Creative Writing, Teachers

Three Inspiring Teachers

First a brief note: I was thrilled yesterday to hear from my publisher darkstroke books that about 1.2 million pages have been read from my Isabel Long Mystery Series since the start of 2022. Thanks Kindle readers for your interest and support.

I was a kid who loved learning. I still can remember the delight I felt when I discovered I could combine letters to make words and words to make sentences as I learned to read. But that feeling was magnified when I learned I could create what others could read. Writing was magic.

I have to give credit to three teachers — one’s actually a professor — who truly inspired me to take writing to another level, that it would become my form of creative expression. Let me tell you about Irma Darwin, Donald Graves, and Robert Rose. Mrs. Darwin and Mr. Graves have passed on; I am unaware what happened to Prof. Rose after he left Bridgewater State College, as it was called then. I note them in my acknowledgments for Following the Lead, no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series.

Mrs. Darwin was my fourth-grade teacher at Oxford School in North Fairhaven, where I grew up. We students worked hard at making perfectly round letters in cursive — although journalism ruined that objective. She read aloud A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh series and taught us about world explorers.

And Mrs. Darwin gave me the freedom to write on my own, making up short stories and one-act plays. I assigned parts to my classmates and we practiced at recess. Later, Mrs. Darwin let us perform in front of the classroom. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I do the feeling of using words to tell a story.

In fifth grade, I was able to take my writing to another level when I had Mr. Graves as a teacher. That year, a few students from each of our town’s several elementary schools attended an enrichment program on Wednesday afternoons. I, luckily, was one of them.

We were taught advanced science and creative writing. I bet you can guess which class inspired me. Mr. Graves used prompts to teach us about similes, metaphors and other figures of speech. Here was a deeper way to express myself in writing. He compiled what my classmates and I wrote in a mimeographed pamphlet, which I still have.  Here is a piece I wrote called The Tornado. It’s a little over the top, but keep in mind, I was in fifth grade. I recall Mr. Graves called my parents to tell them about it.

The winds of torment strike the grey sky with evil destructive movements. Its path tears the world apart with its wind. The sun struggles to set the sky afire with its golden sunshine, but is shoved aside to hide with the clouds. Trees sweep the winds hoping for mercy. The sea of grass bows at the sight of this evil destruction. Fields of corn are whipped and left to die for they would not bow and worship him. Mountain tops are bitten off piece by pieces until it too will follow with the others and bow to worship, but the proud mountains stand tall as ever in trying to hold back the winds. The winds of evil torment goes on to finish his evil scheme.

Mr. Graves continued his work teaching children about writing at the Writing Process Library at UNH. He wrote 26 books, nearly all about teaching writing. Here’s the link: I feel fortunate that we connected many years ago via email so I could thank him personally.

After fifth grade, I had to wait until I went to college to find inspiration again. As a freshman at Bridgewater, I had Robert A. Rose as an instructor for English 101 and then the next year for Creative Writing. Besides exposing us to the counterculture, he gave me a piece of advice that has become my mantra: “Write like no one else has ever written it before.” To me that meant being original and authentic, and I thank him for instilling that in me.

Here’s a poem I wrote then called cause and effect. It was obviously written after one of my failed love affairs.

this winter fugue

has moved me to a self-hate

certain to experience

its artist,

crack-jawed by his affections

completed the night 

like a jeweler’s velvet 

a moon-starred paradox

for the days of headless queens

groomed desperate

by their lovers.

Certainly, I have had other memorable teachers and professors but these are the top three in my book. Thank you.

LINKS: Here’s the link to my books on Amazon, including Following the Lead, which will be released Nov. 3. Pre-orders are available. Thank you if you do.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Yes, that’s a photo of me, likely in fifth or sixth grade.

Friendship, Mystery

Meet My Mystery Writer Friend

Death of a Telenovela Star is the title of Teresa Dovalpage’s latest mystery. This novella, set on a cruise to the Caribbean, features a former Havana detective who now runs a bakery inIMG_0711 Miami. But Marlene Martínez can’t help figuring out whodunnit when a murder happens onboard. Yes, the telenovela star has an untimely death. This book is short, fast and fun read.

Full disclosure: Teresa, or la Te, as I call her is my friend, actually one of my closest friends. And while I want you to read her book, I want to tell you about her.

I met Teresa when I lived in Taos and took the Spanish 101 course she taught at the local branch of the University of New Mexico. She made the class fun. When I found out she was also an author, I bought her first novel, A Girl Like Che Guevara, which is set in Cuba, where she grew up.

Then she started reporting on a freelance basis for The Taos News — I was the editor-in-chief then — for our Spanish page, plus writing features in English. She had no journalism experience but caught on right away.

We became friends. I enjoyed her energy, humor, and Cuban coffee. We even collaborated on a project — a bilingual series for kids. I did the English, she translated. Only one — The Cousins and the Magic Fish/Los primos y el pez mágico has been published so far, but I plan to change that. The first book, which was second runner-up for the Zia Book Award in 2018, deserves a new layout and to be continued.

Teresa has had success with the publishing world. Check out her books on Amazon: Teresa Dovalpage Books on Amazon

I was frustrated by my lack of it. After many years of effort, including two agents who failed me, I ended up self-publishing two of my novels: Peace, Love and You Know What and The Sweet Spot.

Teresa always encouraged me and gave me good advice.

And then, she inspired me to write mysteries. This was a different genre for me. I like to think my adult books are literary fiction, but I am a huge fan of mystery shows, especially those from the UK.

Teresa wrote a mystery, Death Comes in Through the Kitchen, and sold it to a publishing house. I read a draft and thought why not try my own. Like Teresa, who set that book in her native Cuba, I chose to set Chasing the Case in rural Western Mass., where I have lived twice. (As I’ve said before, it’s a case of taking what you know and having your way with it.)

I so enjoyed writing that first book, I completed three more, all published by Darkstroke Books. And I’m onto my fifth.

When Hank and I left Taos to return to Western Mass. three years ago, Teresa and her husband moved to Hobbs, NM, where she is a professor at the university there. We keep in touch via social media, email, and the occasional phone call. I hope our paths cross again.

But back to Death of a Telenovela Star, it’s a good escape from this strange world we have now. Check it out.

PHOTO ABOVE: Teresa and I at the New Mexico Press Women’s conference in 2018.

KILLING THE STORY: No. 4 in the Isabel Long Mystery Series launched Aug. 26. Here’s the link: Killing the Story. And thanks for your support.