|Glenda Beall is seated in front of Gene Vickers, author|
A few years ago, I asked for members to volunteer to staff our NCWN-West booth at the Festival on the Square. A former student of mine, Gene Vickers, now an author of several books, stepped up to help.
The first time I met Gene was in 2008 when I taught a writing class to earn money to help pay for publishing our very popular Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, an anthology filled with poems and narratives by western North Carolina writers and by writers from the North Georgia mountains.
My husband, Barry, had recently been diagnosed with cancer. I was still in shock and very afraid. I told my students in that class about Barry and what we were facing. I didn't dwell on it and went on to teach my class. At the end when I thanked everyone for coming, a man stood up and said to the group, " We need to pray for this lady as she faces some tough times ahead."
I wanted to cry. I felt that this man knew what was happening to me and I did need prayer and comfort. That man was Gene Vickers who did not know me and I did not know him.
That year was as tough as it gets as Barry began chemo and radiation. We were both so afraid but had hope that he would beat this insidious disease that claimed the lives of so many. It had taken my dear brother, Ray, from me. I would not let myself believe that it would take Barry. But it did. In 2009, he died in a hospice center in Cumming Georgia after spending weeks in Emory Hospital.
In an effort to start a life with meaning and substance, I remodeled my daylight basement and began my writing studio, Writers Circle Around the Table. It was the best therapy for me as I grieved.
A few years later, Gene Vickers registered for a class at my studio. He was the only man in the class and I think he was uncomfortable. After the class closed, he asked if I would give him private lessons. I had not taught privately before, but I knew Gene did not like taking classes with others. And I knew he had a massive imagination. In class when I gave a prompt to have my students write something, Gene would write a full-fledged short story within five minutes.
It was obvious he was a writer. But he had not been educated as a writer or taken workshops to fine-tune his capabilities. He was well-read and discussed authors he liked and how many of them ignored the rules we taught and felt were important. He came to my studio for one hour each week and I enjoyed working with him. He was a quick learner and I saw his progress increase every week.
He was also a member of a writing group where he shared his stories and received feedback. His first book was filled with many of the stories we worked on in my studio. It is a delightful book in which teddy bears talk. The bears are real and live in the home of Gene and his wife Elaine. He said this book was for his grandchildren. It is also a good book for empty-nesters.
Gene followed my advice and found an editor who helped him publish the book. His books are available on Amazon and in local bookstores.
This is one of my favorites: "Set in the mountains of North Georgia, Amen and Amen is an unforgettable story about people learning to love one another in spite of societal boundaries and cultural divides. More than that, it raises questions about whether those boundaries and divides actually exist outside the minds of the characters who have been conditioned to dislike people who are not like them. Residents of gated mansions and double-wide trailers appear to have little in common with one another until a millionaire's son and the daughter of a factory worker fall in love.