I am thrilled to welcome best-selling author Karen White to Colloquium today! Karen is the author of fourteen novels, including Falling Home, On Folly Beach, and her latest work,
I am giving one copy of The Beach Trees to a lucky reader whose comment will be selected at random! (Entry details below.)
A Long and Overdue Thank You Note
I am currently visiting my parents in Nashville, Tennessee for a couple of days and, as usual, my dad’s been doing some “clearing out” and has a few boxes of stuff for me to take home with me. Last time I visited, I ended up with two suitcases full of family photos. This year, he handed me a small shoebox filled with pieces of my past that had completely by-passed my memory until now. For good reason.
Among the “treasures” my parents had seen fit to keep for decades was a placemat I’d made in Brownies, a handwriting practice notebook from third grade, an art class painting from second grade, and my tenth grade report card.
Now, about this last item — I’m not one for revisionist history, but I do remember graduating in the top ten percent of my high school class and frequently making the honor roll. I also remember almost all of my teachers, and certainly my English teachers. Those were the teachers who I fondly recall being the most influential of my high school years as they were the ones who encouraged me to write. In one case at least, I was wrong.
In tenth grade, my English teacher was a Ms. Barry. I don’t remember this teacher at all (for good reason as you’ll see). Apparently, this short-sighted teacher not only saw fit to give me a B- on my final exam in 21st Century British Literature, but then rubbed salt in the wound by saying this on my report card: “Karen has good comprehension and analytical ability. Oral expression is very good. Perhaps her weakest area is her writing skills which will develop with practice.”
I was stunned. And not just because of all the glowing report cards I’d received over the years that this was the only one my parents had deemed worthy of saving. But “. . . her weakest area is her writing skills?” What’s with that?
I wish I could say that receiving that report card and those comments was one of the “a-ha” moments in life, when it became clear to me that my goal in life was to become a writer if only to prove the (obviously) ignorant and misguided Ms. Barry wrong. But it wasn’t — at least not consciously anyway.
I’m often asked why I decided to become a writer, as if the answer should begin with, “One day as I was . . . ” That just isn’t the case. I actually never planned to be a writer. I always loved to read, and — with the obvious exception of the impaired Ms. Barry — was always encouraged by my teachers to write. But I was a business major in college, and then worked in the business world for several years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. It simply never occurred to me that I’d have the time, the dedication, or the patience to write a book (much less 14!).
Looking back, I realize that there were probably hundreds of reasons, including Ms. Barry’s caustic comments, that led me to the computer one day to type the first sentence of my first novel. My love of storytelling, probably, as well as my love of books. Or my desire to convey emotions through the written word. The joy of immersing myself in a setting and my characters and creating lives I’ve never lived but perhaps wanted to. Or the love of sand beneath my feet, or the Southern accents of my extended family, or the cloying heat and humidity of an August day in New Orleans. Perhaps the heartache of a painful break-up or watching news footage of Hurricane Katrina as it hit my beloved Gulf Coast.
Like seasonings for a long-simmering soup, maybe it was each and every one of these experiences that led me, eventually, to sit in front of a computer and start that first book.
So Ms. Barry, wherever you are, thank you. Thank you for encouraging me, in a very roundabout way, to discover what I was meant to be doing for the rest of my life. And if you send me your address, I’ll send you a copy of my latest bestselling novel.
Her parents are from Mississippi and she was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so even though she has lived all over the world, Karen has always considered herself a Southern girl. Still, it wasn’t until she moved to Georgia eighteen years ago that she really embraced Southern living. “I did spend most of my childhood wishing I had a Southern hometown to call my own, though I learned to be satisfied with visits to my grandmother’s house in Indianola, Mississippi and the family ties that always brought us back there,” she says.
One of the places Karen lived while growing up was England where she graduated from the American School in London. She later earned a Bachelor of Science degree, cum laude, in Management from Tulane University.
Karen describes herself as having always been “a voracious reader” and, with the apparent exception of Ms. Barry, recalls her teachers encouraging to write, beginning back in elementary school. As a seventh grader, she cut school one day to stay home and read Gone With the Wind, which inspired her to either be a writer . . . or become Scarlett O’Hara! As the years went by, writing a book became something she planned to “do later when I have time.”
That time finally came in 1996. She submitted her first few chapters to a writer’s contest and won. Luckily, the finalist judge was a New York literary agent who offered to represent her. In the Shadow of the Moon became her first published book in 2000. It was a double finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award.
Karen says that “searching for home brings me to the south again and again.” A number of her books have southern settings, including the fictional town of Monroe in Falling Home which Karen was actually inspired to create after visiting Walton County, Georgia. And, of course, her latest novel, The Beach Trees, is set in post-Katrina New Orleans, Louisiana and Biloxi, Mississippi.
With her husband, two children, and incredibly adorable dog, Karen lives in Georgia. When she is not writing or spending time with her family, she reads, sings, scrapbooks, tries to avoid cooking, and enjoys hearing from her readers whom she invites to correspond with her via email (AuthorKarenWhite at aol dot com) or U.S. mail (Karen White, PO Box 623, Roswell, Georgia 30077).
Thank you, Karen!
Enter to win a copy of The Beach Trees
I am giving one lucky reader, selected at random, a copy of The Beach Trees.
Click here to read my review of The Beach Trees! Then post a comment here on this post, explaining what you find most intriguing about the storyline of The Beach Trees and one manner by which you follow Colloquium!
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Sorry, but the book can only be shipped to a United States address (no P.O. box).