I hope we are all suitably grateful to the people who introduced us to a love for words. One of my earliest memories, and, I suspect, the source of the first two words I spoke, is a story about "Dit" and "Dat," a pair of shoes. Mom made up the story for me and had to repeat it in many versions endless times throughout my young childhood.
My mother did not finish high school and never read just for pleasure. She probably thought she had no time for it. She did read her Bible, plus (aloud) the children's books my paternal grandmother, a committed reader, gave me--stories about Delicia, a rag doll, and Clementina, a flying pig, plus a fat book titled "Nursery Tales Children Love." I still have these books.
Mom owned a copy of "Gone with the Wind," but never read it. "Gone with the Wind," however, was the first adult book I read. It was my job to dust display shelves in our living room each Saturday and that book sat proudly on the bottom shelf between elaborate bronze bookends--gifts from my reading grandma. I read a few pages of that book each Saturday. It wasn't long before I realized my mother would not consider this a story appropriate for a pre-teen, so I made sure she never knew what I was doing. If she did come my way I just closed the book and dusted it. It took me a long time to finish "Gone with the Wind" but it was worth the effort. I loved the magic and suspense in the story. (I'm sure the experience was enhanced by the necessary secrecy.)
I have often wondered if Mom was impressed by the thoroughness of my dusting, judging by the time it took me each Saturday.
Then there was Mrs. Maud L. McMullin, my sixth-grade teacher, who had us keep notebooks full of words. She wrote other people's words--poetry, witty and wise sayings, bits of essays--on the blackboard every day, and we copied them into our notebooks. Generally she didn't ask us to memorize them, but oh, what an impact they had.
Though I did write for publication a few times during my earlier years--essays and newspaper articles, plus editing a college newspaper--I didn't begin my real writing career until 1986, when an essay, "Where Hummingbirds Matter," was published internationally on the Home Forum Page of The Christian Science Monitor. After that acceptance I let the writing urge sweep me away. I wrote every spare moment and continued selling essays, poetry, and magazine articles. Many of these, arranged in story form, became part of my first book, the non-fiction "DEAR EARTH, A Love Letter from Spring Hollow," published by Brett Books, Inc. in New York in 1995. Introducing that book and traveling to publicize it was educational, and fun.
But, for some time I'd thought writing my favorite type fiction, the cozy mystery novel would be even more fun. Researching my first published mystery, "A Valley to Die For," was scary, particularly crawling through "Carrie's Cave." If I hadn't been accompanied by two female cave explorers who appeared to be fearless, I'd never have made it. Carrie's Cave is very real, but it is not located where I put it in the novel, though most locations in all of my eight novels are exactly as they appear when you visit them in Arkansas. Real words. Real places. What fun!
(My novels and DEAR EARTH are available at on line sellers, many bookstores, and from http://www.RadinesBooks.com)