GALLERY: Author inspires future writers at ACCS

Published 12:11 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Imagination and a notebook are what helped author Deborah Wiles to create a dozen fictional stories for children, she shared with 4th-graders at Adams County Christian School on Wednesday afternoon.

Wiles is one of many featured at Copiah Lincoln Community College’s annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration that takes place today through Saturday, with most panels taking place at the Natchez Convention Center.

Wiles will be there at 1:15 p.m. today with copies of her books, including “Each Little Bird That Sings,” a National Book Award finalist.

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Each student got a copy that she signed on Wednesday.

The 4th-graders participated in a writing assignment after reading the book and then listened to the author make a presentation about her Mississippi heritage and what inspired the characters in her book.

“I turned my brother into a 9-year-old girl,” she said, which the students answered with a roar of laughter. “Using your imagination, you can do that,” she added. “My brother is a United States Marine. When I wrote ‘Love, Ruby Lavender’ I gave him the first copy and I said, ‘Mike, I’ve written my first chapter book and you’re in it.’ He said, ‘I am?’ I said, ‘You’re on page 8.’”

Wiles told the children that her brother turned to his introduction on page 8 and read it aloud, “Melba Jane wore seven satin ribbons in her curly brown hair — I’m not in here.”

“I said, ‘Yes you are. You’re a girl!’”

She also turned her “creepy old Aunts” into three hens the same way, using her imagination of how she viewed them as a child.

Her second book — “Each Little Bird That Sings” — Wiles said she wrote when she was sad after losing her grandmother and a lot of important people in her life.

She found an old picture in a box with dozens of newspaper clippings of obituaries when she went through her grandmother’s things. She looked at the photograph and laughed because each person in it wore a serious face, no smile.

“They were so serious because they only had one picture they would have for a long, long time. Not like today when we take hundreds of pictures with our phones,” she said.

Wiles said she then would walk the cemetery and find the names she found in her grandmother’s box.

With a little imagination and a notebook, Wiles told ACCS children that they, too, can create their own stories. She starts by writing down words that describe how she feels. Then she turns those words into sentences.

“I used to write ‘sad, sad, sad’ on every page every day,” she said. “Then I wrote, ‘I am so sad.’ And I had a sentence. Then I wrote why I was so sad. After about five minutes I had the first sentence. ‘I come from a family with a lot of dead people,’” she said.