Marion Bond West and Julie Garmon are inspirational Christian authors who have come face-to-face with life's toughest problems. Mother and daughter willingly unveil the most intimate details of their lives for one common purpose - to glorify God and to show their readers there is peace, hope and healing through God's word in any difficulty.
West will tell you that through perseverance, she is the most published and most rejected writer of Guideposts. In the early years, she was mentored by Cecil Murphey who encouraged her and critiqued her articles for eight years.
"The first time my editor-wife and I read an unpublished article by Marion Bond West, we commented on everything wrong from spelling errors to weak grammar," said Murphey, co-author of "90 Minutes in Heaven, Heaven Is Real," and more than 100 other books. "But both of us said, 'That woman can write.' That special quality - the gift - was obvious.
"She hadn't developed the skills, but the talent was there."
West's first acceptance, "Thank you Lord for my Broken Dishwasher" was published in Guideposts in the early 1970s after she attended a Bible study about the person of Jesus Christ.
"If I don't know the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, if I have missed something, I want it," proclaimed West as she realized there must be more in the relationship with Christ. "That's the day my life changed."
West has been writing for the past 36 years using an IMB electric typewriter and has published in numerous literary journals and newspapers and authored seven books.
"Praying for My Life," West's most recent book, is dedicated to all those who have almost given up hope, almost stopped believing and almost ceased praying.
After the death of her husband from a brain tumor in 1983 left her a single mother of four, West speaks of the times when her faith was severely tested.
The love for her twin sons Jeremy, who was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, and Jon who struggled with addictions, led her to seek out the wisdom of a prayer that changed her life - a prayer by the prophet Habakkuk, as referenced in Habakkuk 3:17-19.
"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places" (New American Standard Bible).
West turned her sons over to God knowing that when they made a mistake it would be a way of letting them discover who God is in their lives. She encourages parents to smile, to marvel and to dream about their children.
West wrote an article for Guideposts titled "How to Rise up Above Depression," after she had been praying for God to send her a husband after Jerry died. She intended the article to be four pages, but God had other plans.
The publisher wanted a shorter version. After a year of negotiating, West released the article for publication. Seven men called her after reading the article.
Gene Acuff called West and told her how the article had ministered to him after the recent passing of his wife. He told her he chose to read the short article because he didn't have the emotional stamina to read a larger one.
As God spoke to Acuff in terms of letting him know that West would be his wife, he drew a big heart around her name and phone number on the article. Acuff and West fell in love as they developed a friendship through calls and letters.
They met at Stone Mountain in July and were engaged to be married the following day.
A minister and professor of sociology, he returned to complete a teaching assignment at Oklahoma State University. They lived there three years and returned to Georgia where Acuff accepted a church in Monroe.
Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, West does not allow herself to indulge in pity. She speaks of the duty of guarding one's mind from negative influences. West said all her life, she was fearful.
"We have to face our fears," she said in retrospect. "The only thing you can do is stop and turn around. Fear will tuck his tail and run."
When West's daughter Julie Garmon was in kindergarten, West asked her to memorize "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe. Her mother encouraged her to learn how to recognize and write with heart. Garmon and her husband Rick had four children, one of whom died at birth.
"I don't think I grieved like I should have," she said of the child she lost. "I gave a testimony to the women at church within ten days of losing him - about how good God is. I wanted to be the perfect griever."
It was months before she ever admitted that she needed help. Garmon said she lost weight, couldn't sleep, and couldn't think. She had the misconceived idea that Christians didn't get depressed and in order to be loved, she needed to be perfect.
In "The Hardest Battle" published in "HomeLife," Garmon writes about losing a child.
"I didn't want to be a writer, but didn't know what else to do with my feelings," Garmon said. "I ran from it for a while. You have to care more about helping people than you do about yourself. And the things that I don't have the freedom to write about, I write it in fiction."
Garmon attended DeKalb College and studied as a medical assistant. At 34, she returned to college and took English classes. Aside from editing her mother's work, she didn't begin to write until 2001. At a writer's workshop in Alabama, Murphey invited her to be a part of his critique group. Garmon said she realized that God had been preparing her all these years.
"Julie Garmon showed me something she had written," said Murphey. "'You have a real flair for fiction,'" I told her. Like her mother's first piece, the talent was obvious; the skills she could learn. Both of them worked hard and learned."
Garmon identified her ministry as a heart for addicts, alcoholics and people who love them, women weighed down with depression, outcasts, the homeless and rebellious teenagers. As her daughters went through rebellious stages, she was drawn to write for teen publications. Her church worked with My Sister's Place in Gainesville, a shelter for women alone or women with children. This inspired her novel in the making, "One for the Road" in which a pregnant addict from an abusive relationship heads for the shelter. There, five eccentric misfits show her how to live again.
Garmon said if she can feel somebody's pain, she can write about it. Empathy is a quality of a ghost writer. Once she stopped worrying about what people thought, she was able to write about herself.
At her daughter's request, Garmon wrote the emotional story of her then 18 year-old daughter's date rape and bout with anorexia. Published in "Today's Christian," "My Secret Hate" was written from her husband's perceptive. Full of rage and disappointment from not being able to protect his daughter, Rick learned a difficult lesson in forgiveness.
In 2004 and 2007, Garmon won the coveted spot to attend the "Guideposts" workshop in New York. A member of the American Christian Writers, the American Christian Fiction Writers and The Writer's View, Garmon's goal is that everything she writes will bring hope. For more information, visit www.juliegarmon.com.
Marion Bond West and Julie Garmon are the speakers for the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers Workshop open to public to be held on June 14 at DeKalb Technical College, Newton Center; at 8100 Bob Williams Parkway from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Garmon will teach on How Not to Write a Devotional. West will teach on How to Write an Inspirational Article; and together they will present The Value of Takeaway. For registration information, please call 404-444-7514 or visit www.emacw.org.