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Linda's Story

Author Linda Moore Kurth is a unique spirit who follows her muse wherever it might take her. Her mantra is to write “stories from the heart,” and you’ll find heart in every one of her several books. Many of her books are published through Home of the Heart Press, Linda’s personal publishing company. The following is a personal essay Linda thinks you might enjoy.



Writing Under the Influence of a Quirky Muse


Linda Moore Kurth


She awoke one morning with the surprising thought that she could write a romance. She was fifty and had been an art teacher, a weaver, and an interior designer. She'd written a few nonfiction pieces on the side, but never fiction, unless her little tale for junior high science class about a cross-species relationship between Sid Squid and Cathy Cuttlefish counted. She’d known a romance writer in her church choir, so perhaps that’s where the idea came from. She'd never before read that genre but was fascinated to discover that all the author's love interests closely resembled their handsome choir director.


Her first attempt was not the finest of writing, being all dialog and no plot. But it did get her juices flowing. After reading a pile of romances and joining a critique group, she tried again. She thought her story turned out pretty good, but after receiving three rejections she buried it in a file drawer. A few weeks later, she received a call from a critique friend suggesting another publisher. Soon she had a contract, and not long after that, a box of her new books landed on her doorstep. Yippee! Barnes & Noble gave her a book signing complete with chocolates and sparkling cider.


Now what? Somehow, the thought of writing another romance didn’t enthuse. her. Was she truly a writer? Or a one-hit wonder? She wished to continue writing, but about what? She collected ideas and made outlines. She spent months on a children's story about elves, only to finally realize it wasn't working. Her files grew fat as her frustration grew deeper. She went to a counselor. "What am I to do next?" she wailed.


"Only you know," he told her, shaking his head.


She asked her writers' critique group.


"Hmm …" they said.


Tired of the struggle, she gave up trying for something saleable. "Why not poetry?" although she'd never written any. Silly poetry, it would be. About being a kid. She thought of her son's enthusiasms when he was young. He’d loved doing a report on sponges. “What’s so great about sponges?” she’d asked him. “They’re filter feeders,” he replied. “They don’t have to do anything. They just lie on the ocean floor and their food comes to them.”


I wish I was a simple sponge

resting on the ocean floor

loafing as the gentle tide

passed through my waiting pores


Ah … sponges. But what were they really like? Her poem might be silly, but she wanted it to be accurate.


"There's only one kid's book on sponges in the library," she complained to her critique group. "And it's outdated."


"That's it," they said. "You've found your subject!"


"But I'm not a biologist," she protested.


"So?" they said.


I would need no heart, nor lungs

nor brain, nor hands or feet

for on that tide all kinds of treats

would filter by for me to eat


She dove into texts that would have made her eyes cross in her college years. She learned there were sponges off the coast of Vancouver Island as big as a Volkswagen Beetle. That sponges can reproduce in a number of ways. That one type of sponge extends a hook and “fishes.” Is it “working” for its dinner she wondered.


Her parents invited her to spend time with them on the Oregon coast. While there, her dad suggested they go see “that whale they flew in from Mexico a few weeks ago.” The whale―an orca, actually―was Keiko, the biggest star in the kids’ movie, “Free Willy.” People flocked to the Oregon Coast Aquarium to see him. Standing in front of the viewing window, she understood why. Weighing nearly a ton, he cruised by, turned, and stared back at her. She was awestruck, then went back home and picked up her work.


But then a light clicked on. Had anyone written about Keiko?. Surely there was at least one children's book about him. Dumb question, but she would call and ask. With beating heart, bracing for humiliation, she rang―and got an answering machine. She stumbled out her question and quickly hung up. One week. Two weeks. Christmas. Three, then four weeks. Really, really dumb question. Not worth answering. Just forget it.


I would be quite handsome

My color'd win first prize

My physique declared superb

Tho’ I'd never exercise


She was still deep into sponges when the call came. No, they didn't have a book on Keiko. Would she be interested in writing one? Would she like to meet him and his trainers?


She leapt from writing about the least intelligent animal on the planet to one of the most intelligent ones. After visiting Keiko twice, interviewing his trainers, taking many photos, and diving into orca research, she fashioned a manuscript.


She eagerly sent off queries, but all were rejected. (“We don’t do books on famous animals.”) Once again, she put her manuscript away. A few months later, she read of a new editor at a children’s book publishing house. Her manuscript was accepted! She did a happy dance and booked a flight to Iceland to see Keiko lowered into a bay pen in his home waters of the North Atlantic.


“Keiko’s Story: A Killer Whale Goes Home” was published as a school and library book in 2000. The story ended with the hope Keiko would find his family, just as Willy had. Barnes and Noble held a modest book signing. Over the years she would run into people who remembered reading her book from their school library. They often asked what happened to Keiko in the end.


She moved on to other projects, all rejected. Perhaps this was at least partly because she’d signed on with an agent who, it turned out, was living in her car with two dogs and had a habit of swearing at editors she didn’t like.


She got a divorce and was shocked to discover the dichotomy of responses from fellow Christians―some loved on her while others condemned her. She began a memoir to push back against the hate and advocate for love. It would take her fifteen years to finish. Her hybrid publisher made glowing promises. The book’s launch was by Zoom, just as COVID-19 reared its ugly head. For five years, she grew a small email list and faithfully wrote monthly blog posts to support the book’s premise.


Out of the blue, a man contacted her, telling her how much “Keiko’s Story” had meant to him as a student. He was working on a documentary about the orca for his many fans and had some questions. She gathered up a big box of materials she’d saved when writing the book and sent it to him. It seemed like the definitive end to her Keiko journey. But then his email: “You should update your book and tell Keiko’s whole story.”


The light was back on!


Today, Linda lives with her husband in the home of their hearts (He fell in love with her while reading "Home of the Heart") in a verdant valley in northwest Washington State between the mountains and the sea, and not too far from her favorite temperate rainforest. (She’s a tree hugger.) When Linda isn’t cooking up new stories, she’s often creating new recipes with produce from her garden. She’s very grateful for her readers’ interest and encouragement in her writing.

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