X. On Becoming a Writer: North Carolina

I end my series “On Becoming a Writer” in North Carolina, where I have lived since leaving New York. I taught only two semesters at Essex County College, because we moved that summer to Boone, where Tom was Associate Pastor at the Boone Methodist Church. With us was our three-week-old daughter, Carol. Talk about a wild year! Yet I loved Boone, a small university town then, set in North Carolina’s beautiful mountains. We had close friends living there and friends I’d known from elsewhere. And the town itself was a welcoming community.

After two years in Boone, long enough for our second child, John, to join us, born in a small mountain hospital where they allowed me a natural anesthetic-free labor and birth with Tom beside me (the way our daughter had been born in NY), we moved to the Bunker Hill Community, a tobacco-farming region south of Kernersville. For me, the first years there were very difficult. My last year in Boone, I had taught 3 classes a semester at Appalachian State University. In Bunker Hill, I felt trapped at home with two children in diapers, and without the needed extra income for our family. Fighting depression, I compensated by becoming “super” mom. Which quickly caused a new concern: my sudden fits of temper toward my children and my growing fear I might one day lose control. In the second post in this series, I talk about how this claustrophobic sense of being confined was rooted in what I felt as a child living in a home with a chronically ill mother. Here’s the link.  Click

I was rescued by Tom’s boss, in our denomination, the District Superintendent, who sent a notice to churches that he was starting a therapy group as part of his training for a counseling degree. What was most important, the cost per session was ridiculously low, a cost our stretched income could cover. I quickly signed up.

Thus began a new journey in my life that continued off and on the next three years. I saw several therapists during that time, professionals who for me were life-changing. When I no longer felt the need for that kind of support, I ended it with a promise to myself: to pursue what I had wanted to do since I was six years old: become a writer.

When we moved to Charlotte soon after, I left teaching and began free-lancing to supplement our income while writing short stories and beginning a novel. This has never been an easy road and one I stepped away from for several years, returning to publish Absolution and more recently A Stone for Bread. What has surprised me most is that I have not returned to teaching. Yet I have no regrets, knowing that I will never look back on my life and ask the question about choices not made: that wistful “what if? ”


Notes: When I started this series I wondered why I was doing this. There were times I was bored writing about myself and considered quitting. But as I end these posts, I understand what I suspect memoirists before me have known: we don’t do this to talk about ourselves but to better understand who we are and where our lives have taken us.

Before writing these posts, I had envied women authors who talked about mentors who’d helped them along the way. I believed that I had never received that kind of boost. How wrong I was! My life is strewn with mentors. That they weren’t novelists or writers hasn’t mattered. They were teachers and supervisors and therapists and a husband who saw abilities and talents that at the time I myself didn’t see. Some of those mentors are no longer alive. Some I encountered after I began writing. Others I’ve had no contact with in years. But they all walk with me still: Dr. Dan Leidig, Dr. Frank Durham, Bev Cochran, Ed Roy, Dr. Ed Bailey, Dr. Kathryn Williams, Donna Burke, Literary Agent Marian Young, so many friends, my adult children, and more than anyone, my husband Tom.