Sparta Writer Wins Christy Award For First Novel
Friday, July 26, 2008, Grand Rapids, MI—Shelly Beach never expected her first novel to be published, much less win a prestigious award.
Beach lives in Sparta with her husband, Dan, superintendent for Algoma Christian School. She was raised in Norton Shores and grew up going to Pere Marquette Park, Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference along Lake Michigan, graduating from Mona Shores High School. All play a part in "Hallie's Heart," published by Grand Rapids-based Kregel Publications.
The novel centers around Mona VanderMolen and her niece Hallie, who rides a Harley across the state, much like Beach and her husband do, and shows up at Mona's beach house. They must work together through issues surrounding the accidental drowning of Hallie's sister, as well as Mona's own past.
Beach said the concept for the novel began when her children, now 28 and 30, were about 10. She began writing it years ago and gave the manuscript to a Kregel representative in 2003.
After moving to the Grand Rapids area from Iowa a year later, she reconnected with Kregel. Editor Steve Barclift said he was delighted to hear from her -- because her contact information had been misplaced and he was eager to publish "Hallie's Heart." The novel was released in February 2007.
"When I finally opened the e-mail telling me I was a finalist for the Christy, I stared at it for a long time thinking it couldn't possibly be true for a first-time novelist," said Beach. "It took days and days for it to sink in."
Beach was also a finalist for an ECPA Christian Book Award in the Gift/Inspiration category for her first nonfiction book, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand." This book of meditations for caregivers, published by Grand Rapids-based Discovery House Publishers, is based on Beach's experiences caring for her aging parents and father-in-law. Another book won the award, although it was the first time two first books by the same author were nominated for both awards, said her agent, Tim Beals.
"Ambushed by Grace," a second book for caregivers, is coming out with Discovery House in October, and "Gifts from Morningside," the sequel to Beach's novel, will be released by Kregel in February.
"I believe in what I write, and I'm passionate about what I write about, so I hope the Christy Award allows me to get my writing to a wider audience," said Beach. "I'm still shocked and I'd wear that medallion like a necklace if I could. This award is a thing of joy."
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