Tuesday, September 22, 2020

So Little Time

Had I known I would one day become a writer, I would have done far more reading in my early years. Reading good literature is probably the most important preparation there is for becoming a writer. I wish I had devoured all the classics as I was growing up: Dickens, Brontë, Austen, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and others. Of course, many of these authors’ works were covered on my required reading for school, but I should have consumed so many more...when I had the time...instead of playing catch-up in my sixties and seventies. 

Classic literature, like classic music, has stood the test of time for a reason. By definition, it is recognized to be of the highest rank of excellence. The classics are works of enduring significance that I could have studied all these years, learning at the knees of the great masters. 

The ability to express one’s thoughts on paper with accuracy and elegance is a craft which, like any craft, requires study, practice, critique, rewrites, and more practice. In many cases, talent plays a miniscule role in producing a good essay, poem, or novel.  

Perhaps the Brontës were inherently gifted as writers, but according to Juliet Barker, author of the biography, The Brontës, their literary upbringing served their talent well. They were voracious readers. On page 169, Barker writes:

“From the books that we know the Brontës possessed, it is possible to deduce something of the education Patrick [Brontë] offered his children.” 

Barker goes on to list history, geography and grammar texts. “Each,” she says, “was heavily annotated” by the children and undoubtedly provided inspiration for the people and places they would invent. But, according to Barker’s research, the Brontë household’s collection of books also included second-hand volumes of classic literature by Homer, Horace, and Virgil, to name a few--second-hand because books were expensive in the nineteenth century and were considered an extravagance--and these other literary treasures:

“...a 1743 edition of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, a 1791 edition of the hymn writer, Isaac Watts’ Doctrine of the Passions and a 1797 edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost.”

Also displayed prominently in the Brontës' home library were numerous volumes of the Bible, plus poetry books, texts from their father’s Cambridge education, and a copy of The Union Dictionary. What I find incredible is that they mastered the art of writing without the benefit of internet research or a readily available Thesaurus. Theirs was a thorough, well-rounded education whose teachers were books. 

As a late-blooming author, I am envious of the Brontë sisters who were encouraged to start early in life and fill their days reading. At my age, I’ve had to adopt the mantra, “So many books; so little time.” 

Now, please excuse me while I curl up in my favorite chair and whittle away at my reading list.  

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of three award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:

www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available at

amazon.com or hightidepublications.com Coming soon: After Rain, Devotions for Comfort and Peace.


Friday, September 11, 2020

A Day I'll Never Forget

That Tuesday morning in September 2001, I dressed for my school’s first day of classes. Good Morning America aired on the bedroom TV nearby, but I wasn’t tuned in to Charles Gibson. Rather, I focused on reviewing my lesson plans and checking off the mental list of preparations necessary for a successful start of the school year.

At 8:59, the television’s abrupt silence caught my attention. Wondering if the power had failed, I turned from the bathroom mirror toward the screen to witness a rare occurrence: a confused, mute host of a popular, upbeat morning show. Gibson’s too-calm demeanor belied a palpable tension. For a moment, he shuffled the papers on his desk and manipulated his earpiece. I expected the “Breaking News” warning to flash like it had in November 1963, the day of JFK’s assassination...another unforgettable moment in history--the kind of day when you recall exactly where you were, what you were doing, and how you felt.

The difference was that, nearly sixty years before, I had been sitting in my eighth grade math class when the announcement came over the loudspeaker, unable to watch Walter Cronkite’s profound reaction to breaking news until that evening. Like every family in America, my family gathered around our black-and-white TV until bedtime when we lay awake wondering if the world was ending.

Precisely at 9:00 am, a plane headed straight for one of the Twin Towers in New York City not far from Times Square where Charles Gibson sat in his GMA studio. A sickening explosion followed. Somehow, an eye-witness had caught the exact moment of impact. It was happening in real time. Gibson could only try to make sense of what his audience was already seeing. Was it a tragic accident? What actually was happening? Wait! Wasn’t that an American Airlines plane? When a second plane crashed into the South Tower, we knew. Every viewer had caught the indelible image, and fear engulfed a nation.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

Just as Gibson began to make sense of the unfolding event, sorting the jumbled messages that surely deluged his earpiece, he learned of a plane crash in Pennsylvania and another plane crashing into the Pentagon. Could they be related? Had war reached our Atlantic shore? Surely not. This is America, after all--“land of the free and home of the brave.” Wars happen in faraway places, not here.

Within moments, President Bush had grounded every American airplane and put the U.S. military on high alert. Eyewitness reports, including photographs and videos taken by reporters and ordinary citizens, alike, flooded news stations. They were surreal; they were grim.

It was just the beginning.

I sank to the bed, paralysis gripping me. Yet I knew I had to go to work. Teachers, parents, and children would converge on the school at 9:30. Children needing reassurance would ask questions I couldn’t answer. I had a ten-minute drive in which to prepare.

On September 20th, 2001, President George W. Bush declared that the United States of America was at war. Life would never be the same.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of three award-winning short stories, three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home, and After Rain, a book of weekly devotions prompted by the pandemic.  To learn more, visit her website: www.cindylfreeman.com. Her books are available at amazon.com or hightidepublications.com

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Words Have Power

Recently, an interviewer asked me who inspired my desire to become a writer. Certainly there have been numerous “writer heroes” whose work I admire, some famous, others more obscure. But one person stands out as leaving the greatest impression upon me. Her name was Mrs. Davis, and she was my seventh-grade English teacher.

From an early age, I knew I would be a singer and a music teacher. That’s what I had studied in college, and, indeed, music education became my long career. But for many years, I set aside another persistent dream. Starting from an early age, I wrote journal entries, poems, stories, and plays. I couldn't help myself. I had a love affair with words and a burgeoning appreciation for the beauty of language.

Mrs. Davis’ job was to teach English to a bunch of pimply faced preteens. I remember her as young--probably straight out of college--beautiful, and kind. Yes, she taught us grammar, punctuation, and the importance of correct spelling, but the most important thing I learned from her was that carefully chosen words have power...the power to influence and the power to stir deep emotions.

Mrs. Davis assigned her students a weekly essay topic. Some of my classmates balked at this assignment, but I couldn’t wait for Mondays when we would see the week’s writing topic displayed on the blackboard in her classroom. I always wanted to get started immediately. Why? Partly because I loved to write but also because Mrs. Davis appreciated my writing. She never graded my essays below an A and always included an encouraging, affirming note. Additionally, she displayed my work on the bulletin board outside her classroom, and, as I learned later that year, she read my essays aloud to all of her classes.

I recall one instance in particular. As she was sharing my essay with the class, she began to cry. I don’t remember the topic, but I will never forget the euphoria I felt in realizing my words had stirred my favorite teacher to tears. That was the moment I realized that words have power.

If, in my teaching career, I have touched even one student as profoundly as Mrs. Davis touched me, it has all been worth it. To have your hero believe in you and admire your work is, indeed, powerful. Through the years, I’ve tried to locate Mrs. Davis...to thank her for her inspiration. Chances are, she is no longer alive, but she lives on in the heart of this "literary late bloomer" who finally fulfilled her dream of becoming an author.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of three award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or www.hightidepublications.com. Coming soon: After Rain, Devotions for Comfort and Peace.