PARIS, Pa. - Nearly 40 people turned out for an intimate talk and reading with local author Mary Jean Bonar of Wellsburg at the Paris Presbyterian Church's Gathering Place coffeehouse located at 127 Steubenville Pike.
The coffeehouse is part of the church's outreach ministries and is available to any individual or group.
Bonar discussed writing her first book, which she believes to be divinely inspired. In the midst of a prayer and meditation walk, she felt the Holy Spirit come over her and encourage her to write "Overflowing With Hope," which has strong spiritual and Christian themes.
Mary Jean Bonar of Wellsburg reads from her book 'Look to the Hills' during a talk and book signing at the Paris Presbyterian Church's Gathering Place coffeehouse May 1. -- Summer Wallace-Minger
Bonar published "Overflowing" in 2008 with Tate Publishing. In addition to writing the book, she also recorded the audio version following concerns about the quality of the publisher's hired reader.
"They said to me, kind of sarcastically, 'well, do you want to do it?'" she said. "And I said, 'yes, yes, I would.'"
Bonar spent several weeks recording the book at the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling, W.Va. Few audio books remain, because Bonar dissolved her relationship with Tate Publishing.
When asked how long it took the write the book, Bonar said it had taken her approximately a year and a half, and she had struggled with writer's block at one point.
"I needed to be in the right frame of mind, the right place spiritually, to write this book," she said. "I thought I was, but I wasn't."
Her daughter loaned her the use of a secluded cabin, and, once she had settled in, she was able to write another 100 pages.
Once the book was finished, she began an extensive promotional campaign, but health issues made it difficult, and, once she had recovered, enough time had passed that there was little interest in "Overflowing" from bookstores.
Bonar was determined to see her story widely available, and she dissolved her relationship with Tate and partnered with Trafford Publishing. She divided "Overflowing" into two books, "Look to the Hills" and "Blessed Abundantly," after being advised trilogies sell well.
When looking for cover art for "Hills," she said she and the publisher, which is located in Indiana, went back and forth.
"They sent me a photo of this gentle little rise, with the silhouette of a tree on it," she said. "I said, 'that's not a hill,' so they sent me another photo - it looked like the Rocky Mountains!"
Bonar eventually took her own photo of the rolling hills near Avella and it was used for the cover. She had hoped to take a photo at Brown's Orchard in Hickory for the cover of "Blessed," but was unable to because of the publication schedule.
She is working to complete what she now calls the West Hope Trilogy after the fictional setting in small-town Pennsylvania. The third and final volume, "The Band Plays On," will be available later this year.
The trilogy centers around a group of older women attending a Sunday school together and seeking their God-given purpose in small-town West Hope, Pa. Their lives and relationships are changed by the arrival of Janine Stephens, who picks up and moves to West Hope to pursue her own calling through God.
Bonar said she hoped those who read the books, which revolve around women in their 80s and 90s, would remember to treat the older people in their own lives with love, patience and respect.
"They have enriched my life so much," she said of the older women in her own life.
Bonar's books are available at His Place Bookstore in Wellsburg, W.Va., and Words and Music Bookstore in Wheeling, W.Va., and through her website at www.maryjeanbonar.blogspot.com. Her future plans include writing a devotional.
She lives with her husband in Wellsburg, W.Va., and is the music director and hand bell choir director for the Grove Presbyterian Church in West Middletown. She also works as a piano teacher and choir director.
Bonar is available for talks and book signings for churches and organizations. To schedule a talk, contact Bonar at firstname.lastname@example.org or (304) 737-2144.
The coffeehouse is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is staffed by volunteer hosts. Future plans include community-inclusive Wii bowling tournaments and family movie nights.
For information, call the church at (724) 729-3450 or email email@example.com.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)