ST. GEORGE, Utah — If Shirley Sealy could convince a modern-day computer to cooperate with her high-speed brain, she'd write another book.
This one would be about forgiveness and the fact that no matter what one wants to accomplish in life, forgiveness has to come first.
It's all in there, organized into a story and bursting to be published.
But at 91, her options are limited now due to age, unfamiliarity with computers and a series of small strokes that have come on since her husband died.
"I want to do one on 'Forgiveness is First'," said the amazingly lucid and candid Mormon writer, regarded to be a pioneer in LDS fiction, from her room in an assisted living center. "I have it all in my head, but I can't dictate it."
Sealy has always had a story to tell, says her daughter Linda Ottley. Even on vacation at Bear Lake, she'd be typing on the beach while her daughters played in the water, popping up every few minutes to see what's happened in her story.
She's written and directed road shows. She has an impressive list of books of fiction and nonfiction she's written as well as inspiring stories and articles for magazines for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for children and adults.
She sang in her road shows and has taught others how to sing. She's taught community education classes on writing. She's spoken at countless LDS Church fireside events. She's worked tirelessly trying to share her core beliefs and talents with others.
At the same time, she and her husband raised a family and served consistently in a variety of church callings that required her to employ her writing, dramatic and vocal talents.
Her first long story, "Beauty in Being," was circulated and read at youth firesides.
Her first book, "Beyond This Moment," was rejected by a publisher who preferred a book about Mormons making questionable decisions over fiction. Years later, she picked up her book, dusted it off and submitted it again.
This time — 14 years later (in the 1970s) — it was welcomed and started with a 10,000-copy run.
She felt the youth of the church needed positive stories to read and good characters to emulate, dialogue they could use and situations they could understand.
Ottley said her mother has a "Pollyanna" outlook and radiates love: "She has always loved life, the gospel, her husband, children, home and family," Ottley said.
Ottley also said Sealy was always writing little stories about the family like "Green Willow Days," mini-sermons that often showed up in places that surprised her.
One story called "Doing Valentines" was in the Children's Friend but did not have Sealy's name, Ottley said. "She was handed one in a Primary sharing time lesson after the leader shared it with the children and suggested they copy the example of service."
In another setting, copies of her mother's story "All For a Date" were passed out in her daughter Judy's mutual class. She had no idea it was written by her mother until the teacher pointed it out.
Today, Sealy has some advice for would-be writers.
"We need writers. There isn’t a better way of learning about yourself and other people. It is personal therapy. It is a great way to get the inside out and make suffering rewarding. Go ahead. Write a book. You won’t be sorry, even if it’s never published.
"I love doing it (writing)," Sealy said. "Writing is the best way I know to get the inside out. I write to find out about me. I write about life, not especially as it is, but as it can and should be."
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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