How in the world did I become a writer, this little shy girl from Kansas? I lived in a town that did not have a bookstore, or a true library in her grade school. We did have a hallway with shelves of books, but more importantly, we had teachers who believed in the power of reading aloud books. They read to us everyday after lunch, to get us settled down after our lunch and recess. Those read aloud times planting the seed for me as a writer. I became lost in the story.
I can still remember the day, Jack died in The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our 5th grade class was inconsolable as Mrs. Hall carried around the box of Kleenix as we balled over the loss of Laura's beloved pet. I had received a brand spanking new Smith-Corona typewriter that year from Santa and one that came with an instruction book on typing. I practiced and practiced until I had typing down pat. I was going to be a writer just like Laura and record what happened to me in my "Little House of the Flint Hills of Kansas". Only, I found my stories boring after reading them aloud boring. Laura wasn't boring, so I began to read.
I do believe that in order to become a true writer, you must become a reader first. I became a voracious reader as a child, and still am to this day, thanks to my teachers who instilled in me that love for the story. I still kept writing but it was not until my forties that I found my true voice in writing. I admire others who found it earlier but I have always been a late bloomer.
I began to write my story, my life in books and how books saved me. Such a cliched phrase but I truly believe that my reading and writing life has brought me all the passion I need for a purposeful life.
But once I began the writing process of telling my story, what to write about, what not to write about, I began to have my doubts on whether I could live up to all the authors I had placed high above me on pedestals. My favorites have always been southern authors because they have a way of telling a story to me that is so much more descriptive than other authors. Their voices sounded more familiar to me as I grew up in a family of storytellers. How could my book compare to those I revered, Pat Conroy, Mark Childress, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, or my all time favorite author, Harper Lee?
The truth of the matter is I finally decided, I can't compete with those folks. All I needed to do was to be true to me. It is just that simple. All I needed to do was just tell my story like I was talking to you all in person. So as I wrote my book, I would stop and read it back aloud, just like my teachers use to read to me. It worked. I had found my voice and it echoed from the past voices of my Kansas teachers. Simple, true, and above all passionate.
My first book was published, "The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing, Guide to Life" and my life was then changed forever. I had come out of the closet, so to speak as a writer, now I can say I am a published author. I turned that book over to God thanks to the wise words and advise of Mark Childress, and vowed that I would continue to read, to educate myself on being a better writer, and to stay true to myself. I tell everyone I know now my life is an open book. I try to publish everyday a story on my blog site, www.pulpwoodqueen.com. Because to get better, you have to practice, practice, practice.
What I have learned from my first book is reading has not only saved my life, but writing has too. So my next book of which I am working on now, I call, "The Pulpwood Queens' Guide to Reading and Writing for a Higher Purpose". I have found that reading books leads me and my now 250 Pulpwood Queen and Timber Guy Book Clubs to doing good works. My Anchorage, Alaska chapter flew me up for their first anniversary and I went with them as they helped start a book club in Alaska's Women Correctional Facility, The Pulpwood Queens of Hiland Meadows. My South Louisiana chapter has championed raising the funds to buy textbooks for an entire school in Nicaragua, and even just recently presented in person 100 Bibles for all the students. Now that's the reading part, you say, what about the writing?
Shortly after, I published my book I began teaching a life writing class to the homeless at Newgate Mission in Longview, Texas. I thought my life had changed from reading and writing but what has happend at Newgate has been a gift to me from God. He has given me truly a purpose to my life. We have spent the last week filming with United Methodist Television a feature that will air nationally soon on that endeavor. Writing changes lives too. I have watched it with my own eyes. I even began a book club there, The Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys of Newgate Mission.
My life is unfolding just like the story in a book. And because I want my life to have a happy ending I have thrown myself into this reading and writing life with full abandon. I now know that reading has saved me and writing has too. Won't you all join me on this literacy journey?
For more on my story or how to join the Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Clubs, go to www.beautyandthebook.com, click on Pulpwood Queens.
For more on my daily reading and writing adventures, go to www.pulpwoodqueen.com.
Last, I would like to say that reading and writing is not suppose to be a solitary adventure. Those teachers who read aloud to us small town Kansas kids had to have the interaction between the reader and the audience for the full reading experience. Reading out loud must make a big comeback. Sharing stories is what makes us more human. We also must not be so at task at writing that we forget who we are writing for, who is our reader? The one thing that makes my book club so unique is that I really try to bring each author in each month so the readers can hear their perspective of their writing process. If they cannot come in, they volunteer to call in to any of my chapters that so wishes. To read a book is one dimension, to share a book with another is another dimension, but to have the author talk to a book club is to bring the full picture into focus.
As I listed all my book club selection authors in my book and give book lists at the end of each chapter, I want people to know that there are many, many great books out there that are not getting the attention they deserve. If my reading and writing life does one thing, I hope it connects a reader with a writer that reveals they are not alone in this world but have found a home. I have built a house, a home of books, and that's where I will continue to dwell. Won't you grace my doors and join me in this reading and writing life?
Tiara wearing and Book sharing,
Kathy L. Patrick
Author of "The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life", Grand Central Publishing
Founder of the Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Clubs, the largest "meeting and discussing" book club in the world!
Beauty and the Book
608 North Polk Street
Jefferson, Texas 75657