LIFE LESSONS FROM THE GARDEN by best-selling inspirational YA novelist Lurlene McDaniel

When I was just starting out on my writing career, I asked my father, a gifted mechanic, always covered with grease and oil, “Dad, if you could have done anything in life, what would you have chosen to be?”

Without missing a beat, he said, “A farmer.”

Well duh! How could I have never seen this before? Dad used every minute of daylight outside in our yard, regardless of how exhausted he might be after long hours in his regular job. Ours was the finest lawn in the neighborhood. Mother’s roses glowed with vitality. Fruit trees were laden with abundance—guavas, mangos, avocados. We lived in Florida and I must have thought this stuff just materialized without nurture or a husbandman. Now I know differently.

Gardens take work. Lots of work. Just like writing. Extra words need to be weeded out. Careful pruning brings out the best in a passage or paragraph. Frustration and writer’s block serve as fertilizer—and smells about as bad. Good weather (a positive attitude) helps, but sometimes storms blow in (rejection), to blast apart your symmetry. The lesson? No garden is ever perfect to the gardener, and no writing is perfect to its author. All need constant work.

Dad, Mom and me... we were at a medieval tourist attraction.

Dad’s gone now, and yet, as I learned from him, you can’t give up. No garden flourishes on its own. Gardens need someone to work them, someone to love them into fruition. I wish I could say that I inherited my daddy’s green thumb (and his gardener’s knees), but alas, I must depend on others to keep my flower beds blooming and my trees and grass healthy. What I did inherit was his tenacity to keep working, to write through frustrations, personal wind blasts, and dry spells. Winter comes, the land sleeps, but then comes spring and with it, a garden blooms. And gratefully, after a long career in publishing, my word garden blooms still. Although I sit inside at a computer, I look out onto clusters of iris, daffodils, daisies, crepe myrtle, magnolia trees, nurtured by a lawn service. But seeing the beauty always soothes and inspires me, and encourages me to find just the right words.

I’ve set my newest work, The Year of Luminous Love, in rural Tennessee on rolling farmland with fields of alfalfa hay and corn. It’s my way, I hope, of fulfilling my father’s dream to embrace the land, and to be a farmer.

I believe he would be proud.

Lurlene McDaniel is the best-selling author of more than 70 inspirational young adult novels, writing characters that often deal with chronic illness and mortality. She is careful to keep her books “safe” for librarians and teachers to recommend—no swear words or overt sexual scenes. See all her books at

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