Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Turning to Books

p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of twelve books. A versatile writer, her computer books launched two computer companies in the Washington, DC area which still operate nearly 30 years later. She is best known for her historical creative non-fiction, River Passage and Songbirds are Free, about the early days of Fort Nashborough (now Nashville, TN) and her five contemporary suspense/thrillers: Exit 22, Ricochet, The China Conspiracy, Kickback and The Banker's Greed. She is also the author of Take the Mystery out of Promoting Your Book. A co-founder of The Book 'Em Foundation, terrell's passions are literacy and animal welfare. You can read more about her at

I remember my mother reading to me long before I started attending school. She loved books and she loved watching children use their imaginations. Our kitchen table and chairs and a well-placed blanket became a fort. My bed was a Broadway stage. A grove of pine trees became The Secret Garden and our swingset became the location where Rapunzel let down her hair or Snow White lived with the seven dwarfs or the house that was transported to Oz. And when my younger brother joined in, it was a castle fending off invaders or a fort fighting off the Indians.

But it wasn't until I moved to Mississippi in 1967 that I turned my love for reading into a lifelong love of writing.

My father was an FBI Agent who was sent to Mississippi at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. It was a time marred by assassinations - John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi... And the Ku Klux Klan was terrorizing minorities throughout the Deep South.

We arrived there from New Jersey, and I, with my New Jersey accent, immediately discovered I wasn't wanted there. My first teacher told everyone in class that anyone who played with me would get a "whuppin" and I quickly discovered I had little in common with my classmates, anyway. It would be decades later that I'd discover many of the parents of children I knew were under investigation for ties to the KKK.

The principal of our school took note of my lonely existence and encouraged me to write a story. The first one was perhaps four pages long. Under her encouragement and later, with the encouragement of several school teachers, I began to write longer pieces until, in 1971, I completed my first manuscript.

For more than forty years now, writing has been an integral part of my life. For a time, I turned to writing how-to computer books. I left Mississippi in 1977 for Washington, DC. My first computer book was published in 1984, followed quickly by three more.

But perhaps because of my father's work with the FBI, my real passion was in writing crime and suspense. It would take until 2002 for my first suspense/thriller to be published. It did well enough for me to begin the transition away from computers and into writing full-time.

William Tapply brought me light-years ahead of where I'd otherwise be, by mentoring me through the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Course. A year later, Robert Doherty brought me even further by telling me what I needed to know through the Writer's Digest Criticism Service.

I can't imagine not writing. It has opened worlds I would never have otherwise known, places I would never have otherwise visited.

Where has writing taken you?

Monday, July 11, 2011

When You Can't Write, Read

Pamela June Kimmell has attended nearly every Book ‘Em event in Virginia since the first one was held in 2004. Currently living, writing, and painting in Warrenton, Virginia, she has appeared in Lumberton, North Carolina during the Writer's Rally in Robeson series of visiting authors, and she is looking forward to Lumberton’s inaugural Book 'Em event.  In addition to her novel “The Mystery of David’s Bridge”, she co-authored “Pink Jasper:Gems From The Journey” with five other women writers, and edited a poetry anthology called “Cosmic Brownies”.  Her self-illustrated book of childrens short stories will be published in time for Book ‘Em.  She has been the fiction editor for an ezine, is a prolific poet, and has her own line of note cards depicting images of her oil paintings and photographs.

As a writer and artist I have always been aware that moments of writer’s block (or artist’s block) happen to all of us.  Sometimes it lasts just a day but sometimes it lasts a whole lot longer! 

Recurrent melanoma and the resulting one year of immunotherapy via infusion and self-injection wreaked havoc on the creative side of my brain…..I just did not feel like doing anything, much less finishing the sequel to the mystery novel I’d had published in 2006.  I couldn’t even pick up a pencil and sketch or write the shortest of poems.  The “light” was out and I was too sick to even imagine it ever coming back on. 

Instead, I read.  I read everything I could put my hands on.  It took me away from my discomfort and transported me to all kinds of fantastic places.  I’d always been an avid reader of mysteries, suspense and thrillers, but I branched out and read non-fiction and genres I’d never been interested in before.  It was the greatest escapism. 

One important thing taking this “time out” did was buy my brain some time to absorb other people’s ideas for plots and storytelling and in doing so, my own creative process turned back on…..slowly at first but at least the light did return. 

I think people who have experienced similar circumstances in their lives understand that many times they change us permanently.  I know in my case I did change in some ways, but thankfully the desire to write didn’t disappear - it just took a hiatus.  I am writing again and doing some illustrating but to a big extent, I feel I owe my return to those things to my love of reading - one thing that never stopped even though almost everything else in my life at that time had stopped.

It’s all about having faith, hope and persistence!  I will get that sequel to The Mystery of David’s Bridge written although it will be a stand-alone rather than an actual sequel.  I am about to have a book of childrens short stories published which I have illustrated myself, and I intend to dust off an old manuscript I’d set aside years ago and get it finished and published.  Not only did I turn back on the light - I just might be on fire!