4 Qualities of a Strong Author Legacy

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

I’m on the road today and won’t be able to respond to your comments. Almost two years ago I posted a blog about a client, Marion Stroud, after she went home to heaven. She passed away on August 8, 2015 following her second battle with cancer. Marion left a strong author legacy. It’s worth remembering occasionally because all of us in this industry need to be mindful of the legacy we are building.

Once in a while I showcase a famous author for his or her example of perseverance, path to publication, ongoing career, and so on. I could talk about any of these traits in relation to Marion too. But the one thing that stands out in her professional life is that she was deliberate in her choices, decisions, and interactions, because she was building a legacy.

I miss her. I met her in person only once because she lived in England, but we had many lively conversations via Skype and email. Marion has more than 20 published books to her credit, many of them still in print. Titles such as I love God and My Husband and Loving God but Still Loving You and Knowing Me, Knowing You, as well as Fostering No Illusions, a book for foster parents like herself, give you a taste of her common-sense wit. She had a sparkle in her eye to match it.

I stepped in as her agent for her last two beautifully written books of prayers: Dear God, It’s Me and It’s Urgent and It’s Just You and Me, Lord. She touched lives and left a rich legacy of conduct that all of us, writers and professionals in the industry, would do well to model for our own professional and personal legacies.

Here are a few of the qualities she modeled that are worthy goals for us too:

Legacy of generosity

Marion loved to share her writing skills at conferences. She was mindful of others’ needs, especially spiritual, and the impression her words and deeds would have on them. She would go the extra mile with her publishers and support and pray for other authors whenever possible.

Ability to blend business savvy with grace

Marion was a sharp businesswoman, yet always gracious. I studied how she managed both at the same time. The key is that she never waivered in her awareness that she was an ambassador for Christ. This overruled everything else, even when tested one time, resulting in her material disadvantage.

Legacy of kindness…always

There was nothing namby-pamby about Marion. She was prayerfully decisive and intuitive. She had a way of making her point in the most respectful and gracious way. I marveled at a letter she wrote to the publisher of a tiny house in the UK that had been in breach of one of her contracts for some time.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the industry lives by that high standard, and eventually, I had to step in with more direct language in order to set in motion the necessary remedy. But that’s part of an agent’s job when the situation calls for it. In fact, I wanted to step in earlier, so grievous was the breach, but she wanted to try the kind approach one last time to give the publisher an opportunity to respond in like manner. That’s grace, and I will always remember her example.

Focus on readers

Ministering to her readers was uppermost on Marion’s mind as she wrote her books. It was all about meeting their needs, caring for them. Like all writers, Marion hoped her books would attain high sales, and she watched her numbers closely, but the eternal value for readers was always her highest motivation.

How often do you think about the legacy you want to leave for your readers? Your colleagues? And especially your family? How can you use the qualities Marion modeled to encourage your writing community?

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21 Responses

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  1. Thank you for sharing marion’s inspiring legacy, Mary. I’m sure you’ve touched many hearts as you have touched mine.
    * I have to confess that I don’t think about legacy; there’s not the energy, nor the desire, because so much of my life has been made of well-meaning efforts that ended in failure. Another was brought home to me yesterday, in a very personal way. It does make any thought of legacy seem hollow.
    * But that does not excuse one from the effort. My life is not, and never was about me. It’s about those I can touch with kindness and love and encouragement. It’s about faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is and always has been love.

  2. “Prayerfully decisive.” What a beautiful description, Mary. I’m going to make that my goal.
    * I wrote and let a set of women’s Bible study lessons on our inheritance (what we received) and our legacy (what we leave). I called it “Ebenezer,” (1 Samuel 7:12-Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us”). My favorite lesson was on being that stone: am I a stepping stone or a stumbling block?

  3. Nicholas Gray says:

    Yes, that’s the Marion I knew. I published a few books of hers under the old Pickering & Inglis imprint in the early ’80s and worked with her for many years on the MAI Trustees board.

    Thank you for your kind words and for honouring Marion’s memory.

  4. Carol Ashby says:

    The first three characteristics are wonderful qualities for life in general, and they will flow naturally from trying to walk closer with God. In my writing life, the fourth is where I’m focused. I think about the legacy for my readers often. It’s at the heart of why I started writing fiction.
    *My novels are stories of spiritual transformation in parallel with a love story where the love is as much agape as it is romantic. The legacy I pray for with each book sale is that each reader will relate to the characters deeply and be drawn closer to God as a result. If they don’t already know Jesus, my prayer is that watching the transforming character pass through his or her struggle to find peace with God will trigger curiosity about being a Christian.

