My love of stories began with my mother’s voice. In her slow Southern drawl, she read the fairytales, “Hansel and Gretel,” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” I shivered when the mean ol’ giant chased Jack. I clapped with delight when Jack chopped down the beanstalk.
Though I loved stories, I had trouble learning to read. Our first grade teacher divided the class into three reading circles. The Blue Birds were the best readers; the Red Birds were the second best readers, and the Yellow Birds were last. I was a Yellow Bird and ashamed of myself.
But that changed with the help of two wonderful teachers. Mrs. Pauline Porter patiently taught me to read. With her help, I moved from a Yellow Bird, to a Red Bird, and finally to the coveted Blue Bird reading circle. My second grade teacher was Mrs. Barbara Hutchens. She sponsored a contest to see which student could read the most books during the school year. I won the contest, and Mrs. Hutchens changed my life. She introduced me to the biographies of Annie Oakley, Betsy Ross, and Nancy Todd Lincoln. I became a lifelong reader.
My teachers turned me into a reader, but it was my sister who turned me into a storyteller. Snuggled under the covers, Robin said, “Tell me a bedtime story.”
So I began, “Once upon a time, there was a boy named Billy who rode a beautiful horse named Blaze.” Robin loved the Billy and Blaze books by C. W. Anderson.
But, one night she said, “Not those stories. Make up stories about us.”
The “us” was Robin and her pony Surelick, our cousin Penny and her pony, Tennessee, and of course there was me – Shannon and my pony, Spot.
That’s how I became a storyteller. Whispering stories about “The Carolina Cowgirls” to my sister late at night.
It would be many years before I captured these stories on paper. I grew up and worked as an accountant, a human resources manager, and an office manager. Later, I became a mother. I read a library full of books to my son and dreamed of publishing stories of my own.
In 1999, my sister Robin died in a car crash. She was 34 years old. I decided that life was too short for unfulfilled dreams and started to write. The Ballad of Jessie Pearl was my debut novel.