Why I Write
I spent an extraordinary morning at Fortune Academy last Friday. It is truly a remarkable place. I met amazing parents, teachers, and administrators devoting their lives to young people with learning differences. These committed adults are making bright futures for all the talented students at this remarkable school. It’s obvious why children apply from all over the world to Fortune Academy.
One young man, though, made me cry. As I was touring the school with its marvelous founder, Janet George, we stopped in an English classroom at the high school. When Ms. George introduced me, saying I was the novelist who had written Farmer’s Son, a teenage boy suddenly stood to speak. The class fell silent as the surprised teacher looked on.
He addressed me, telling me he had something to say. He said he didn’t read. Full stop. But… he had read Farmer’s Son. It had taken him two weeks, but he had done it. He then went on to tell me how much the book meant to him, how much of a difference it made for his life. He put his hand on his heart as he spoke.
I realized that I was listening to a modern-day Bobby, just as challenged as the 1970s protagonist in my novel, and I realized that Bobby’s story in Farmer’s Son had reached out to help this young man.
I teared up as he kept speaking. I looked at his English teacher, who was crying too. We both looked at Ms. George, standing next to me, and she had puddled up as well. When the boy finished, the class all clamored to read the book. I offered to return to Indianapolis to discuss it when they were done.
Why do I write? That boy is my answer. If I can encourage one hard-working child, if I can support one loving parent in this daily fight, if I can provide one devoted teacher a new resource, then I have succeeded. If I can create work that reassures people they are not alone, that their stories are worth telling, that they count too, then I have achieved my dream as a writer.
Thank you Janet George and Fortune Academy and everyone I met for a morning I will never forget. Thanks to that earnest teenager for the rare gift of his words, which I will forever carry with me. He has encouraged me on this writing path more than he can ever know.