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Area women enrich the community with their work in the literary arts

POSTED: February 5, 2012 1:30 a.m.
/For The Times

Hall County resident Robyn Hood Black reads a children's book she authored to a group of school children.

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In the time before women were seen by society as equals to men, it wasn’t uncommon for female authors to assume male pen names in order for their work to be regarded with respect.

These days, women are claiming the voices they’ve always owned. From poetry to plays and scripts to storybooks, these authors are having their say.

They are women like Gainesville resident Gloria Stargel, author of "My Anchor Holds: The Difference Jesus Makes," who has contributed several articles to the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.

And women like Mildred Greear, a poet and author of "Moving Gone Dancing."

"I have never understood why a poem will come, or when. They have a mind of their own," Greear said.

"One really should follow the advice of the successful (poets) and always have a notebook and pencil in a pocket. And never wear anything that does not have a pocket."

Greear, now in her 90s, says her book, which is a collection of 200 poems, took "87 years" to write.

Aside from receiving critical acclaim, it has inspired other writers, like Lynda Holmes.

"(Greear’s) work illustrates the value of using one’s senses in composition — considering the smells, tastes, touch, sounds and visions that will bring writing to life for readers and listeners ," said Holmes, author of "Spring Cleaning," a children’s book.

Holmes has also written several plays, including "Jesse James and the Staring Contest," which was brought to life by the Sautee Nacoochee Center Association’s youth theater program. The retired Hall County teacher’s work is also included in volume 2 of the "Stonepile Writers’ Anthology," which was released in December.

"I started writing when I was a little girl," Holmes said.

"I remember making up jump rope rhymes that I would recite when I was alone. Never when I was with other girls. I was too shy."

But thanks to a firm push from her father, the Flowery Branch resident found her way out of the shadows.

"When I was 12 years old, I had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and New York with the children in my class," Holmes remembers.

"My father bought a camera and said, ‘Take pictures of every stop you all have. When you get back, you’re going to write an essay. A friend of mine told me about an essay contest being sponsored by the newspaper and you’re going to do it. You can use the pictures to help you recall what you did.’"

Although she was hesitant to enter, Holmes knew she would write the essay when she returned.

"When my daddy said you were going to do something, you just did it," Holmes said.

"I ended up winning first place. That was my first big break. It made me realize that writing is a very powerful thing.

"Thanks to my father, I realized that writing was something I could do if I just set my mind to it."

André Cheek’s writing was born from her desire to share African-American history with a broader audience.

"I began writing as a response to a need," said Cheek, a Gainesville resident and frequent script writer.

"I’ve learned when our senses see, as well as hear simultaneously, the impact is embedded as well as lasting."

Cheek has written scripts for Brenau University’s WBCX FM-89.1 and authored the play, "Do You Remember When: Newtown Back in the Day."

"Writing the play taught me the history of my community as far back as the late ’40s," Cheek said.

"Learning about my history is a passion. I would call myself a cultural, history buff full of historical facts. I like reading about our history and making it modern.

"This is important because today’s children need to know about their lineage."

Children also inspire Robyn Hood Black to put pen to paper. Her first book, "Sir Mike," was released in 2005 as a part of the Scholastic Library Rookie Reader series.

"Easy readers look simple, but they are very challenging to write," said Black, a Hall County author and artist.

"They have to be short enough for a beginning reader, but they must contain all of the elements of a story. I enjoyed writing it though because I love writing about children using their imaginations and playing outdoors."

Although "Sir Mike" was inspired by children’s games of knights and castles, Black’s second children’s book, "Wolves," is more reminiscent of one of her favorite books, "Where the Wild Things Are."

"I was one of those kids who loved doing research for papers and learning new things. I’ve never outgrown that," Black said.

"The research for ‘Wolves’ lead me to become a volunteer at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega. I still volunteer there."

Although she’s been bitten by the poetry bug — some of her poems will be included in Georgia Heard’s upcoming anthology, "The Arrow Finds Its Mark" — Black still finds delight in making special appearances at schools.

"It’s always great to meet kids who have that same passion that I remember from my own childhood," Black said.

"I always tell them to read, read, read. Every great writer reads a variety of materials. I also tell them to keep practicing.

"Sometimes kids have to be reminded that it takes a lot of rewriting to make something that’s really worth reading. Enjoy the process and have fun, but you also have to be disciplined to develop your craft."



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