Notes from fourth-grade readers welcome

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Dear Heather, Crystal, Jade, Barbie, Brittany, Chase, Caleb, Dustin, Melissa, Amanda, Michael, Alex, Tyler, Laura, Marissa, and Courtney:

I enjoyed receiving and reading your notes to me, and learning you had been reading the serialization of my book, "Wide Meadows," in the Southeast Missourian. Many of you asked the same question: When did I start writing for publication and what inspired me?

I think the beginning was way back, before I started to school and didn't yet know how to read. I was presented a storybook entitled "Little Boy Blue." It was an expanded story of the little boy who was urged to "come blow his horn. The sheep were in the pasture and the cows were in the corn."

My parents, grandparents and old sisters, at my insistence, read the book to me over and over again. But, unknown to them, I had learned the story and could "read" it without having it in my hands. I could even turn the "pages" at the proper place. I learned what the words, Little, Boy, and Blue looked like on the hardback cover. I would trace the indented words with my finger. I loved that little book.

I think that is when I first learned that a person could live a life of what we call reality -- eating, sleeping, going to school or work -- and, at the same time, live another life of imagination to be found in the wonderful world of books.

Imagine my delight when I learned to read. And read I did. Not only books, but newspapers, magazines, most anything printed that came my way. This love of reading has continued all my life.

In the late 1930s, I kept reading continuing articles by a Wisconsin housewife describing her childhood life on a farm. I realized I had had the same experience.

One Christmas I composed a letter to be sent to all the family that had shared the experience. My late husband, Edward Mosley, thought it was good and urged me to send it to some publication. I hardly knew how to go about it, but eventually I sent it to the magazine Woman's Day. They bought it! That was fantastic luck to sell the first story I had ever written. Had they rejected it, I may never have tried again.

The point of the above paragraph is not to be afraid of trying something new. You may discover the gift you have been given, surprisingly.

Some of your questions were more specific just as: "What books did you get into the most while writing?" My short answer is, the dictionary. This was to be sure I had my spelling right. But some of the early books were "The Wind In the Willows," "Anne of Green Gables," "Girl Of the Limberlost," "Hans Brinker of the Silver Skates," all popular books of my girlhood. In later life, I was "taken" by Thoreau's "Walden," all of the David Grayson books, "The Green Light," "The Greatest Story Ever Told." Oh, they are too numerous to mention.

I read and studied the great short stories in the old Saturday Evening Post. By "studied," I mean how was the story put together. What happened in the first paragraph, the second, third, etc.?

Amanda asked, "What is it like to be a writer?" It is very satisfactory. Maybe a bit lonely at times because it is something one must do all by him/herself. But in your writing you are communicating with others. When one hears from readers, such as you, it is doubly satisfactory.

There were other specific questions which I will attempt to answer in future Sunday columns.


Jean Bell Mosley is an author and longtime resident of Cape Girardeau.

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