My husband and I are both storytellers. This is how we make a living, and we consider ourselves blessed that people buy our words.
There are differences between us, though. His words are stacked into lines of dialogue and are broken into scenes that unfold over five acts that fill up 60 single-spaced pages. This creates 43 minutes of a one-hour television drama. The other 17 minutes are advertising.
His work is fictional except for the stories and clever witticisms he “steals” from me. This is a family joke, but I am happy to share because he enthusiastically uses money he earns to buy me a new dress or fill the barn with hay for the coming winter.
Here’s another difference. A BIG difference. His words make a more lucrative living than mine, and while my stories are read by hundreds of thousands of people, his stories are enjoyed by millions. Probably, over the course of a 35-year career, John Tinker-written/produced stories have been watched by at least 500 million people.
My favorite is a Tinker episode named “Brothers” that was aired near the end of the first season of an NBC drama called “St. Elsewhere.” Ironically, he co-wrote it with his brother, Mark, who would go on to make his legacy as a multi-Emmy award-winning director, not a writer. Tink, a couple of years later, would win an Emmy for his writing on that highly critically acclaimed show.
While we are both enormously blessed by the good Lord to earn a living at a folly such as storytelling, it sometimes comes with a downside that can be soul-aching to bear.
It happened recently.
Tink had put in a year of hard work on a series – “When Calls The Heart” – that also included nine months of being locked in Canada when the borders closed abruptly while he was filming on location. The show has a zealous following that we knew when he took the job as showrunner/head writer/executive producer.
We were in the car, headed west on I-20 toward one of my favorite places in the world – Mississippi – when the call came, asking him to take the show. I put down the newspaper I was reading, slapped my hand on the console and said, “YES! You have to take this show so you can write good spirited family drama.”
He became completely wrapped up in it. Enamored. He poured 14-hour days into it, including long video conversations with cast, crew and the network. Sometimes, he would sit on the sofa, writing for hours without standing up or taking a break. He was completely consumed by the stories and characters. He added God back, introducing a Black family, the Canfields, who would quickly win many hearts. Joseph Canfield is a preacher, and Tink built him using the foundation of my daddy’s legacy of unbreakable faith.
My friend, Karen Peck, and I joined forces to ask our folks to watch. And that they did. The audience grew so tremendously that an already-successful-show became the most-watched in the history of the Hallmark channel.
All was wonderful until the final episode when Tink – with the support of the actors and network – resolved a love triangle. A portion of the audience disagreed with the suitor chosen with such vigor that hate spewed like a skunk’s spray. To be fair, we have received many more letters of support and kindness than the ugly ones. I especially loved the ones that disagreed with the choice but said, “I want what’s best for the show.”
Yet such ugliness isn’t pretty. It’s heartbreaking. Especially when it comes from those who sprinkle scriptures throughout their rants.
Tink is a kindly soul. He forgives – and forgets – quickly. He is grounded, like my daddy and Joseph Canfield, in the word of God.
As for me, I am gloriously altered to a more emphatic, loving person. A less critical one. I am grateful.