My Family Then – the McGee Girls
From my father, I inherited a love of words. He never used a short word when a long one would do. For instance, he said our grandfather was going to the barn to extract the lacteal fluid from the bovine quadrupeds. From my mother, I inherited a love of story. She told the original gory Grimm’s fairy tales, Bible stories, and family yarns.
My country preacher father was visually impaired so my mother drove the car wherever he needed to go. Being the oldest of a quartet of sisters, I was left responsible for the others. Starting with me at the top and working clockwise are Beth, Ruth, and Gwyn.
From Beth, I learned viewpoint. She would tell you that I was bossy, and I would tell you that she was a pest. (I was not bossy, but she really was a pest.)
From Gwyn, I learned the magic of imagination as she built her gracious homes where stylish paper doll people lived elegant lives.
With Ruth, who was an enthusiastic listener, I got my first practice in storytelling.
My Family Now
I continued telling stories to two sons and a daughter and now eight grandchildren. With my husband and me in Hattiesburg, MS and their families scattered to Phoenix, AZ; Longview, TX; and Washington, DC, getting everybody together at one time has become a challenge. This picture was taken Christmas 2009, the last time we were all together. My writing bench made a good setting.
I follow the advice of my friend, children’s author Kimberly Willis Holt, to write in different locations to keep the creative juices flowing. In pleasant weather, my favorite places are outside. Summer rain finds me on the patio with the music of raindrops on the tin roof. In winter, I sit in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate.
For my first drafts, I use a college-ruled legal pad and a cupful of newly sharpened pencils and write on every other line to leave room to go back and revise. The pad and pencils remind me of my favorite part of starting back to school. I loved getting a brand new tablet and brand new pencils and thinking of what I would write with them in my new class.
Rewriting is my favorite part. I compare a writer’s first draft to a person finding a pretty rock and seeing an emerald amidst the dirt and trash. Rewriting gets rid of the debris, cuts the facets until light shines through, and adds the final sparkling polish. I switch to colored pens and highlighters for this step.
I would have had trouble becoming a writer during the days of typewriters. I am a poor typist, and computers allow for correcting mistakes. Sometimes they even point them out! I am glad that rewrites do not require complete typing of a manuscript over again. They even allow me to save more than one version if I can’t make up my mind.
A little help from my friends
Every month I join my writer friends from the Louisiana Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. We read our work and offer suggestions to each other. They listen to me read and help me refine my writing.
This is my husband and first reader Al. He is also my greatest supporter. His reaction when I get a rejection letter is, "They must not have read it."