Yesterday I drove to my old hometown in Summerville, South Carolina to speak to a book club. Frankly, I've spoken more to writers than readers thanks to my FundsforWriters connections, so I was looking forward to the experience.
The club consisted of about ten people, seven in attendance due to a horrific storm that settled over the lower end of the state. We opened with food, of course, as any good Southern event does. Enough food for twenty people. They settled my husband in a den with a remote and retro reruns on cable, then we got down to business.
They were all retired teachers, English, Psychology, History . . . to include my tenth grade English teacher, Jan Hilton. And all they wanted to know about is how the story came about, where I found the characters, why I chose the locale, how much stemmed from reality in my own life. All the questions were fun. Even with a room full of teachers, not a one of them wanted to know about sales, agents, or publishing obstacles.
Oh my gosh, that was so refreshing.
In the blink of an eye, time was up. I wanted to stay. I would have stayed for hours. We were talking story, characters, action, purely how the story worked. Third person versus first person. Active voice. Pure writing. the pace of the story. That's what a book is supposed to do . . . draw readers in. And they loved it. ENGLISH TEACHERS loved my book. Oh friggin' wow.
But toward the end they made a more serious point. The head of the club thanked me for recognizing my English teacher, giving her credit for jumpstarting my writing effort. You see . . . I didn't think much about writing until I had her class. She pushed me to write for the yearbook, something I did not want to do because I feared teams/clubs/groups. She led me into it with assurances that I could handle it. I've written ever since. She said right there last night, in front of all those teachers, that she recognized my writing ability from the start. Almost brought a tear to my eye. What if we had not met?
But those teachers thanked me for letting Jan know that she'd impacted my life. They were collectively proud of me as if I was one of their students. Collectively proud of her. A teacher had made a difference, and they loved that fact.
We often forget to go back and say thanks. Thank you so very much, Mrs. Hilton.
(She's on the right hand side, in pretty blue, black and white top.)