  5. Some of the greatest legacies are left in the service of those who have no voice with which to praise them.

  6. I’ve been thinking about this for hours, and it boils down to one thing…I want people to say “Her writing led me to Jesus, and now I am His.”

  7. Mary Kay Moody says:

    Thank you, Mary, for sharing your thoughts and Marion’s legacy. Being of service/help to readers is why I began writing. And legacy is my God-given focus for this year. I appreciate this reminder. Happy and safe travels!

  8. I remember meeting Marion and her husband at our agency retreat five years ago, and what a delight they were! This is a beautiful tribute to her, Mary. And a good reminder that all of us are building more than just a platform for ourselves; we’re building a bridge to our Savior.

  9. One of the outstanding examples of legacy is that of Kara Tippetts, the young wife and mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, and who died on March 22, 2015.
    * Her blog, Mundane Faithfulness, was her chronicle of her own faith arc when faced with a cruel and painful fate. She wrote four books, and in her witness to God’s grace under the most appalling circumstance left a legacy that shines brilliantly, and lights the dark places that strike fear into the heart of even the most devout Christian.
    * Mundane Faithfulness has been kept up and running by her friends, with a combination of Kara’s original posts and current commentary. I’d suggest everyone reading this give it a look.
    http://www.mundanefaithfulness.com/

  10. I love this, Mary. What a beautiful tribute to her. When I think of a “class favorite” … I think of Jennifer Major. 🙂 And I was class favorite my high school senior year. But I was quiet, smiled a lot, but very quiet. Jennifer is so loving and a cheerleader to everyone. She doesn’t miss anything. I want to be a cheerleader for others the way that she is, even with my quiet self. 🙂
    *I always think about the legacy I want to leave to my girls … I want them to be proud to call me “mom” … but I’ve never thought about my readers in that way, I suppose. I guess I think of my girls because I know they love me. I fall in love with readers easily, but I’ve never really thought of the possibility that they could love me, too. I often ask God for favor … so you’ve given me something else to directly pray about. I want to touch hearts … in such a way that the love lives forever.

    • Are you trying to make me cry like a baby??? Awwww, honey, thank you!!! My lonely, wallflower, fashion challenged, coke-bottle glasses and bad skin high school self thanks you.
      I’ll tell you a secret…I never, not once, never ever felt like I belonged ANYWHERE until I became a writer and found people just like me.
      Truthfully, friendship is something I value more than gold. Thank you, Shelli, for being a true friend.

  11. She sounds like such a lovely lady. I’m working on planning my grandparents’ 75th wedding anniversary and thoughts of legacy mill about my brain. Thank you for reminding us that we live each day, yes, but it will all add up to our legacy in the end.

  12. What a lovely tribute to Marion. I first met her many years ago in a London hotel when I was an editor for Zondervan and we were talking books. She was holding up a writer’s magazine in the lobby with a wry smile.

    She was straight talking, and not namby-pamby, as you say. When I started – with some fear and trepidation – writing for Our Daily Bread, she graciously gave me some wonderful advice.

    I think of all the people she touched, especially as she traveled to Eastern Europe to mentor writers. That’s the thing about legacy – we just don’t know how God will use us and the seeds we plant. We might despair over sales figures or deals we lose or bad reviews – but still we keep on keeping on, asking God to multiply our efforts. We know he did in Marion’s case. May it be so with us too.

  13. Marion was a lovely, lovely, woman of faith! I was blessed to meet her once, when we sat over tea and talked books, writing, and supporting other writers for several hours. When I think of her, I smile, remembering a gracious, loving, and down-to-earth lady.
    I’m becoming more and more aware of how God is continually calling me to go deeper and further in serving Him. Through my writing, both fiction and devotionals, always written with a prayer the words reach hearts and minds with His love and His offer of forgiveness. Through working with other writers, offering as much support as I can. And in my everyday life, praying I can be a true witness for Him.
    I often fail, of course, when I trust in my own strength and my own words, not His.

  14. Lori Benton says:

    I would so love to see Marion again, one more time before heaven that is! I spent a few days with her a number of years back now, riding down to Mount Hermon in a van full of writers. Then roomed with her for a night. What a sweet time. Thank you for this post and for rekindling those memories. Our paths crossed a couple of times apart from this memorable trip, but a few days just wasn’t enough time to be with a person like Marion, however glad I am for them.