Last summer Helen Klassen self-published her first book, Stepping Out of My Darkness and Into His Light.
'A true testimonial story of the trials and tribulations through the tragic loss of a child,' Stepping Out of My Darkness shared Klassen's life story, from a rough childhood to self-harming teenager, finding faith in Christ, the tragedy of losing her two-year-old daughter, the grieving and trauma, and a long healing process.
In July 2012, two-year-old Charity Mariah Klassen had died after being struck by a minivan at Triple C Bible Camp in Port Ryerse, near Port Dover. The Aylmer child was treated on the scene by paramedics before being transferred to Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe where she succumbed to her injuries. No charges were laid after the accident.
"Life can be hard, even as Christians, but we need to trust in God," she wrote on the back cover.
Nine months later, Klassen finished writing her follow-up sequel, Continuing to Step in His Light, which tells her story from June 2016 until February 2017.
"What I'm doing a bit differently this time is that I'm getting friends and family, and service people - doctors, a 911 operator, OPP officers - to contribute to my book. I kept my part of it shorter this time, and added quite a bit of outside feedback.
"The contributions that I'm getting have been amazing so far, I've already had 25 people - in one week's time - that sent me letters for the book."
Continuing to Step in His Light is a testimonial journey of loss and living with Bipolar Disorder as a Christian women continuing in faith.
"I didn't go into detail (about Bipolar) in my first book. Since that book, I've been diagnosed Bipolar... so in this book I go into detail about it letting people know that I have a mental health illness. And my son has been diagnosed with mental health illness. So I talk about his ongoing care."
Helen and her husband Darrell, have four children, her oldest age 14 - Seth, Devon, Jedidiah, and three-and-a-half year old Liberty Joy, who just registered for JK.
She also includes what people said about her first book.
"People were blown away that I've been so open. They thank me for my openness, basically. They appreciate how honest I am dealing with depression, grieving and mental health. They're inspired and blessed and touched."
Readers said it was well-written, and an easy-to-read book.
"I'm very shocked," said Klassen, reacting to the feedback. "I didn't come into this with any professional writing. I'm basically a nobody. I just have a Grade 12 education and I didn't go anywhere with it. I got married right out of high school.
"I just wrote about what I felt and life experiences. My loss, just in itself, was a big tragedy to us. I was hospitalized three times in four years. My kids did not understand why I acted the way I did, why I was so fatigued all the time. And then with my mood swings, they just didn't understand it."
Her family dealt with a tragedy many people have never experienced, and said Klassen, 'hopefully never will.'
"I think child loss is still the biggest loss that anybody can ever face as a parent. And to write about, it's been helping," said Klassen, who has benefited from counseling and medication.
"It was very therapeutic for me to get over the hurdle, let go of some feelings... and just 'let go.' It was healing for others, too."
She had to think things through a bit more for her sequel, but she penned it in just four days.
"There are expectations," she admitted. "It was a little bit harder thinking about the details I wanted to write, and whether it would be good enough."
Her first printing of 300 copies of Stepping Out of My Darkness, which retailed for $10 at Gospel Lighthouse, sold out. She printed 100 more books, and sold about half of them. She is targeting similar numbers for her sequel.
Several book signings have been scheduled for Continuing to Step in His Light, which will launch April 28 with close friends and family at her house, just in time for Mental Health Week (May 1-7).
Her first book signing is May 13 at the Gospel Lighthouse in St. Thomas (10-2), followed by a book presentation and signing at the Aylmer library Friday, May 26 (2-3 p.m.), and a book signing in Tillsonburg at The Gospel Lighthouse on May 27, 10-2. She will be at Simcoe's Gospel Lighthouse on June 3 from 11-3, and on June 10 at Campbell's Office Pro in Aylmer, 10-2, and in Brantford at the Gospel Lighthouse, June 17, 11-3.
She also had her first official speaking engagement at Ladies Coffee Hour in Port Rowan, a non-denominational fellowship, on Feb. 14.
"My first time speaking in front of people about my book," said Klassen, who spoke to about 30 women. "And sold 25 books - and they gave me a love offering and money tree on top of that, so I was very blessed."
She had a closed speaking engagement scheduled Feb. 21, and will have a larger speaking engagement for the Canadian Mental Health Association in May.
Helen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for speaking, book signings, or to purchase copies of her books.
Klassen: "May this follow up testimony to my first book called Stepping Out of My Darkness and Into His Light (over 300 copies sold since July 2016) be just as well received. Jesus is the Answer to Everything! I have shared my child's and my own mental health struggles due to the loss of Charity, as well as the last nine months of family life. Join me in the joys and pains, and ups and downs of life."
New Children's Book
Klassen also wanted to write a children's book, and got started on the Family Day weekend.
"I started Saturday and I was done Monday - it's at the printer's today. It should be ready in a few weeks," said Klassen, excited to try a new genre. "The children did all the artwork and my youngest son typed it on a computer."
The theme is faith-based camping, she said. "We all like camping in this family."
Her children's book is 36 pages with 18 pages of writing and 18 pages of artwork.
"My boys want it to be hardcover, but I'm not sure yet."