It was quite impossible, really. With mountains running interference, the geographics of Utah simply do not make it a tornado-friendly state. Yet, in September of 2002, a tornado swept through the rural town of Manti, Utah (population, 3,000).
Even though I lived there, I’m embarrassed to admit that I failed to see the obvious. It was only after a friend asked me when I was going to write about the tornado that the light bulb nearly blinded me. I got busy, conducted over 70 interviews, tracked down photographs, and ultimately self-published a 130-page book titled Manti Tornado Stories. Copies sold right out of my hands!
In the spirit of the volunteer clean-up efforts, and after hearing about the hours of donated time from people who came from as far away as Alaska to help, I decided to give back to the community. I donated proceeds from the book to the local elementary school.
My story doesn’t end there. One of my interviews was with a couple that had been visiting when the tornado hit. After I got their story, I didn’t think any more about it until the woman called me back and said that her aunt Allyse wanted a book written. Was I interested?
I’d never done anything like that before. Even though I thought nothing would ever come of it, I said I’d consider it. I read the family history that the book was to be based on, decided I liked the story, and said I would do it. I still couldn’t believe that someone would actually pay me to write for them! One thing led to another, we drew up a contract, and now I’m working on a novelization of Allyce’s ancestor, with a steady paycheck coming in every month for my time. I see it as a classic example of what you do coming back to you.
Shirley Bahlmann has five books published in the LDS market. She has done research resulting in an ongoing “Odd” series of true pioneer stories. Since the royalties are not making her independently wealthy, she’s pursuing freelance writing as another avenue for her talents.