WHEN HER OLDEST NIECE, Katie, was born, neighborhood resident Holly Bea was an advertising copywriter pitching slogans for many large companies and products.

Inspired by her love for this new addition to her brother Tim’s family, Bea made a decision that would ultimately change her life.

“I wanted my niece to know the basics about God,” says Bea, whose brother and sister-in-law were not actively involved in church at the time. “As she got older, I knew she could decide if she was Presbyterian, Buddhist or Catholic. But I wanted to make sure that when she would face her first stark moment, she would have a relationship with God to help her through it.

“That really was the motivation behind it,” she says, adding that she figured, “If I can sell Doritos or seats on American Airlines, I ought to be able to sell God.”

It wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be. I spent a year failing miserably trying to write this story,” she says. “And one day I finally took the time to ask God for help.”

That, she says, was her first step toward success. Shortly afterward, as she lay in bed at night, the manuscript “all the sudden started coming to me in a rhyming format.

“I always went to bed with pen and pencil, just in case a brilliant solution to a mayonnaise commercial came to me,” she says. “So without turning on the lights, I started scrawling these ideas on my notepad. I woke up the next morning and stepped on the notepad and went, ‘Oh yea, I wrote something last night.’”

That experience, she says, left her convinced that this project was something larger than just a book for her niece.

“It was a powerful experience,” she says. “I’d love to say I’m a gifted writer, but I just feel like God whispered, and I was the lucky person to have a pen and take dictation.

“I felt like I’d been given a gift,” she adds, “and knew it was my job to get it published.”

That step, too, would take longer than she ever imagined. “I spent nine years sending off my manuscript, and got nine years of active “no’s.”

Still, she never gave up, encouraged by children’s reactions to her book. Finally, she showed the book to a friend who was connected to Dan Millman, author of “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” and Bea’s favorite spiritual writer.

“He told me to send him my manuscript,” she says. “So I went home, lit candles and incense, said my prayers and sent it off.”

A few weeks later she finally got what she calls a “big ‘ol honkin’ miracle” when she received a message from Millman.

“He said, ‘I hope you don’t mind, but I really liked your story, so I sent the manuscript to my publisher. But don’t get hopes up, because they only publish one book a year.’

“I was doing my happy dance,” Bea says. And she was likely doing it again a week later when the publisher called to say they wanted to go ahead with plans for the book.

Two years later, Bea’s first book, “Where Does God Live?” was published.

Since then, Bea’s craft has taken off. She’s written five more books, the last of which is due to hit bookstores this month. Her books have sold almost 500,000 copies, and she received the 2001 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature from the Church and Synagogue Librarians Association, which recognizes “significant contributions in the area of children’s literature and promoting high moral and ethical values.”

Still, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Three years ago, Bea’s world was rocked when her brother Time, who had divorced, remarried and had two more children, died from a sudden heart attack. He was her only sibling.

“Needless to say, our family was devastated,” she says, adding that she took comfort in the fact that Tim and his second wife had become very active in their church.

And, characteristically, Bea turned to God for help in working through her grief. “I’m so blessed to have a really strong personal relationship with a divine spirit, God, whatever you want to call it,” she says. “I turned to my faith to help me through it and to help support other people in my family.”

These days, Bea, who is married with a grown stepson, continues to relish her role as aunt – including her husband’s family, she has 13 nieces and nephews. “[They] have been my greatest gift in life,” she says. “I get to be the cool aunt that buys them stuff their mother never would.”

She’s also working on her seventh manuscript, her first non-spiritual book called “Lucy Goose Goes to Texas.” The story is based on the Canadian geese migration to Lubbock each year, which her late brother, who lived in Lubbock, showed her.

Bea, who grew up in Arlington, moved back to this area from Florida just last year and says she can’t believe her good fortune in choosing a neighborhood.

“Everybody knows everyone,” she says. “It’s been like moving into Beaver Cleaver’s neighborhood. I have truly moved into the most awesome neighborhood in Dallas.”

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