“Monterey Herald Story by Lisa Crawford Watson,” April 19, 2021

The book started without her even realizing it, more than 20 years ago, when she was writing for The Monterey Herald. Columnist Sharon Randall had written a short story for the paper, a Christmas tale that had come to her in moments much more clear than a dream. It was about an aging mountain woman who realized, with her husband long dead, and her children gone, some grown and others lost to war, this winter just might be her last.

As the woman absently scattered seeds for the birds, she told God, if He planned to keep her around, she’d appreciate knowing why. Just then, she heard a car grinding up the gravel drive, heard a car door slam, heard the car spin round and leave. All she saw was a cloud of dust until it cleared, revealing a little girl, kicking her toe into the dirt. The woman not only recognized God’s response; she recognized the child.

Sharon Randall still has no idea where the start of that story came from or why she understood, so clearly, how it played out. She saw it as a gift just as it was but felt fairly certain it was destined to become much more than a holiday story destined to die with the day’s news.

Sharon Randall

But she was busy. She had three children growing up in Pacific Grove, and extra teens gathering around the dinner table. Her husband was coaching basketball, and she was teaching Sunday school. Plus, she had columns to write, for which her readers kept an eye on the calendar.

And then, in 1998, her husband died. Her kids grew up, her column went into syndication, and she started looking for her own signs about where her life would go. The answer came from the arrival of characters in the story. Not all at once, and not in stalking sort of way, but with subtle messages about her story and theirs. The little girl came first, becoming a fairly constant companion. Then her grandmother showed up, followed by others, all of whom had ideas. Some of them, she liked.

Randall ultimately paid attention to the characters and wrote the book as a novel, something her readers have been hoping for, anticipating, for decades. So, has she. She titled it “The World and Then Some,” based on a southern phrase she grew up with, which means as much now as it did, then.

Becoming a book

“When I was a child, my grandmother would look at me and say, ‘I love you as much as the world and then some.’ It stayed with me,” said  Randall from her Carmel Valley home. “It’s a phrase that speaks to me about the importance of children. This book is about the power of a child to change a life. When a child comes into our lives, this changes everything. They bring with them the world and then some, and mean more to us than the world and then some.”

This is the message in the story she set out to write, developing the heart of it during a three-month escape to her childhood home by a lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North and South Carolina. Once her time was up, she returned home to California, resumed the responsibilities of her life, and fell into a pattern of picking up and setting down her manuscript, every time another character, scene, or circumstance would show up in her mind. Sometimes she didn’t agree with her characters, but they persisted, and she followed their paths.

And then one day, during the pandemic, the book felt finished.

“Putting it all together and giving it purpose and focus was very hard work,” she said. “And it took a lot of time. Completing my book felt like having a baby. I finally had gotten through it, but then I had to let go of it and share it with the world. For those of us who have children, that’s kind of the hardest part, letting them go into the world, letting the world see them for who they are, and realizing they’re not just ours anymore.”

In October 2020, Randall published her novel — a 288-page story of love and loss, and the risk inherent in each — through the support of New York editors and Hummingbird Books of Carmel Valley.

“Due to the pandemic,” she said, “there’s been no book tour, no public signings, no appearance. And yet, the reviews on Amazon have been fantastic. I read them on slow days and sad days. There is a yearning in writers to know, when someone reads our work, it means something. Writing isn’t complete until it is read. We put our heart and soul into print for another person’s taking. It’s all so gratifying.”

Opportunity and obligation

Randall grew up in a poverty of resources and a wealth of people who loved and believed in her, like hope. She remembers the first time she ever set foot in a library, probably in third grade, when she came upon all those books with people’s names on the binding. She pondered how amazing it might feel to write a book someday that ended up on a shelf, with her name on it. She never actually dreamed it would happen. Not then.

“But people held that dream for me. I remember,” she said, “when I published my first book, a collection of my columns, called ‘Birdbaths and Paper Cranes.’ I went back to my hometown of Landrum, gave it to family members, and signed one to my stepfather. He said, ‘You know I can’t read a word of it, but I will sure treasure it.’ To have grown up in a family where not everyone could read, and put my book in the Landrum library went way beyond dreaming.”

Randall’s new book shows up most, she says, in places where her column is carried — where, during the past decade, she’s done a lot of speaking at fundraisers and events on behalf of worthy causes — neighbors trying to help neighbors.

“Right before COVID came across the country,” she said, “I went to Wichita Falls. To walk onto a stage and look out across 800 people who are looking at me like I’m family means the world and then some. People who want to know how my children are doing. It’s like going to a family reunion without the fistfights.”

During decades of writing columns and features, short stories, and now, her novel, Sharon Randall is motivated by what she considers a universal obligation to share the stories that tell us who we are. It affirms something about ourselves, she says, when we share what we have in common. Whether it is a woman on the mountain, taking in a child, or how we care for and connect with others in our lives, we all go through different versions of the same thing.

“We bond,” she said, “through the stories of things that bring us to our knees or cause us to raise our hands in adulation. Without revealing how I ended the book, I will say it speaks to a universal experience.”


  1. I received Sharon’s book for Christmas, and absolutely love it! I couldn’t put it down, and hated for it to end. So well written, and the characters come to life. I’m hoping she’ll write another novel, maybe a sequel?
    My sister and I got to hear her speak when she came to our hometown, and enjoyed it so much! We also met her afterwards when she signed her book, Birdbaths and Paper Cranes, for me. She was very personable, relatable, and lovely.
    Thank you so much for your weekly column; I so look forward to reading it every week.
    God bless you and your family

  2. Davey Myers says

    This is so true about lovely Sharon and her, at long last, novel. Thank you Lisa Crawford Watson! You couldn’t have portrayed Sharon better. The story is like her columns. They make you laugh and cry but ultimately leave you feeling like a better person. The World and then Some is beautifully written and a wonderful story. If you haven’t read it you must do so!@

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