I am a teacher, a reader, and a writer. Or is writer, reader, teacher? Reader, writer, teacher? Well, no matter. Those three areas intertwine and define my professional life and to a certain degree my private life.
Without reading, I wouldn’t be a writer. Without teaching, I wouldn’t have found my passion for creative writing, and without writing, I wouldn’t have found my voice and my life’s work. Here on my blog I write about writing, about reading and what it teaches me, and occasionally about teaching. Sometimes I write about the places I call home, the South and the Midwest, but writing mostly occupies my thoughts and my efforts, and I like to share what I’ve learned and am learning here. When I’m not thinking about writing, I’m reading or thinking about how best to teach it.
Growing up, I don’t remember ever thinking I could write.
In high school I didn’t take “writing classes” like we have now. In fact, my first serious attempt at writing, and I say serious because I was doing it for a grade, was during my senior year in college. I was taking The American Short Story from Dr. James Kilgo who has since been inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. The whole class was grousing about having to read Hemingway’s Nick Adam’s stories. We were young and thought highly of our own critical skills as most English majors do. I’m sure Dr. Kilgo had had enough of our complaints and challenged each of us to write our own stories before we met again the following week. My attempt was a miserable effort, but I never forgot how masterful Hemingway was, the deceptive ease of sentences and stories like his, how he can pack so much meaning into so few words. Stories in his hands, in any master’s hands, look so easy. Perhaps because we were all so familiar with a story, we must have wondered, how hard could writing one be? We hear stories practically from the moment we are born, but writing one, a good one, is not so simple. I was hooked. I wanted to learn how to do that.
That moment was the spark that stoked the fire of my love of language: reading, writing, and teaching reading and writing. Perhaps literature and language are in the soil where I’m from. I hope so. Flannery O’Connor grew up less than an hour from my hometown, as did Alice Walker. The list of authors from Georgia reads like a who’s who in literature: Pat Conroy, Olive Ann Burns, Erskine Caldwell, Margaret Mitchell, Carson McCullers, Anne Rivers Siddons, Johnny Mercer, and the list goes on. The South is known for its storytellers and wordsmiths. Dr. Kilgo was one, but I’m glad I didn’t know that when I wrote that awful story. I can only hope that some of that literary magic stored up in the red clay I walked as a child transferred itself to me. I hope I learned well from Dr. Kilgo, a master Southern writer who tried to teach me respect for the art of the story. I hope I’ll live up to the reputation of my literary forbears one day. I plan to do my best to make Dr. Kilgo proud.
Sometimes we wait our whole lives to discover who we are and why God planted us in a particular place. Not me. I finally know what I was meant to do with my life, and I’m in hot pursuit of it.
Although I don’t live in the South any more, the fertile ground of my imagination was sown there. Now I live in the Midwest, another storied place that breeds patience and strength in its people. There is something about the rush of an October wind through red maples, the depth of the the snowy winters here, and the quick exuberance of summer that quiets the soul and turns it inward. I think that might just be a perfect combination for an aspiring author: magic, strength, and patience. I hope you’ll stick around to read what I’ve written here and rejoice with me when I announce the publication of my first book and all the ones that come after that. Until then, I hope you find what you’re looking for and that, like me, you bloom where you’re planted.