hining stars Editor's Note: In a new collection of stories, The Stars That Shine, author Julie Clay shares the inspiring childhood recollections of some of country music's biggest stars. Clay's fictionalized tales of triumph and tragedy, faith and forgiveness, evolved from these personal memories. Part of the proceeds from the book, and from the December E-bay auction of a guitar autographed by all 12 stars, will be donated to St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Below, the author explains how and why she decided to pursue this project. By Julie Clay I've been a "writer" for as long as I can remember. My most inspired and meaningful writing quite unintentionally began, however, when I became a mother. Nightly bedtime readings and what seems like endless trips to the children's section of the library were regle du jour. But my daughter's most favorite story moments were neither store-bought nor checked-out. They were our own, personal family stories much embellished over the years but nonetheless straight from the heart the perfect stories for telling and sharing.

As a result, the idea for this book came to me quickly. I began envisioning a collection of stories based on the memories of a child and spoken through that child's voice. Stories that would also benefit children in need. As a result, St. Jude's Children's Hospital and the celebrities featured suddenly became an integral part of the book's purpose.

Having grown up a part of an entertainment family, country music has played an integral part in my life. And, in turn, the country music community has always supported St. Jude's. As a result, I could think of no better way to fuse my personal passion for writing with my love of music in a unique way that could also support a charity that was close to my heart. And, thankfully, the artists involved immediately warmed to the idea. They threw themselves into the mission of the book with gusto as I spoke personally with each of them about their childhood memories and used those discussions as a heartfelt basis for the fictional stories I wrote.

Inspired throughout the writing process and beyond, I made a wonderful discovery after the stories were complete. Without design of any sort, I realized that all of the individual, unrelated stories inadvertently shared a common thread. They are all about dreamers and dreaming. They are all about the ability to believe and hope and achieve. I know that a simple thank you would never be enough for this group of special dreamers dreamers who have helped make my own dreams of writing come true and fulfilled some of the dreams of the children at St. Jude's. Dreamers who truly are the "stars that shine."

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