Friday, January 8, 2010

My Yangtze River Writing Adventure

The wonderful adventure of writing historical novels began for me, the real-life Abbie of my stories, at the beginning of this millennium – thanks to early retirement and a library memoir writing group.

Until then, I had never completed a story in writing, though I told many during the decades I was a busy homemaker and educator. Those were the years I lived overseas or in Kansas – and instead of stories, wrote thousands of pages of college lectures, academic documents, press releases, feature articles, and oh-so many letters, emails and novel notes.

To my amazement, my memoir stories written for the library group led to novels that are like heirloom story-quilts. Inspired by my family’s extraordinary lives in China, these story-quilts are pieced together with fictional borders. Though in truth, even the borders differ little from real life – they’re just rearranged or borrowed from someone else’s experience.

Some of the pieces in the story-quilts come from the journals and memoirs of my Sweden-born Nelson missionary grandparents who traveled up and down the Great Long Yangtze River during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Since I was born in Xian and raised in China by parents who were also missionaries, some pieces are from my own memory, such as my family’s traumatic escape from the Communists in 1950 down the Yangtze accompanied by numerous sadly swirling bodies.

Other colorful pieces come from family letters and manuscripts – both published and unpublished. One of these is my mother’s devoted portrayal of an extraordinary missionary woman. Lovingly known as Mother Ruth, this woman gave up a life of nobility in Sweden and used her inheritance to serve God beside her husband in China, where their only children were buried – one from disease and the other brutally martyred by rioting rebels, along with my father's fifteen year-old sister and others.

The stories I’ve quilted together come from a century of memories of my Anglo-American family who lived and traveled in China. Like my son who smuggled Bibles into China in the 1990s, we thought of ourselves as adventurers for God, although the Chinese often called us “foreign devils.” Occasionally, however, we received the honor of being called “white Chinese” or bai-zhong-ren, which was especially true of my father.

Fashioning a trilogy of heirloom story-quilt novels has been personally rewarding (and challenging) beyond all my expectations! As I continue to examine my family’s records and mementos long stored in our China boxes, I am deeply touched by the meaningful pattern in story that emerges from the memories – memories daring, tragic, and joyous.

But most importantly, my family’s stories affirm the blessings of faith in God through Jesus Christ – a faith available to every person, in every country, of every millennium!

Faith blessings,
Millie Samuelson

NOTE: You can also view my books on So far, I'm happily self-published. However, I'm searching for a traditional publisher, and am delighted to be represented by Diana Flegal of Hartline Literary Agency.


  1. Hi Millie. My family lived in Japan when I was in second and third grade. I've loved the Orient ever since then. How wonderful to have the heritage you do, and then to get to write about it!

  2. Thanks, Steph! I'm sure you've used your heritage in many ways throughout your life too, including an appreciation of the Orient you mentioned. Blessings!