Mount Airy High School English students were told Thursday by the 2013 Georgia Author of the Year winner the story she is telling “is simply part of one big story and it’s important for you to tell your stories or there’s a hole in it.”
Author Kathy A. Bradley won the award for her work titled “Breathing and Walking Around” in the essay category of the contest. She is also a full-time assistant district attorney in juvenile prosecution. She told the classes here training in writing legal papers gave her a good foundation in writing with its emphasis on being precise and with an economy of words. She reminded them everyone has to write in their professions.
“Follow that one heart’s desire you have,” said Bradley. “That something in you telling you to be a dancer or a poet must have a way out. You don’t have to make a living at it but doing it will make you’re life complete.”
She said she knew in the second grade she wanted to be an author because that was when she first heard the word. Bradley said in 1996 a friend encouraged her to write down and send in a story about a local politician to the newspaper. The editor liked it and published it.
“I was in the newspaper. My name was at the top. I thought, how cool is that,” Bradley said. She wrote on another local issue she felt strongly about and sent it in. The newspaper printed this and followed up by asking her to become a columnist, which she accepted.
“People I didn’t know were walking up to me and telling me they liked it,” said Bradley.
A traumatic relationship event later halted her from continuing with the column as the retiring writer chose to keep to herself on her family’s farm which she describes as being “two miles away from the nearest paved road.”
Later a friend commented on how terrible it must be to have a gift and not use it which Bradley said “cut” her. She called the newspaper and they took her back as a columnist.
“When I started back writing, my perspective had changed,” Bradley said. “I was willing to be more honest about myself. I was more willing to tell the stories and the truth behind them.”
In 2010, Bradley said she found out about various contests through the Mercer University Press so she decided to collect her columns and enter them in the creative, non-fiction category. She later dropped the idea, but a niece who lives in Europe and writes strongly urged her to finish and submit the project.
Bradley made the deadline and waited for a response the following spring. On Dec. 6, she was told she had won the Campbell Prize for Creative Writing. Her second-grade dream had come true.
Bradley’s suggestions for young writers began with her telling them they must read. She said reading is the basis for everything a writer does.
“It is only by indiscriminately reading that you will figure out who can write and who can’t,” said Bradley. “You’ll learn what you like and don’t like and it gives you a good excuse for not writing. It’s personal development time.”
She also told the students they have to learn the rules of punctuation, grammar and syntax because writing is communication with other people and the rules are there so everyone can understand what’s written.
“You have to actually write at some point,” Bradley said. “That’s the hard part. You have to discipline yourself. I see some jerseys in the audience so I know you athletes understand what I’m talking about. Practice is so important.”
She read a passage from her book which explained she felt what she knew, she knew and that was all there was to know. In her second selection, she talked about how most children want to be an adjective, famous. Bradley pointed out few could name lists of persons with achievements, but everyone remembered someone who changed their life, such as a teacher or friend.
“Life is an unstandardized test. There is a reason pencils have erasers,” said Bradley. “There is no proctor to be sure you don’t look to others for answers. Observation is the first step to articulation.”
Referring to E.B. White’s book, “Charlotte’s Web,” Bradley also read an essay describing her hopes that a similar web at her home would contain the words “what a woman.” It didn’t, but she said the dew-covered creation showed her one effort of one life lived and a “web spun with passion and love” can change the world.
Bradley was at the school on the invitation of MAHS history teacher Babs Merritt, who is a friend of the author. She is also in the area as part of the Writers’ Police Academy event in Greensboro, where she will talk about creating authentic legal procedure and believable lawyers in crime writing.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 336-719-1952.