At the same time I was finishing up my teacher education in college I signed up to substitute teach. I was assigned schools outside the city and in the country. It felt like a whole other planet. I remember a principal saying they didn’t assign homework because so many of the students didn’t have electric lights. And, I had to think: What century is this?
I liked to ride my bike in the hills surrounding Athens, Ohio where I attended Ohio University. I’d pass by trailers much like Roland’s, where maybe someone had tried to beautify the grass-bare yard with a plastic pink flamingo. I would imagine what it must be like to live there.
Meanwhile, I graduated college and moved to Chicago. Yet, somewhere, in the back of my mind, was that question—the beginning of a story.
That’s how stories often begin: with a question, a simple wondering. I’m sure J. K. Rowling had to ask herself what it must be like to be an orphan where your foster parents make you sleep in a closet under the stairs while the whole time you are a talented wizard-in-waiting. How does it feel to be a boy with a special talent?
I feel that to be a writer we must have empathy. Empathy is taking into consideration the thoughts and feelings of others. When we empathize we can more easily feel someone else’s pain, understand their worries. It is the same concept as walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. It makes it harder to judge our neighbor when we realize what they are going through.
How do the characters in Cloud of Witnesses empathize or begin to understand one another better?
My latest book, Cloud of Witnesses, comes out in September! Check it out here.
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