Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Country Girl Writes

Arlene James here to "talk" about how my childhood influenced my work. As a country girl growing up in the 50s and 60s near the small town of Comanche in south central Oklahoma, I rode the bus to and from school. We had neither television nor telephone for much of my childhood, so I grew up reading. Riding the bus gave me lots of time to read. By sixth grade, I had read every book in the elementary and middle school library, except the encyclopedia and dictionary, and I'd delved into both of those extensively. I happily read every textbook in my possession from cover to cover.
I knew early on that I wanted to write. I vividly recall that, one evening around the dinner table, my dad asked each of us three kids what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wasn't quite 10 years old, but I calmly said that I wanted to be a writer.
We were hardworking country kids, living in a tiny house (950 sq. ft.) on a big tract of land. Dad ranched, trained horses, sold real estate, owned an insurance agency that my mom ran, and was a self-taught auctioneer at the local cattle sales barn. I was privileged to grow up around a lot of "rodeo royalty." Neither of my parents had more than a high-school education, but my father firmly believed that his children could do anything to which they set their minds, so he didn't blink an eye when I said that I wanted to write. Instead, he said, "I'm happy to read what you write. Why don't you write something for me?"
Only he read my writings for some time. His usual comment was, "Very good." No further discussion would follow, but then I entered seventh grade, and on the first day of school I heard him tell my English teacher, "She writes better than most adults."
That teacher, God bless her, took him at his words. For a while, I thought she was picking on me because whenever she would assign the class a theme, she would call me to her desk and instruct me to write a short story on a particular subject of her choosing. Then one day, she presented me with a $5.00 check. She had been entering my stories in contests and submitting them to children's magazines. I was abruptly an award-winning published author! Ha!
Our school consisted of about 300 students in all twelve grades, but I'll forever believe that I received an excellent education while I was there. No one ever told this small-town, country girl that she couldn't fulfill her dreams. Rather, they calmly set out to help me do so in whatever ways they could.
When I write about ranching, cowboys, and small-town folk, I'm truly writing about what and who I know. And I'm proud to do so.
I moved to Texas, married, became a mother, was widowed, and married again. After my last child was born, I finally went to college, where a professor pointed me in the direction of romance. I'd never read a romance novel, but I knew immediately that I'd found a home. The very first book sold, and nearly 40 years later, I'm still at it, with almost a hundred books to show for it.
The latest is the third and final book in the Prodigal Ranch series, HER COWBOY BOSS. I know every inch of the fictional town of War Bonnet, where the series is set, and all the surrounding area. I've played in its dusty ravines, attended its churches and schools, driven its red dirt roads in a pickup truck, and ridden the pastures on horseback. I hope you'll come home with me and that you'll enjoy the trip as much as I always do. I've been blessed to see much of this big, beautiful world of ours, but at heart I'll always be a country girl. Who writes.

18 comments:

  1. Arlene, thanks for sharing your story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this, Arlene! As another country girl--who writes--I can totally relate. Can't wait to read HER COwBOY BOSS!! (And I think you should write the story of your childhood, too--your home and family sprang to life for me in your descriptions of them! I'd love to read more!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a wonderful life story! Thank you for sharing, Arlene. I love how God moved through the people and circumstances in your life to fulfill the calling He placed in your heart.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love K-12 schools :) Sounds like you had a winner of a dad and winner of a teacher. Love, love, love cowboys.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a great story, Arlene. From one country girl to another I so understand. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow, Arlene. I loved reading this. I was writing a scene this morning that reminded me of how much books have always been a part of my life. I can't even imagine not reading. What an adventurous life you've had! Thanks for sharing your story and your stories.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Support and encouragement from parents and teachers is priceless, Arlene! You have truly been blessed, and I know your books are a blessing to your readers!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Loved reading this blog, Arlene! As another country girl, though from the northeast, I'm still grateful how you took this newly sold author thirty years ago and made her feel right at home in the big writing romance world. And I had to grin about your school. Mine had all of 600 kids in it, K-12, and we came from 6 different towns and 2 states. Everyone definitely knew everyone else!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always get to say, "I knew her when..." You've always had big talent and have made a great place for yourself in our world.

      Delete
  9. Arlene, the support of a parent means everything, doesn't it? So glad you had a wise father so we can get all of your wonderful stories now.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hey Arlene,
    I'm a transplanted country girl. I was born in rural AR, but then moved to Chicago and Atlanta. My dad worked as a carpenter back then and we followed the housing booms. When I was 12, we moved back to rural AR. My school was K-12 with 100 students total. My graduating class had 20 students, one of the largest ever. As you can imagine, I experienced major culture shock and thought my life was over for a long time, but now I wouldn't live anywhere else. I married a Texan, so that's my favorite state and cowboys are always good.

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a wonderful blog. Your journey makes me smile. You had a talent, knew it and worked hard. Yeah, Arlene.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Arlene, your story touched me deeply! Thanks for sharing, and congrats on your long and successful career. God bless your dad and that special teacher for recognizing your ability and for supporting your dream.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Arlene, your story is a true American dream come true. Thanks for sharing. From one country gal to another, I can sure relate. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you Arlene for sharing such a beautiful story!! It's so wonderful to see all the people weaved through the tapestry of your life who led you to being the author you are today!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm glad so many of you can relate. I've been truly blessed in too many ways to count.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Yay for parents who encourage their kids dreams and teachers who help kids fly. What a lovely post, Arlene! My college professor also steered me to romance, specifically Harlequin. If only that 20 year me had listened. It took me another 15 years before I made the decision to follow his advice.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great post, Arlene. You have been an inspiration and mentor to me from the start! I grew up in the country (in case you can't tell from my accent). The discipline of farm life has served me well in writing. My parents were simple folks but when I told them I wanted to be a writer, I found a typewriter under the Christmas tree that next Christmas! I wore that thing out with really bad, melodrama love stories that I sold on the school campus!

    ReplyDelete