Last week Chris and I immersed ourselves in a journey of literacy. Although we only traveled to nearby Starkville and Caledonia, our short excursions spanned generations, and introduced us to many smart people with a passion for reading.
Friends of the Starkville Library invited me to speak about my second book, “Witch Ball,” released this past Tuesday. This group, like me, grew up in a time when there were no computer games, high-tech toys or hundreds of television stations to distract us. Their love of reading is bone-deep, so much a part of life that literacy is a kind of nourishment.
Dutch philosopher and humanist Erasmus said, “When I get a little money, I buy books. And, if there is any left over, I buy food.” This group understood that way of thinking — up to a point. Their approach to book talk was to lay out a feast of tasty munchies and settle in for a chat. It was a great audience, in a charming setting. So much fun, and over far too soon.
The next day we went to Caledonia Middle School for Career Day. Our pretty escort, Cassidy, guided us through the maze of halls decorated with brightly-colored posters and construction materials for major projects. I was beginning to think that some classes were building a village (or, considering recent weather, an ark).
We spent the entire day moving from classroom to classroom, talking about writing and the twisted path that led me to my current career. Much of my discussion was about making lemonade out of some extremely sour incidents.
I was quite impressed with the students and their thoughtful questions. Although they were only in their early teens, many already had career goals. Some were headed to law school or a branch of the military. Several won my heart by expressing an interest in veterinary medicine. But, no matter whether they aspired to go on excursions to far away lands or remain close to Mississippi, everyone was a reader.
This group was different from the “Starkville-ians,” probably acquiring some of their love of poetry and prose from Dr. Seuss, whose advice to youngsters was, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (From “I Can Read with My Eyes Shut.”)
I was totally flattered that some of the students have added me to their Facebook “friends,” and plan to attend the book signing for “Witch Ball” on May 1.
I left a signed copy of my first book, “Friendship Cemetery,” with Caledonia School Librarian Mrs. Emily Bates, and with Virginia Holtcamp, director of the Starkville Public Library. I promised to send them copies of “Witch Ball” just as soon as they arrive.
From the junior high students, looking forward to high school and college, to those a bit more “senior” (perhaps graduating just a few years ago), everyone I met had a love of books. It was reassuring to see this and ease any worries about the next generation.
Many thanks to Starkville Public Library and Caledonia Middle School for inviting me to speak. Keep reading — and thank your teachers for starting you on a path that will help throughout your life, no matter what direction you choose.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.