Why Do I Write? by Diane Stringam Tolley

A guest post by Diane Stringam Tolley, the author of the Book of Mormon novels Daughter of Ishmael and A House Divided.

Why do I write?

I come from a long line of story-tellers, but that is only partially the reason . . .

As one of 36 students in Mrs. Hainsworth’s grade six class, I bent to the assignment with my usual determination.

Okay, you’re right, I was not typically so focused. But when the assignment was for Language Arts and included some or all of the words: Write a story, I was hooked.

Today, some fifty-plus years later, I don’t remember what the actual story was to be about.

Nor, sadly, did I keep a copy of what I wrote that day. I expect it was something pithy and epigrammic like, ‘The Haunted House’.

But I remember both my enthusiasm and my drive in fulfilling the assignment.

And I remember the life-changing outcome a couple of days later.

Mrs. Hainsworth was passing back the graded papers. Sitting at her desk, she called us up one at a time for our . . . erm . . . sentencing.

A little sidenote here: How does one ‘grade’ creativity? Just wondering.

But I digress . . .

Soooo . . . Papers.

Passing back.

There were the usual groans at dreaded and unwelcome failing marks and one or two gasps of surprise and delight at an unexpected, better-than-passing grade.

Then it was my turn. I approached the desk with my usual shaking knees.

Approaching a bastion of authority makes me nervous even to this day. True story.

But again, I stray from the point . . .

Mrs. Hainsworth slid my story off the top of her stack and held it out to me, but when I reached for it, she refused to let go. I raised my eyes to hers, wondering what the problem was. And was a little surprised to see her intent eyes on mine. “Diane,” she said. “You need to be a professional writer.”

I blinked and offered my patented effervescent comeback line. “Really?”

“You have a great talent, dear.”


Now before you assume her words instantly swelled my 11-year-old head, let’s put this into perspective: she was grading me alongside 35 other 11-year-olds.

But the encouragement—and the approval—stayed.

My confidence and enthusiasm for telling stories blossomed.

My parents could testify. Some form of the words, ‘Big Windy’ coupled with my name were a daily incidence at our house.

And if you’re interested, the grade was my first—and only—A++.

Since then, writing has, like breathing, kept me alive.

So write, I do.

My niche? Scriptural history.

I love a background story. And what could be more intriguing than the experiences of the group who witnessed everything and seldom—if ever—got a voice?

The women who stood behind the men who recorded our scripture stories.

They are the invisible people who left their homes and trudged over the desert, clinging to their spouses and their testimonies. Who bore the children and baked the bread in the wilderness. Suffered silently.

What fun to find them in the pages of the scriptures! For they are there. Quietly stitching together the spiritual and the mundane.

And what fun to research them. Discover what their daily lives encompassed. Their duties. Their concerns.

Their sorrows.

It is to tell their stories that I write!

Diane Stringam Tolley was raised on one of the last of the great old ranches of southern Alberta, Canada. Born to a family of storytellers, she has been telling stories since she could talk. Author of eleven novels, she has found her niche in fictional scriptural history. A House Divided, sequel to her best-selling Daughter of Ishmael is her most recent. Both Book of Mormon novels are published by Cedar Fort. Diane and her husband, Grant, currently live in Edmonton, Alberta. Where the cold comes from.

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