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Holiday Guest Post by Sharon Johnston

Thursday, 4 December 2014  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Christmas card with hot cup of cappuccino,  cinnamon sticks and christmas tree branch isolated,


Four years ago, in June, I had a phone call from my parents that left me emotionally broken for years after the event. My dad had cancer. Stomach cancer. He was about to undergo chemo to see if there was a chance. There wasn’t. On November 1, as I was about to start NaNoWriMo, he died.

At around this time, I had finished a novel, was slowly collecting rejections and had an idea under my belt for a few new stories. But felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.

I took my family to visit Dad not long after the news that he had cancer. I inspected him thoroughly. Even though he was a freckled red-head, somehow he looked even paler. He always had a beer-belly, yet when I hugged him I was even more conscious of his stomach. It felt hard and sinister to me.


It was draining to see the man that I had looked up to all my life, the man who had taught me a love of reading, books and fables, to be suddenly so vulnerable.

We had arrived late, so had a hot chocolate and then retired to bed. I pulled my laptop out and captured everything that had happened.

I kept this journal up and it became a short story called Growth.

In the September before he died, I got a rejection from an agent who had requested a full. She was an agent I really clicked with. Reading the email I actually spoke aloud, “Come on, Karma. Haven’t I been through enough?” I thought I was due something good to come my way. And in that instant all my pain disappeared as a new story idea came on me.


I couldn’t write properly for a while after Dad died. At least a year. Grief was all consuming. But eventually I pulled through. I was determined to write the NaNoWriMo story that I was going to do for NaNoWriMo. And I have. It’s the story I’m currently querying. I was also determined to write the story idea that came to me after the rejection. And I am. It’s my current WIP.

My writing has been a rollercoaster. I had an agent, and then left her. I had a publisher, and then they closed down. Now I’m back on the query-go-round.

But after Dad had passed away, I submitted Growth for a short story anthology called The Basics of Life for the section called Death. It was accepted. The very first thing I had published was the story of how I dealt with the news my father was dying.



Sharon Johnston

Twitter / Facebook / Website

Sharon’s short story GROWTH was selected for publication in the Australian Literary Reviews’ anthology The Basics of Life and her short story KARMA was runner-up in the Australian Literary Review’s YA short story competition. She’s also been published in the integrated short story The Life and Times of Chester Lewis.

As well as writing, she loves blogging and social media and has presented on both topics at the Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival. Sharon has also started working with authors on image management and personal branding through social media platforms.


Filed: Misc

  • CathyShouse says:

    I lost my dad to cancer just over seven years ago and it had an impact on what I write as well. I had been writing something fairly light-hearted and I couldn’t find that character in myself for a long time afterward, and maybe still haven’t. Thanks for sharing your story. Good luck with your publishing journey.

  • Hi Cathy – thanks for reaching out. Everyone deals with things differently. Hopefully you’ll find your light-hearted writing voice again.

  • Nikola Vukoja says:

    You’re an inspiration Sharon & so amazingly generous of your time & experience – and for those who haven’t the pleasure of reading your work, you’re also an amazing author *fan for life here*

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