Writing a book may not be everyone's aspiration but three San Ramon Valley residents have put pen to paper and packed the pages of their books with heartfelt messages.
Judith Ingram, Melanie Watkins and Diana Ballinger are three inspiring women who chose to share their stories with friends and strangers in a way people could understand. With faith, a fulfilling life, and a love for writing in common, their books couldn't be more different.
A Devotional Walk with Forgiveness by Judith Ingram
For a first-time author, it's amazing that Judith Ingram's book turned out almost exactly the way she had hoped. Since her youth, Ingram had always wanted to write a book and her vision came to fruition last August.
During Ingram's personal journey to forgive an abusive childhood relationship, she discovered there weren't many interactive books about forgiveness. She felt God gave her an opportunity to open up about her past experiences by writing a book that people could immediately apply to their lives.
"I feel that God put this on my heart for a reason," Ingram said, "He gave me a voice, he gave me this subject. He's taken the ugly things of my past and made beautiful things out of them."
Her book is a "five-week exploration" of what forgiveness means, why it's important and how it can be practiced. Ingram hopes readers will use the thought-provoking questions to experience the freeing of forgiveness.
Through church conferences, Ingram has had the opportunity to speak in front of people about her past. Once reserved, she has come to realize that she enjoys sharing and giving others courage to start speaking about their own experiences.
"I would love for (my book) to reach everybody because I think everybody needs forgiveness," Ingram said.
With one tome under her belt, Ingram hopes her next books, a women's fiction paranormal trilogy, will make it to shelves also.
Taking My Medicine by Melanie Watkins
When Melanie Watkins' first book was published in February 2011, she thought back to a journal entry she'd made when she was 16 years old about hoping to turn her life story into a memoir.
"Taking My Medicine" focuses on the many obstacles Watkins faced during her youth, including becoming a teenage mother to her son Jonathon, ending an abusive relationship, worrying about body image and keeping her grades up in medical school.
Despite challenges, Watkins fulfilled her goal to become a physician. During her hardships, Watkins said she kept a positive attitude and knew in her heart she was meant for something bigger.
Now that her memoir is published, Watkins is inspiring young people to strive to reach their goals as well as encouraging professionals to become mentors. She has spoken to numerous students and faculty at the campuses of Northwestern University, University of Alaska Anchorage and Columbia University.
"I just want people to think carefully about the choices they make," Watkins said.
Readers don't have to be teen moms to be encouraged by "Medicine." However, to reach a broader audience, Watkins hopes her memoir will someday be made into a movie.
Fighting My Way through Breast Cancer with Poetry by Diana Ballinger
Although Diana Ballinger has been writing poetry all her life, it became a real therapy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"Poetry healed me more than the chemo itself because it helped express me," Ballinger said.
After sharing her poetry with other cancer fighters, Ballinger received encouragement to compile her poems to create a book. And in 2009, with help and support from her daughter, Ashley, she did just that.
Ballinger's poems reflect her feelings about the different stages of cancer she and many other women experience. Ballinger hoped her book would help other cancer patients feel less alone.
To this day, she receives letters from people who were touched by the poems in her book. Ballinger finds the feedback rewarding and it warms her heart to know she could help someone.
"There's no cure for cancer but there's no charge for a smile," said Ballinger.
On July 28, Ballinger will read a special poem to kick off the annual Relay for Life, which celebrates cancer survivors, remembers those lost to cancer, and commits to fighting against the disease.
"A Devotional Walk with Forgiveness," "Taking My Medicine" and "Fighting My Way through Breast Cancer with Poetry" can be found on major book retailer sites and are available on Kindle.
To hear Diana Ballinger's poem at this year's Relay for Life, sign up to participate in this year's walk.