Friday, July 31, 2009


One of the perks of being an author is being invited to speak to different groups and organizations. At a book signing in Troy, Michigan, I met a counselor from a Detroit area high school. We talked and Edie invited me to the book discussion group at Catherine Ferguson High School. I'm always eager to meet kids and spend time in the chaotic environment of a classroom, so I agreed.

Several weeks later, I strolled up to the front door of the school with the cries of small children echoing in my ears. Cool, the school must have an on-site day care center, I thought. I entered the building, sidestepping a toddler being pulled in a wagon, and searched for the main office. After I introduced myself, a young lady escorted me to the library.

The library was a hub of activity. Students and teachers raced around decorating a table and preparing food. Edie introduced me to Jasmine, one of the students, and instructed her to take me out to the farm while they completed their preparations. Farm? The front of the building looked like that of any other school. I followed Jasmine, expecting to see a few rows of tomato plants and an animal or two. I was completely unprepared for what I found. As we exited the school through the back door, I saw ducks and swans swimming in a pond. Around a corner, pigs, chickens, and goats milled around a red barn. Jasmine proudly told me that the girls at the school had built the barn themselves.

Jasmine and I took a leisurely stroll around the farm. She pointed out the different fruits and vegetables, explaining how the animals and farm were cared for by the students during the school year and by hired staff all summer. All of the fruits and vegetables are sold at Detroit's Eastern Market during the summer to supplement the cost of summer programs for the students. We turned another corner and I came face-to-face with two horses. I was floored.

We returned to the library and I learned that all of the two hundred young ladies at the high school had struggled to finish their education. Pregnancy, lack of family, and other personal issues interfered with many of the students' roads to educational success.

After the students told me about themselves, I shared info about myself and my books. We talked about my latest release, The Way You Aren't, and discussed the students' interest and/or lack of interest in writing. I had the best time and I was proud to meet and learn more about these special students and this unique school.

Weeks later I thumbed through Oprah's O magazine and found an article featuring the school, its philosophy, and students.

I feel very proud to have met those young ladies. I remember the time I spent with them with great pleasure.

So remember, being a writer involves so much more than putting words to paper. Public appearances, book signings, and workshops make up a large part of your role.

Let me know what you think about this story and more. I love receiving e-mail and hearing from readers as well as other writers. You can reach me at

So please, don't be a stranger.


Alexis J. said...

So true, Karen. We must get involved and show ourselves. Very nice story!

Genella deGrey said...

Wow. What a great idea for a school! All big cities should have a place like that - a place where you can _learn_ and not treated lik a number. (Yes, I have issues with the school district around here.)


Liane Spicer said...

Although I've stood in front of classes filled with both teenagers and adults for 22 years, the thought of standing up in front of a bunch of people and talking to them about my novel or about writing gives me the shakes.

Maybe it will get easy with practice. The sort of thing you describe certainly makes it seem worthwhile.