You know the quiet kids who always have books in their hands? The good students who find diagramming sentences more fun than hanging out with friends? Well, that wasn’t me.  My childhood was spent trying to cope with living in a home ruled by a violent mother with serious mental problems. My time at school was spent worrying about my little brothers at home. Chronically anxious, and having “dumb” literally beaten into me, I didn’t do well in school. I hated it, in fact—all but for 5th grade. That year, our teacher read us a chapter a day from a children’s classic.

One day, while reading from Little House on the Prairie, Mr. Churchill stopped. Using his index finger to keep his place, he looked up and said, “Isn’t it amazing how little black marks on white paper can tell us what was in the mind and heart of someone who lived almost 100 years ago?”

His reflection filled me with wonder, and the stories he read enthralled me. Still, I wouldn’t acquire reading material for myself.  Books, I believed, like all of the best things in life, were meant for people more deserving than me.

I didn’t start reading until I was 17, and newly married to an 18-year-old boy who loved reading newspapers.  He was in college, we were broke, so we started going to the library where he could read the daily papers for free. One day, he pointed out that unless I found something to read, I was going to get terribly bored.  Soon I was reading several novels a week. In those books I found comfort in learning that no matter who we are, our hearts all beat with the same emotions. We share the same longing for love and happiness.

Two decades and three children later, I read this quote by James Hillman: “In order to heal the patient, we must first heal the story they imagine themselves to be in.” So I looked at my life as if it were a novel, and asked myself what my story would need if it was to be a story of triumph.  The answer was simple. The protagonist would take every gift her precarious early life had given her—a creative mind; a sense of humor; an awe for the strength of the human spirit, and a love for people and stories—and “the dumb kid” would become a published author!  So I taught myself to write, and wrote myself a better life story than I ever believed possible.

There have been a lot of changes in the publishing industry since I sold my first novel in ’03. But what will never change for me is my love for writing. I have learned that we are made stronger by sharing our stories. I was so pleased when Ann Garvin invited me to be a Tall Poppy. It’s an honor to stand with this group of amazing writers. I’m eager to see how our group evolves, and what role readers will play in the Tall Poppies story.

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