Since picking up a big round pencil in kindergarten at the Carnegie Public Library, I’d dreamed of writing a book. A published book, with interesting things others could learn about, and pictures on slick pages to go with it. But reading didn’t come easy for me. Could I even write? I couldn’t figure out for a long time how my big sister knew what those funny symbols on the pages meant.
A wonderful second grade teacher named Mrs. Fox gradually helped me understand. By the time I was eleven I had fluency to match anyone in the class: I learned to love words, their meanings, their rhymes, their rhythm. I wanted to make stories happen, too.
Writing for newspapers in high school and college, and then at our hometown weekly during the summer was good experience, but I never got into anything in real depth. The usual research papers. News stories, features. The expectable.
I became a fifth grade teacher for many years and enjoyed writing class especially. I occasionally wrote, mostly nonfiction pieces, for class examples or just for fun — but with a growing family, the self-discipline that serious writing required had to go in different directions.
Then – a great opportunity. I received a Lilly Teacher Fellowship. It allowed me to experience something or someone I really wanted to learn about, and my choice was Theodore Roosevelt, our exuberant twenty-sixth president known to most everybody as “Teddy.” It didn’t take me long to find out he didn’t care for the nickname. With my family I visited the places he’d lived, east and west, and did some serious research among the files of the Houghton Library at Harvard University.
At last I had enough material. There are so many primary sources (letters, journals, manuscripts, notebooks, drawings) for Theodore’s life that biographers worldwide have had a heyday writing about him. I narrowed my own study to the ten years before he went to college, because it presents an “amazing” model for independent learning.
Author David McCullough says to write the book you want to read. Though it had to wait for my retirement from the classroom, I finished the manuscript last December and made it through the stages of proofreading and publishing. It’s now an official book with a real ISBN number, (a little like Pinocchio becoming a real live boy), in paperback and hardback, and available on Amazon. I will be at some book fairs this fall and hope to make school visits, too. Contact me for more information, and I hope you will subscribe to my blog, More to come.