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Active author corners joyful inspiration

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Act of faith: Joy Sticca with her new book Joyful Inspirations from God (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Joy Sticca dubbed her work space “The Joyful Corner”; for 30 years the name stuck. Five years after her retirement from the Bermuda Department of Tourism, her old colleagues still shout out “Hey Joyful” whenever they pass her on the street.

“Some people called Joy don’t fit the name at all,” she said. “They are quiet and reserved, but my name suits me well. I am joyful and extroverted.”

The 69-year-old and her four brothers, Alan, Eugene, David and Walter Lister, grew up on Heathcote Hill in Sandys. Their mother, Etoile, was a cook and their father, James, an electrician.

“I remember people bringing fridges to him in horse-drawn carts, for him to fix,” she said. “We didn’t have all the latest electrical fixtures in our house for a while because when he got them people would ask for them and he would sell it. They meant money.”

The family attended Mangrove Bay Gospel Church where her father was a Sunday school superintendent.

She recalls it was “quite strict”. As a teenager, she didn’t appreciate it that much but in later years she often fell back on the doctrine she had been taught.

“There was no lipstick, no shorts, no movies, dancing or parties,” said Ms Sticca, now a member of Cornerstone Bible Fellowship. “It was a good foundation.”

At Southampton Glebe Primary School, teachers often described her as a “social butterfly”, something that came in handy in tourism.

“On the day I started in the Activities Department in 1985, we were giving some people a tour of the island,” she said. “My boss gave me a script to follow. I said I didn’t want to be constricted.

“If I saw a patch of bananas, I made the driver pull over and I talked with the visitors about that. I’d talk about how water is collected on our roofs. I never looked at the script once.”

Thirteen years ago, she encountered something even she had trouble staying positive about. She was at work when she started feeling chest pains.

Fearing she had a blockage in an artery leading to her heart, doctors had her on a plane to Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital two days later.

“Going overseas was just a blur,” she said.

The doctors in Maryland threaded an exploratory line from her groin to her heart to figure out the problem.

“That wasn’t nice,” Ms Sticca said. “I asked if I could be knocked out for that, but for some reason I had to be awake. I was sedated, though.”

To get through the procedure, she fell back on her faith, praying hard.

In the end, doctors found she didn’t have a blockage and didn’t need surgery; her problems could be fixed through medication.

“They said if I hadn’t come when I did, I wouldn’t have lived much longer,” she said.

On the flight back to Bermuda, the plane hit severe turbulence.

“There were cross winds,” she said. “The turbulence surprised everyone. But then the pilot came on and said he was moving the plane up higher to get out of the way of it. Suddenly everything was calm again.”

She found parallels in that experience with her heart trouble.

“That’s what Jesus does,” Ms Sticca said. “He sees you’re in trouble and raises you up above the turbulence.”

A short story about the experience, Deliverance, is included in Joyful Inspirations from God, a book that came out of a journaling experience seven years ago.

She started writing, never intending that it would become a book. Her idea was to leave a record of her life for her daughters, Nichelle and Nia.

At first, she wrote about the deaths of family members, or current events but then started writing about things that happened to her and connecting them to points of faith.

One day she read one of her stories to a friend in North Carolina. Audrey Toney was impressed, and urged her to do something with it.

“She said if I wrote 31 stories I could have a month of devotions,” said Ms Sticca, who retired from tourism in 2013. “I had 20 at about that time.”

As a child, she never would have imagined herself an author. She had struggled with writing and comprehension in school, and couldn’t make heads or tales of pronouns and predicates.

“I did summer school at Southampton Glebe every year until I went to high school,” she said. “I guess I knew I needed the help so I never protested.”

As she got older, she got better, even excelling at reading, but still the feeling persisted that she wasn’t a particularly good writer.

For two years she laboured over her book, finally finishing it in May of last year. She sent the manuscript to her friend, who helped format it, and then got it published.

“When I held the book in my hand for the first time, it felt like a dream come true,” Ms Sticca said.

She’s already put aside 100 copies for friends.

“I have one friend who wants 11 for Christmas presents, and another who wants 14,” she said. “Everyone has been so supportive. It is overwhelming, sometimes. To think that wow, the little girl who struggled in school now has her first book.”

It’s not the only way she keeps busy. Every Tuesday she is at WindReach Bermuda, helping with a weekly seniors tea.

She also ballroom dances every Friday evening with a group of friends, and occasionally models.

She started in 2015 after a friend asked her to help with a fashion show at St Paul’s Christian Education Centre.

“I wasn’t nervous,” she said. “When I came out and people were saying ‘Woot! Woot!’ and ‘Go Joy!’ I thought, I might as well strut my stuff.”

Joy Sticca’s Joyful Inspirations from God will be available at Brown & Co, Bermuda Bookstore and Caesar’s Pharmacy from November 15. Ms Sticca will sign copies of her book at Brown & Co from 12pm until 3pm on November 24.

Joy Sticca as a young woman (Photograph by Akil Simmons)