Fiction writers find inspiration for stories in the most random places. For Clemmons resident, Carol Grace Stratton, a picture of her young granddaughter ringing a bell for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle project started her creative juices flowing. What if she wrote a story about a shy bell ringer? What if the bell ringer was new in town and stuttered? What if her character, a fifth-grade bell ringer, had to stand alone at times? Could she be brave like her father, who was injured in Afghanistan?
Stratton wrote this book with two themes in mind. First, she wanted to honor the Salvation Army’s work in helping the needy. According to the Salvation Army, this Christmas will be more difficult than previous ones.
“Unemployment rates are expected to be 10%-11%, and based on the increased service we’ve already provided this year due to COVID-19, we need resources to serve up to 155% more people with Christmas assistance.” (salvationarmyusa.org/usn/brighten-the-holidays/). The Salvation Army will start the Red Kettle campaign early this year. Concerns are that because of less foot traffic and more shopping online, the Salvation Army won’t reach its goal this year. According to Major Andrew Wiley, donations might be down more than in previous years. This would decrease the Salvation Army’s funds for food give-away, their Family Shelters, and Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs’ virtual learning programs. (13newsnow.com/article/news/local/salvation-armys-red-kettle-campaign-starts-earlier-than-ever-in-light-of-pandemic/83-7973fe7d-08ed-4b39-902c-724780884d42).
Secondly, she hoped to inspire young readers, ages eight-twelve, to be brave as they run into challenges in their lives. Cassie, the young bell ringer in the story, faces harassment, bullying, cold snowy weather, and a ban on Christmas carols. But she plows ahead, wanting to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, who rang the bell many years ago. And in the end, Cassie discovers a secret that will change her life forever.
The Littlest Bell Ringer is Stratton’s third book and her first children’s book. She penned her first book, Changing Zip Codes, as a devotional to help families facing a move. Because she and her family have moved multiple times, she wanted to encourage those who relocate.
Her second book, an inspirational women’s novel titled Lake Surrender, is about a single mom, Ally Cervantes, who moves with her twelve-year-old daughter and autistic son cross-country. She restarts her life in a small town in Northern Michigan where this ex-book editor finds the only job in town is a cook in a small camp. Only problem, Ally can’t cook. The sequel to Lake Surrender, titled Deep End of the Lake, will be released in March through Iron Stream Media.
Stratton began writing as a children’s writer. But after thirty-three rejections on one book, she switched genres. “Writing has tons of rejection and if you want to eventually succeed, you need to develop a ‘rhino skin’ or you’ll quit. It’s more about perseverance and hard work than even talent. I have a magnet on my refrigerator with a quote from Winston Churchill that says, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
When asked why she writes, Stratton said. “Some days, I wonder—when I fight with my word processor or receive another rejection letter. But the joy that comes from crafting a story that moves readers, trumps any headaches along the way.” She recommends not putting “Write a book” on your bucket list unless you really have a passion for your story. “But if you have that, go ahead and write it!”
Readers can connect with Stratton, on her Facebook page, (Carol Grace Stratton) Twitter, (@carolgstratton, Pinterest, and her blog at Carolgstratton.com.
To become a bell ringer in Winston-Salem, visit https://www.registertoring.com/default.aspx to sign up.