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COMMENTARY by Ben Alirez

In May of 1997, I had just finished writing a very labor-intensive screenplay on the life of Saint Nicholas and I was looking for something a little different. The three previous years were spent in exhaustive research and writing, and although I was fascinated by the man who would become the inspiration for Santa Claus, it was strictly a labor of love for me.  

So thumbing through a newspaper, I saw an ad from an east coast publishing company that was soliciting writers for young adult novels. The books would be aimed at reaching At-Risk youths and deal with true-to-life issues. Needless to say, I figured I had nothing to lose. Nor to be honest, did I actually believe I stood much of a chance at competing against scores of other writers across the nation––established professionals who no doubt had far more experience than I did.

However, I didn’t let that deter me. I answered the ad and before long Townsend Press (TP) responded. John Langan, the founder and president of TP, contacted me and was willing to take a chance on an unknown. He asked me to begin by writing the first few hundred words of my story, and if it met their expectations, I was to continue. Over the course of the next several months that is exactly what took place. I wrote, they read and offered suggestions, and on it went till I had completed One Brother to Another, the initial title of the novel. When it was all said and done, I found the experience of writing a book challenging and rewarding. It was a wonderful opportunity in that the TP editors pushed me to my creative limits and helped to produce a stronger story in the process.

Over the course of the next five years I rarely heard from TP, nor did I believe the book would ever become published. After a while, I was certain the manuscript was probably locked away in some dusty storage facility and all but forgotten. I also felt that writing had passed me by. During that time I had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and I set aside any further aspirations of writing. I mean, how could I when I had so much to learn about this magnificent Savior who knew my name, who knew every hair on my head and every tear I had ever shed? Above all else, I wanted to know what purpose He had for my life. So that is what I did––I dedicated the next several years to knowing Him and understanding my place in the world. I didn’t know where the Lord would lead, but I knew as long as I was in His will, it would turn out all right.

Then in 2003, I received a telephone call from Paul Langan. Paul was the nephew of John Langan, and a writer with several book credits to his name. He explained that TP had taken several elements of my story such as characters, dialogue, and the plot and integrated it into the existing Bluford Series that TP was noted for. The new book was to be renamed Brothers in Arms. He asked me to read a draft of the novel and volunteer any suggestions. Then, if I were agreeable, it would be published in 2004. You can only imagine my shock and surprise at the time. How could something like this happen? I wondered. But deep down I knew––it was the Lord’s work.

To date Brothers in Arms has sold thousands of copies and has been featured in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. A continuation of the story entitled, The Fallen, solely written by Paul Langan is also being offered now through TP.

Well a few years have gone by since Brothers in Arms and I believe the Lord has made it known to me in many different ways that I am to start writing again. Consequently, I have a flood of new story ideas just waiting to become reality, and God-willing I will have the opportunity to put pen to paper for many years to come.

In closing, I want to express my deepest gratitude to John and Paul Langan, and all the other hardworking people of TP for making Brothers in Arms a reality. The entire staff goes through tremendous efforts to provide a variety of materials to better equip generations of younger people for the future and I commend them for it. In addition––their Bluford Series––which features true-to-life characters and situations, is unique in literary circles. It’s not a profit-driven venture––it’s truly about helping students the world over, and the books have a great deal to offer a reader of any age. If you have not already made yourself familiar with all of their materials, please do so.

My hope for TP is continued blessings and prosperity.