One of my favorite watch-over-and-over-again movies is Mr. Holland’s Opus. If you are not familiar with the story, Richard Dreyfuss plays a frustrated young musician whose dream is to become a rich and famous composer. In 1965, he takes a short-term gig as a high school music teacher, planning to use his free time to finish his masterpiece. He ends up falling in love with teaching and spends the next 30 years doing just that, until budget cuts close the music program at his school.
The climax of the movie is when he’s invited into an auditorium full of grateful former students who have come to honor him. The governor (a former student) shows up to act as MC and reminds them that Mr. Holland was always working on a symphony that was going to make him rich and famous. He is then asked to conduct an orchestra of former students who play his marvelous composition perfectly and we all tear up.
Each time I’ve watched that movie (at least once a year since 1995), I’ve felt a real connection with Mr. Holland.
My career ambition was to be an attorney and politician. (I actually wanted to be POTUS.) While studying for the LSAT, a friend convinced me to take an Institute class with him. I tried to leave when I found out it was Introduction to Teaching Seminary because all the seminary teachers I knew were weird and poor. My friend convinced me to be polite and 15 minutes later the Spirit testified what God wanted me to do.
Miraculously, I got hired, but entered the profession tentatively, sure that I would spend a few years teaching and then head off to law school. Twenty-one years later I left the CES classroom kicking and screaming to follow the totally different path God had laid out for me.
During those years, I was also working on a composition – a literary one. I wrote a novel.
It started as a silly little semiautobiographical play I wrote for my summer stock theater group in reaction to the disappointing movie Grease. Over years of writing and rewriting, it “grew up” with me, becoming less of a nostalgic teenage romp and more a tale of faith and courage. The hero transformed from that kid I thought I’d been to the young man I wished I’d been.
By the late 90’s I really though I had something and submitted it to several publishers. They were all very kind, telling me that LDS youth fiction was one of the toughest genres to break into and giving me helpful suggestions, but I only got one very poor offer to publish. Over the next fifteen years I rewrote and resubmitted twice, with the same result.
When I retired, I pulled it out again and thought about a rewrite. It was then that I realized that this was no longer just a novel. It had become part of me, manifesting my inner desire for the young people of God’s kingdom to be strong and true. It betrayed what I wanted my grandchildren to be like – especially the boys.
So, I did one more rewrite, this time as a gift to my grandchildren. If I were rich, I would do a vanity publication in hardback, with gilded pages and wonderful illustrations. Not being rich, I have decided to self-publish on my blog in a serial format. And I am offering the world the opportunity to enjoy it with them.
It is entitled simply BOZ and authorship is attributed to a character in the book, Elizabeth Burton Mendenhall. Each chapter, along with the prologue and epilogue will be published as a separate post at the rate of one or two chapters a week. [If you are coming in after the serial starts you may catch up by clicking BOZ in the category listings at the top of the page.]
It is a totally fictional story, but my hope is that it will inspire first my grandchildren (and all others who read) to faith, hope and love through the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ – the only hope for our lost and fallen world.