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Retiring from one vocation enables writer from Wildwood to focus on another

Arms wrapped around her dog Kathy Bostrom spends time her writing office. | JIM NEWTON/SUN-TIMES MEDIA

Arms wrapped around her dog, Kathy Bostrom spends time in her writing office. | JIM NEWTON/SUN-TIMES MEDIA

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Updated: March 18, 2014 6:21AM

Author Kathy Bostrom of Wildwood has received two prestigious writing awards at a time when the 59-year-old retired pastor has been able to shift her writing from “a parallel vocation” to a primary one.

Bostrom, a reverend with Wildwood Presbyterian Church, retired as co-pastor of the church last July, following years of service with her husband, Pastor Greg Bostrom. While she is still active in the church, the additional free time, coupled with an empty house courtesy of her grown children, allows Bostrom to dedicate more time to her passion for writing.

“It’s so quiet,” she said Saturday morning in the sun room of her house, looking out over Wildwood’s Valley Lake. “When I was raising kids at home and being at church, I had very little time. Now, I have a more open-ended structure.”

Even after having more than 40 books published — most geared toward young children and spirituality — Bostrom admits to the uncertainty that plagues most writers. The recent awards, following her retirement, were timely and reassuring honors.

In October, Bostrom was selected as a 2013 Distinguished Alumna of the Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey for her career as an educator and author.

And she was recently named the recipient of the 2014 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award by the Presbyterian Writer’s Guild, named for the late, noted Presbyterian poet and essayist.

“To have that affirmation, that it is a vocation for me, a calling for me — that I can write — eliminates some of the doubts some of us writers have,” Bostrom said. “It came at a really good time.”

While no longer a pastor, the church works its way into much of Bostrom’s conversation, and she credits her congregation as being an inspiration and support to her in her writing.

First place in that category, however, goes to her three grown children and her husband.

Bostrom said one of her favorite memories dates to when she was struggling to get her first book published, and the rejection notices were rolling in. She said the children helped buck her up even before they fully realized what she was trying to do.

She said that when her son David was about 6 years old and was taken to see Santa, his first request wasn’t for toys.

“When Santa asked ‘What would you like for Christmas?,’ he said, ‘Would you please just publish my mom’s books?,’” Bostrom remembers with a laugh.

Actually, children’s reactions to real-world situations are a recurring theme in many of Bostrom’s books as she tries to help kids understand concepts such as a the loss of a parent, or perhaps even the death of a child.

She says her favorite published book is “Papa’s gift,” which is about a little girl coping with her grandfather’s death. Her first book, “What is God Like?,” is an introduction to faith for young children.

“It’s not just a job for me. It’s a ministry, an outreach,” Bostrom said.

She receives letters and emails about the positive impacts her books have had, and the most emotional, she said, came from the family of a young girl who had died in a traffic accident. The girl’s parents had bought her Bostrom’s “What About Heaven?” but never had the chance to read it to her, so they had it read aloud at the girl’s funeral and gave copies to all of the attendees.

That may have been her first writing award.

“I still keep in touch with them,” she said of the girl’s family. “It was very humbling.”

Bostrom’s latest book is “Rufus and Ryan Celebrate Easter,” part of a series about a young boy and his toy monkey.

Bostrom keeps several projects rolling at once and has her eyes on a new goal.

While most of her books are geared to younger children or are devotionals for adults, she is, like all serious authors, working on a novel. It is based on her mother’s life growing up during the Depression years in West Virginia, and is geared toward kids age 8-12.

“Now, I can focus on this,” she said of her writing. “I felt when I was working for the church, that it needed to come first. Writing fit around it. It was a parallel vocation. Now, it’s a primary one.”

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