Monday, March 3, 2014

Women Who Made a Difference in My Life

I didn't always know that I would become a writer. I've heard stories about how some people held up a crayon at the age of three and announced that they wanted to write books. The very notion of authoring books didn't even dawn on me until I was an adult. In fact, I always saw myself working with the elderly because the most influential people in my life were my grandparents and great-grandparents.

As I look back, I can see God's hand in my decision to be a writer and the type of writer He wanted me to be. I love showing family interaction and putting grandmothers and great-aunts in my books to add dimension and texture. The elderly women in my stories reflect many of the traits of my grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-aunts. People often ask me who or what inspired me to become a writer, and I suspect these amazing women had something – or perhaps everything – to do with it. I borrow tidbits of conversation and personality traits from what I remember to give the older characters in my books.

My paternal grandmother Maxine was an avid reader who always had an open book nearby, and there was never any doubt that she'd rather have her nose in it than do anything else. I always thought she was a pretty cool lady, and my favorite thing to do with her was to go to the library in Ellisville, Mississippi. When Grandmother Max asked me what I wanted for my fifth birthday, I told her a library card just like hers. She talked the librarian into breaking the minimum age rule so she could grant my wish.

My maternal grandmother Hazel was the playful one. She used to tease and play practical jokes on all of her grandkids. Grandma Hazel taught me how to fish, drove me to the creek to swim, and hosted backyard watermelon parties for all the cousins. She was always the one at the garden hose filling water balloons, and when she thought the party needed livening up, she'd fling a few.

I also got to know three of my great-grandmothers who kept me riveted with stories about their youth. They taught me the value of learning how to cook, sew, and pick butterbeans. I learned to braid fragile gray hair and twist it into a bun. I learned that people of all ages can enjoy bubble gum, and with years of practice you can blow a bubble as big as your head. They taught me some of my most treasured life lessons while we rolled out biscuit dough, fished with cane poles, gathered eggs, or shelled peas on the back porch.

Family reunions were always fun because my great-aunts loved to compete in everything. Grandma Hazel's sisters got to choose teams, even when they didn't participate, and they knew who'd be the best for the three-legged race and raw egg toss. Then the competition continued on to the buffet where they tried to outshine each other with casseroles and desserts.
My mother - June

The woman who made the most difference in my life was my mother who played with me, disciplined me, and loved me no matter what. She was a working mom, and she didn't ever hesitate to better herself. Long after I became an adult and moved out, she started taking college classes.

I sure wish I still had here here with me. She would have adored her great-grandkids. Fortunately, she was able to see our daughters Alison and Lauren, but she passed away more than 20 years ago.

All of these women were spunky, self-sufficient, smart, interesting, and beautiful. As they got older, they voiced their opinions more often, and their points of view became more interesting. Many of my books feature older women who speak their minds and don't hesitate to offer a combination of annoying advice and cherished hope to the younger characters. 

Is there anyone in your life who influenced you in your chosen profession? 

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