It's a bit of a cliché to say that authors write what they know, but I've got to agree. I write what I know, and I know kids. After years of teaching kids, instructing adults to teach kids, and raising three kids of my own, I come by it naturally. I know about kids' drama. I know about kids' fears. I know about kids' hopes and dreams. My experiences as a teacher, school administrator, professor, and mother inform, to the very fiber, the stories I write to entertain kids of all ages--and their teachers, professors, and parents as well!
It's another cliché to say that "the book wrote itself," but my books, for grades four through eight, seemed to do just that. Once the pen hit paper, it never stopped. Years of stories, anecdotes, and antics from memorable students came rushing forth. Dropping these fond memories--and likenesses of kids I've known--into my stories is truly a delight. Seeing those stories take on a life of their own is too good to be true (another cliché), and I enjoy every aspect of it.
Fortunately for me, and my loyal readers, there are plenty of stories in my teacher-professor-mother noggin that are just waiting to be told. And yes, there are countless unforgettable students waiting to be dropped into fun and fanciful fiction. Spoiler alert here. for you series readers....wait for it! Stories about a group of four loyal friends (you guessed it--kids born and raised in North Carolina) hanging around an old country store will surely entertain readers looking for fast-paced stories of adventure and friendship.
Living in a log cabin in the woods with my husband, near-grown children, and energetic golden retriever, after relocating to North Carolina, has been a dream come true (yep, another cliché). Writing in such a beautiful setting has been nothing less than inspirational. I've written chapters about a canoe ride while perched on the bank of a quiet and peaceful southern pond. I've penned scenes set in a small rural school while watching a soccer game in the school yard of middle school with a student population of less than seventy (against all odds, they won that game despite facing a formidable opponent from an enormous rival school located on the far side of the county). I've churned out pages about outdoor adventures of North Carolina kids while sitting on a bed of needles dropped by a Carolina Pine. I've scribbled lines about life in a small-town church on my church bulletin while sitting in my pew (please don't tell my preacher). I've also written on a ferry crossing to Ocracoke Island at the Outer Banks, on a sailboat moving gracefully through waters connecting North Carolina and Virginia, and in my bright yellow car (she shows up in my first book, if you must know) cruising through gentle turns on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A final cliché (and I promise this will be the last) is that truth is stranger than fiction. With this one, I disagree. I've found countless instances of strange in my fiction. For example, an arbitrary name used for a character in A Ripple in Maggie Pond turned out to be the very name (first and middle) my nephew, unaware, selected for his first-born daughter just months after the character was brought to life. Another example (no lie here), was the coincidence of a fictitious hurricane scene unfolding in the midst of power outage caused by one of the biggest storms to make landfall off the east coast in recent memory. Quite often, friends, family, and residents from my local community who have read my stories will say to me, "Hey, that's my kid in that story, isn't it?" or "I know that teacher!" Truth is, it could be anybody's kid or anyone's teacher. That leads me to one last cliché (sorry, I lied about no more). It truly is a small world. Books and stories about people and life transcend all. Regardless if a kid resides in North Carolina, North Dakota, or North of Chicago (which incidentally is where I was born and raised), they all share the same drama. The same fears. The same hopes and dreams.
Yes, I write what I know. I write what I love. And without sounding too presumptuous, I love what I write. I love it, because it allows me to share stories of faith, friendship, perseverance, understanding, and the best of humanity (and that is no cliché). I hope you enjoy reading my stories as much as I enjoy writing them. -JC
My readers include kids and adults of all ages. If you're looking for a great story about friendship, loyalty, or community, you'll find it all in The Annex, Ribbon on the Willow, and A Ripple in Maggie Pond!
Did you enjoy these books? Let me know! I'd love to hear your thoughts!