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Saturday, 16 February 2008
Getting to Know Mary Ellen Courville
Topic: Author Interview
Mary Ellen Courville the person:

1. What three words do you think describe you as a human being?

Good intentioned- I never mean to put my foot in my mouth, yet the pleathery taste of shoe sole remains. 

Grace-filled- I am awed by the grace God has shown me, and I try to show that same grace to others.  We even named our daughter Grace (although long time friends persist in thinking that her name stemmed from my own high school nickname "Grace," with which I was sarcastically dubbed due to my lack of coordination). 

Encouraging- I believe encouragement is one of the most meaningful free gifts we can offer each other

2. How do you think others would describe you? 

Talkative- Well, they might describe me that way if I let them get a word in edgewise.  Energetic, enthusiastic or excited, I think round out the list. 

3.    Please tell us what you are most passionate about outside of writing. 

Teenage is a time I will never forget.  I am a passionate advocate for teens.  I want them to understand that they are not alone.  To this end, I teach teenagers English and writing.  More often, however, they teach me empathy and acceptance.  Teenage is a humbling time, when teens haven't mastered the adult art of keeping emotions in check and wearing many masks.  I learn from teens how to embrace the reality of the clutzy, foot-in-mouth, frizzy haired person God created me to be. 

4.  Do you have any pets?  If so, introduce us to them.

Smokie joined our family a year and a half ago after we bought our first home. Her shivering body and big black eyes couldn't be denied at a local animal shelter's adoption day.  Over the past year her black coat has thickened and grayed.  She now has a streak of white that sticks up on top of her head like a Mohawk.  We think she's a schnauzer-terrier mix, but we constantly evaluate breeds trying to decide what her heritage may have been.  Spunky, sweet, wild-haired mutt, she's the perfect mix for our family. 

5.  What is your most precious memory?

Last year, one of my students wrote a letter nominating me to be the local Wal-Mart 2007 teacher of the year.  I didn't learn of this until months later during a special assembly.  That May morning I looked into the audience and saw my children, who were supposed to be in class, sitting beside my principal.  Before I had time to wonder why, the speaker at the microphone called me forward.  A Wal-Mart manager stood at the podium with a six foot long check made out to the school in honor of me, their 2007 Teacher of the Year.  The most precious part of that award was standing with my children hugging me on stage and reading the encouraging words of the nomination letter penned by one of my students.

6.  What is your most embarrassing memory?  

Have I mentioned my love of coffee?  What about my lack of coordination?  These two traits unite for one of a plethora of embarrassing moments.  A few years ago as I began my morning class, I put down my Styrofoam cup of coffee. As the class progressed, I lost track of where I'd put my untouched coffee.  Near the end of the class, I perched upon a stool in the front of the room.  The upside of that moment is that I finally found my coffee; the downside is that the coffee was still warm as it decorated my posterior.  There are many reasons that teenagers enjoy my class.  I only hope that a love of literature and writing rank close to their enjoyment of seeing my daily episodes of grace.

7.  If you weren't a writer, what would you be doing with your life? 

If not a writer, I would still be a mother, a teacher, a wife and a friend.  I pray daily that God would write through me and use my experiences to somehow help or encourage other people.  If I didn't claim the role of writer, my prayer wouldn't change.  The difference would only be the medium.  Without a keyboard, I would perhaps record in scrapbooks and photographs the vignettes and stories I now collect on paper.  Maybe my lens of life would find its way into paintings, and art would reach out to others from my experiences.  

Mary Ellen Courville the writer:

8.  Can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a "real" writer?

Seated in the waiting area of a local music studio where my daughter was taking piano lessons, I read quietly to my son.  Across from me another parent took her seat and began to flip through a local parenting magazine.  I eyed the woman across from me covertly as I continued reading to my son.  She settled on an article and became fully absorbed, never making eye contact with me.  Over the top of the magazine I could see the article she was reading.  I recognized the picture and the page layout.  The woman facing me smothered a chuckle and continued to read.  I wondered which part had made her laugh.  I wanted so much to ask her; I wanted to reach over and introduce myself.  I thought about my introduction, "My name is Mary Ellen, and I wrote the article you are reading."  It sounded too strange to me, so I didn't speak.  At that moment however strange it sounded, I realized that somewhere along the way, I had actually become a writer.      

9.  What is going on with your writing these days? 

This year everything is growing.  From the seed of a true tale told to me, a fiction children's book took root.  Now, in September 2008 "The Pilgrim's Basket" a children's story based on a Louisiana classroom service learning project is set to see library and bookstore shelves near you.   I am setting up next year's calendar of readings, classroom visits and book signings.  is  "The Pilgrim's Basket" blog.   The book's challenge to people of all ages to reach out and serve their communities makes it a perfect kickoff for canned food drives, service project days and other outreach opportunities.  I'm especially excited with the prospect of kicking off the book's promotions in Ruston, Louisiana with the help of those giving people who inspired the book in the first place.   

10.  What are your future goals for your writing? 

I am in the revising stages of "SLAP,"my young adult novel which is based on the events following the 2005 Louisiana hurricanes.  Bringing this story to life requires patience, but it has a grip on my heart.  I believe it is a story that begs to be told, and I plan to persevere in seeing it through to publication. 

11.  Can you describe a typical writing day for you? 

I write best when the world is sleeping.  At four AM the quiet click of my laptop keys blends with the drip of percolating coffee and the flurry of ideas awakening on the screen.  I write in small snatches in notebooks that surround me, in my purse, my pocket, my briefcase, or my drawers.  These hidden idea catchers keep my mind writing even when I'm away from my computer.

12.  Why do you write?

I write to find out what I think.  If I go too long without a pen or a keyboard, my thoughts become jumbled.  Writing brings me clarity and is often cathartic.  

13.   What writer most inspires you?  Why? 

Harper Lee inspires me because of the questions To Kill a Mockingbird asks but doesn't blatantly answer.  The reader wants to apply the book to life today and see if it has relevance.  I like that.  I love her use of language as well.

14.  How do you define your writing? 

Encouraging- I would hope readers could see a shred of themselves in the characters and feel encouraged or challenged to reach out and encourage others.

15.  In one sentence-what do you want people to say about your writing in fifty years? 

There's no way that writer from 2008 could have intended this to apply to my life, but it still has meaning to me. 

Mary Ellen Courville the details:

16.  Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website?  Blog? my website and parenting articles  my life blog  my Y/A "SLAP" site  my children's book "Pilgrim's Basket" blog

17.  Is there a place where readers can reach you?

18.  Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?

"The Pilgrim's Basket" by Living Waters Publications September 2008

 "Breathe" published in the "Imagine" anthology 2007

 Various parenting articles available through my website

19.  For new readers-what can they expect when they read your book(s)?

Whether they read my articles about mommy-hood or stories about giving hearted children, readers of my writing should find encouragement that inspires them to reach out to others.

In conclusion:

20.  Take as much space as necessary to speak to our readers-what would you like them to know about you and your writing? 

This writing journey is a humbling one.  It's a balanced juggle of living life and writing it.  There is no clear map of how to get from point A to Z, so my best attempt is to simply appreciate the rabbit trails and coffee spills along the way.  Maybe Z wasn't even my destination.  My most meaningful writing may have been the letter I wrote to my sick friend or the thank you note I sent to a virtual stranger.  For now, I'm clacking along the keyboard alphabet, progressing to the letter P for publication and promotion, knowing that it will send me back to A as I open a new file, start a new chapter and begin again.   

Posted by joyceanthony at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 16 February 2008 12:40 AM EST
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