Faster than a finger snap, today’s assigned blog post celebrating National Women’s History Month took front and center in my TeachingAuthor’s mind!
Meltzer chose fifty-five remarkable and diverse individuals – from Eleanor Roosevelt to Amelia Earhart, from Anne Frank to Lucille Ball, from Sally Ride to Randy Pausch, to guide his daughter’s journey to adulthood. Each was a fighter in his or her own way.
I couldn’t help think, though: many were the very same “fighters,” female “fighters especially, whose childhoods I had read about in the “orange true books” that marked my childhood’s most special occasions.
And I couldn’t help ask: which Heroes would I choose, or rather, which Heroines, to include in my collection had I mothered a daughter?
Which then got me thinking: who would I choose were I to write a collection entitled Heroines Who Keep Me Moving on My Writer’s Plotline?
Lickety-split, I had my top three Heroines + this Golden Opportunity to introduce them to our readers.
(Note: I happily surprised all three when I emailed last week to ask for their permission to share their stories in this post; not a one knew how meaningfully she’d impacted my life, both Writer’s Life and otherwise.)
When I first met Phyllis, at an SCBWI Woodstock, Illinois Writers Retreat, in the late ’90’s, she’d just begun her graduate studies at Vermont College.
She was 71 and 4 years widowed, earning her MFA in Writing for Children!
“I saw the ad in Horn Book,” Phyllis shared, “and I thought to myself: all those authors in one place instead of two or three at a conference. What a bonanza!”
Phyllis ’fesses up that she was “looking for the girl I was before I was married with responsibilities.” It would put pep in her step like no other decision she could make. “I knew nothing and brazenly went forward, in my life-changing event.”
Phyllis’ short stories have been anthologized with those of Margaret Atwood, Carol Farley, Lisa Wheeler and our very own TA JoAnn Early Mackin in Stories Where We Live – The Great Lakes (Milkweed), as well as in other collections. Her publishing credits also include children’s magazines and poetry journals.
So many times I've let my increasing chronological age stop me in my writer's tracks...until I think of Phyllis and I'm out the metaphorical door.
Whenever I've allowed Life to somehow overwhelm me, I retrieve my mental image of Beth and Hanni, out-and-about – in downtown Chicago, at Printers Row Lit Fest, on a school visit, at a conference. The two help me see a path I might take.
Once again, SCBWI connected me to another Kindred Spirit, at the same Woodstock, IL Retreat Phyllis Harris attended; Brenda later served as the Michigan Chapter’s Assistant Regional Advisor.
For years I’ve carried in my trusty Filofax a tiny sticker photo of Brenda and me, taken in a Photo Booth on the Santa Monica Pier.
And history’s story? It comes from the Greek word “historia” which means "to ask or inquire, to learn and know."