CHESTER SPRINGS — Every parent with a teenage driver should give them a copy of “One Simple Text … The Liz Marks Story.”
The book, penned by Marks’ mother, Betty Shaw with the help of local author Dave Brown, tells the gripping and poignant true-life story of what happened when Marks, then 17, looked down at her cell phone and slammed her car into a truck.
During the time while her daughter’s life hung in the balance and long period of operations and recovery, Shaw wrote a journal, which, along with prayer and her family, helped her get through that rough time. That journal became the basis for the book.
Eventually, Marks, who suffered from depression after realizing that she would never be the same person she was before her accident, found a reason to continue to live: to tell others her story. Marks and Shaw, who live in Easton, Md., went from talking to students and local groups, to telling their story on television, including becoming guests of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Marks, now 25, said meeting Winfrey was “amazing.”
“It was so overwhelming,” said Marks. “It was like, am I dreaming this moment? I was all ready for it. I’m trying to make a big difference.
I’ll never shut up.”
Shaw said that she wrote the book in first person because her daughter had no memory of the accident and for the first part of her hospitalization she was unconscious and had suffered from a brain injury. Shaw had never tried to write a diary before.
“I was always self-conscious about spelling and grammar,” Shaw said. “For some reason I had the urge to write what was I going through then. I started sharing some of my writing on line through the Caring Bridge post (that Johns Hopkins Hospital offers) to tell people how she’s doing instead of telling 20 relatives over and over again.
“We had 14,000 people reading my journals,” she said. “I wanted her friends to know something wrong knew she was distracted. I did not know she was texting and driving at that time.”
She found out that fact later from the state policeman who investigated the accident.
“Distracted driving is now the number on killer of teens and young adults,” said Shaw. Shaw made a promise to God to write about what happened.
“I ran to the chapel, in the hospital, and said, ‘God I will do whatever you need. Just give me a second chance with my daughter.’”
Brown said that Shaw took “a tragic event and turned it into a triumph.”
Shaw knew that her cousin’s husband was an author and turned to him for help. Brown, of Chester Springs, previously wrote four sports books then published a true life crime book with Lisa Lambert, “Love, Murder, and Corruption in Lancaster County: My Story.”
Brown said that while he did a lot of editing of Shaw’s manuscript, it was “her voice.” He also found an interested publisher, MSI Press.
“I remember the first time we talked in person,” said Brown. “We’d talked about it on the phone. It was a July 4th event and she brought the manuscript with her the photos of the accident scene. I just remember being in tears. It was so upsetting. My goodness, as upsetting as it was, it really motivated me to really help Betty and get a book published about Liz’s story. Even though Liz’s life will never be the same, it’s great what she’s done. It was certainly a collaborative effort,” said Brown, who continues his day job as a workers compensation lawyer.
“My true passion is writing books,” said Brown, who with his wife, Kim, is raising three children, ages 16, 15 and 11.
Marks’ public speaking started with a woman at a Walmart staring at her injuries and an ensuing conversation that led to Marks giving talks at schools. The mother and daughter team also made a video with the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
At their talks, Shaw and Marks tell their story and also sell lime green wrist bands to remind people not to text and drive to support their campaign.
“Lime green was the color they spray painted her accident scene,” said Shaw.
Appearances on local TV shows, along with newspaper and magazine interviews, led to more the interest of producers of national media that culminated in an invitation to appeal on Oprah Winfrey’s “Where Are They Now?”
“Oprah was the holy grail,” said Shaw. “We didn’t have the book then and she wanted to share her story so it didn’t happen to anyone else.”
Marks believes that this is why God saved her, why her life was spared, so that she can warn others about distracted driving, said Shaw.
Marks had to stop her speaking engagements for a while when she began to suffer from seizures, said Shaw, who noted that brain injuries are unpredictable.
“We needed to get the right medicine,” said Shaw. “We took a break.
That’s under control now. With a brain injury, you don’t know what is going to happen, the ups and downs.”
They are back on the road with a book tour, she said. When she is not traveling to promote the book, Marks, 25, works at an office supply store and enjoys it.
“We feel blessed,” said Shaw. “I don’t want it happen to somebody else. Please learn from her mistake. We’re very lucky she has a job and will be productive and, one day, be on her own.”
When she’s not working, Marks likes to bowl, shop and takes long walks in the wilderness.
“I’m a country kind of girl,” she said.
“One Simple Text” is available on Amazon or wherever books are sold.