Happy 4th of July readers! Today I’m joined on the porch by Author Ann Hite. I met Ann virtually a few weeks ago and was inspired by her personal journey. I asked her to sit on the porch with me today and share it with you. So…we have our sweet tea and I’m ready to share her inspirational story with you. Let’s listen:
“It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones.”
–The Journey by Mary Oliver
On June 25, 2001 my comfortable life turned sideways. It was a Monday and the whole weekend I had been restless, antsy, for no good reason. Around nine o’clock that night, the phone rang. I will never forget it because I had just got my one-year-old to sleep for the night. My husband answered the phone, and I gave him the look. You know the one that says Really do we have to answer this?
When that call comes, the one that alters a person’s world, you sense it. In those few seconds before you know for sure, you know. That’s how I felt before my husband even said hello.
My forty-eight-year-old brother in-law had been found dead in his kitchen by his boss, who stopped by to see why he hadn’t come to work that day. A massive heart attack, the widow-maker, took him down in only a blink of an eye. I found myself plunged into a new desperateness, as if I were forgetting something very important. I was. My art. I left BP Oil, where I worked in the marketing department, on bereavement leave. When I returned I was not the woman who sought to move up in the company any longer. Somewhere in that week, my life changed. It began with a poem that was placed in my hands, The Journey by Mary Oliver, during those days before the funeral.
I was born a storyteller and writer. As far back as I remembered, I hoarded pens and pencils, journals. I was an observer, watching all that went on around me, processing and translating through my imagination to story form. When I was ten, my mother punished me numerous times for reading my young brother ghost stories I had written that kept him awake at night. My first short story came to me when I was eleven and my grandmother passed a copy of Jane Eyre to me. After reading it, I went to my journal and wrote the mad wife’s point of view. So this is where my passion began. I never questioned the fact that I could be witness to some horrible event—in one case a car accident in progress—and feel myself storing away the details for later use. Not to mention the characters speaking to me at odd times.
Joe, my brother in-law, lived alone with no children or wife. When we went into his house the day after the phone call, we found a room dedicated to his oil painting, a gift the family thought he’d given up on long before. Several of the canvas were unfinished but beautifully haunting. I thought of my writing. I thought of the recent cast of characters that came to me with full blown family stories. What if I died? Would anyone really know I dreamed of being a novelist? Would anyone care? I stood in Joe’s studio room and promised myself I would write my novel and I would get it traditionally published. I would learn from his death and make something good come from it.
On August 24, 2015, fourteen years later, I received a contract in the mail from Mercer University for this dreamed about manuscript. I’m now a novelist and this book will be my fourth novel published in my Black Mountain Series. Understand, this manuscript was finished in a raw form in less than six months after my brother in-law’s death. I promptly shoved it under the bed because I had enough sense to know it was terrible. Then I moved on to my next book which would become the awarding winning Ghost On Black Mountain.
Joe actually died twenty-four hours earlier, June 24, 2001, than the date on his death certificate while he cooked his dinner. Throughout my home hangs my husband’s art. Along with his pieces are Joe’s unfinished and finished oil paintings. I never fail to stop and understand I’m living my dream. I’m taking my journey. I say a silent thanks.
I think following your dream is one of the most important things a writer can do. Never give up. Thanks so much Ann for sharing your story with us. Find out more about Ann on the Porch Guests page.
Enjoy your day with your family and friends and be safe.