By Jodi O’Donnell-Ames
I first wrote the story, The Stars that Shine, in 1997. I was 28 years old and living the best and worst time of my life. It was the best of times because my husband Kevin and I were young and in love and the proud parents of a delightful five year old. It was the worst of times because my husband was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease and he was fighting for his life.
Like the experience that triggered it, the story materialized quickly and begged to be put into writing. In the quiet hours of a Sunday evening, while my husband and our daughter Alina were asleep, I penned the story of how our daughter learned to accept her daddy’s wheel chair. I promised myself that my manuscript would one day be a book to assist similar families across the United States.
My brave husband, Kevin, lost his battle with ALS in 2001. Our daughter Alina was eight years old and for years, my manuscript, along with my dreams and goals, collected dust on a shelf.
In 2003, I married Warren Ames and became a step-mother to Nora and Adam Ames, who lost their biological mother, Tina Singer Ames, to ALS in 2000.
Six years after Kevin’s death, I sent my manuscript out to a handful of publishers. There were many notes of rejection, but several notes of encouragement. I was a mommy first and had many responsibilities at the time so once again, my dream would wait.
As I concentrated on raising three healthy and happy kids, I witnessed how difficult it was for them to get the right kind of support. They each had lost a parent and at different times, experienced pain and grief. When our third child, Adam, went off to college, I decided to once again, face my goals. I founded Hope Loves Company (www.hopelovescompany.com), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing emotional and educational support to the children and grandchildren of ALS patients.
Then I pursued my second goal and contacted Karen Miller at Open Door Publications and shared my manuscript. Only three months later, I held a copy of The Stars that Shine and was sharing it with ALS families, just as planned. Karen suggested that the book include resources for parents and caregivers and the final result was beyond my wildest dreams. I am elated that I trusted her guidance and made my dream a reality.
Today, only four months later, I have received news that my book will be translated in two other languages and produced into a micro movie. I’m so happy that I called Open Door Publications instead of waiting for a publisher to call me! My manuscript would have been covered in dust bunnies by now. Instead, it’s being read and cherished!