Archive for April 24th, 2012

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For a long time, I have wanted to be a writer.  I recently found my teenage diary and in it I had written some really bad rhyming poetry.  But at the bottom of the page I found this.

"I would love to be a writer if only someone would give me confidence!"

When do we let go of our dreams?  The summer following this diary entry, I volunteered for a program called “Operation Life Enrichment.”  The program was designed to enrich the lives of underprivileged children who had difficulty with reading.  That experience led me to a path of becoming a teacher.  The writer in me did not go away, but she was buried deep within.

In 1995, I had the privilege of being selected for the National Writing Project’s Summer Institute.  We were a group of fellow teachers writing about our lives and learning from each other.  The motto of the NWP, “A teacher of writing is a writer,” went straight to my heart.

One of my favorite writing project events has been an annual “writing marathon” in New Orleans led by the Southeastern Writing Project.  For three days, teacher-writers gather to be practicing writers.  In the summer of 2009, the focus was on fiction.  I spent the days with two other women.  We wrote, read, revised, and each created a fiction short story.  I began to feel like a fiction writer.

Not long after the New Orleans writing marathon, I attended a fiction workshop with Sharon Arms Doucet, author of Fiddle Fever and Alligator Sue.  The workshop took place an hour away.  As I drove Highway 31 along the Bayou Teche, the story of Blessen began in my mind.  I passed True Friend Road.  I saw a row of crape myrtle trees.

From where I stand next to the chicken coop, I can see Pawpee’s old house and the two rows of crape myrtles in full bloom lining the gravel driveway. Pawpee still trims those trees every fall with a cherry picker from his wheelchair. He says he’s topping the trees to make the blossoms fan out like a fiery bouquet.

While at the workshop, I wrote the first chapter.  On our lunch break, the owner of the restaurant retold a story that became the Piggly Wiggly scene for Chapter 2.

Fiction is born of real life, the stories we hear and the ones we imagine.  Over the years, I grew to know and love Blessen.   When I listened, she told me about her life.  I believe in her story.  I am so proud to have her come alive in my first young readers novel.  I hope one day you will come to know and love her, too.

Link to Blessen’s Facebook page.

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