end of Jack’s cow—no kidding, no comment, lesson learned. The following year’s sixth grade production of Cinderella listed me in the program as The Town Cryer. Thankfully, none of my peers picked up on a medieval role that could’ve been modernized into an embarrassing pun.
I repeat, lesson learned.
So my extracurricular pursuits in junior high and high school included music, not theater. Then during my senior year in college, I decided to take a chance and increase my artistic horizons. Though an agriculture major, I auditioned for The Music Man, landing a minor role as a singing traveling salesman. Music/theater majors were expected to participate. Ag majors, never, making me an anomaly. The dramatic seed planted all because of Agatha had finally begun to sprout.
That same year, my Sunday school teacher published a play, and then wanted to co-create a musical drama. When she asked me to compose the ten or so tunes, I agreed. Upon production, we garnered immediate acclaim, which led to a front page story in the university newspaper. Thus, with visions of Rogers and Hammerstein dancing in my head, music education became my new major course of collegiate study; agriculture my minor. We collaborated on several musicals together before I graduated, taught school, and began writing shows on my own.
Whereas success in the creative arts arrives tardy for most, it creeps like chilled molasses for playwrights. (I’m sure poets would argue.) But make no mistake, performance royalties can be sticky. So after penning twenty plays, and composing over a hundred songs, I decided to learn how to write novels.
By God’s grace, I’d met and married my soulmate—a registered nurse—who believed in me much more than I did in myself. (Marry a nurse became my mantra for starving writers.) We started a family. She went back to work and I became Mister Mom. Then as naptime and our church’s preschool program allowed, I took graduate hours, completed a course in children’s literature, and wrote my first, novel length manuscript.
I began writing all because of Agatha. I continue due to a desire to share the goodness of story. In truth, it was God’s love, mercy, and abundance that not only gave me courage, but opened some much needed doors. When I reflect back to my role as Peter Rabbit, I can see God’s perfect guidance throughout my career; feel His all powerful presence.
Yet whenever I’m mischievous, or perhaps a little disobedient ….
It’s all because of Agatha.