When I wonder how I went from a struggling reader to guiding AP Literature students toward success on the exam to becoming a published author, I realize it was sheer determination and hard work, both inspired by my parents.
As a kid I loved stories. Reading them was a challenge because I was never taught phonics. Through trial and error I taught myself what I could and eventually found myself reading with a flashlight under the covers after it was “lights out.”
My confidence in reading and writing can be attributed to Mr. Kloefkorn during my sophomore year in college. When I received an A on my original short story and he told me that I should submit it to The Flintlock, Wesleyan’s literary magazine, I decided I might actually have strength in my writing. By my senior year, I decided I wanted to write stories for children. I wanted them to be fun as well as educational.
I was armed with what I thought would be the answer for struggling readers after I received my Master’s Degree. Boy, was I wrong. The students taught me! I had two classes of “Leisure Learners” who did not want to take English, a four-year requirement. Trial and error again and then one day a student came in and said. “I think you’ve got it, Mrs. White.” Yea for me.
I developed the class further and put it into two more schools. I moved on to teach World Humanities, Creative Writing, AP Literature, and Freshman English. I became the English Department Coordinator in two schools. I was hired to develop an English curriculum at Eaglecrest High School before we actually moved to Colorado.
The idea of writing my own poems and stories began with the reading of both. Use of language intrigued me. Words gave me a vision. I wanted to be able to create a vision with my own words.
Not only does reading inspire me, but I love to observe—people, actions, dialogue, any details that develop a character or a scene. I wonder what goes on inside a person’s head or inside a house. What IS that story? What is the motivation for characters to do what they do? My imagination has a good time with possibilities.
Ideas come to me in the shower, in the car, right before I go to sleep, when I watch a movie, when I read –anything! I jot ideas down, let them simmer, and then I play with various scenarios until something clicks. The best time for me to express those ideas is early morning. It’s quiet and I feel refreshed.
There is something inside me that urges a story. After I play with a number of “what ifs,” I flesh out the “what if” I think works the best—again and again until I feel it is a good fit. I try them out on others and make changes if I think that is the best avenue. It pleases me to know that my words and ideas have made a positive impact upon the reader.
Besides reading and writing, I enjoy spending time with my family and three rescue cats.
Virginia has lived in South Dakota, Nebraska, South Carolina, Nebraska again, and Wyoming before settling in Colorado, where she has lived with her husband Warren for 31 years. She taught at Eaglecrest until 2002 then transferred to Cherry Creek High School before retiring in 2008. She has two daughters and three grandchildren. She won this opportunity for a spotlight in our newsletter and on the website by reading the most pages of books by CAL authors during our CAL Summer Reading Program.