Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ladies and Ships Never Tell

As a trained journalist, I've had the opportunity to ask authors many pointed questions over the years. These probing questions are not my first line of questions but often slipped into the right moment of an interview.

Probably at least fifteen years ago I interviewed Lois Gladys Leppard, the bestselling author of the Mandie book series from Bethany House Publishers. This gentle southern-breed woman from Greenville, South Carolina never failed to make a strong impression on me with her flowing shoulder-length red hair. When we exchanged business cards, Lois reached inside her purse and pulled out a small golden container. She selected one of her cards and handed it to me.

We met at her first Christian bookseller meeting and I gave her a bit of orientation to the structure of the floor and where to get a map of the exhibit hall. She never forgot those small actions on my part. In fact, I've got a copy of the first Mandie book on my bookshelf called Mandie and the Secret Tunnel with her clear script signature which says, "For Terry Whalin -- With memories of my first CBA and meeting you. Lois Gladys Leppard. July 24, 2002."

Originally, Lois wrote Mandie and the Secret Tunnel at age eleven--and it was published years later in 1983. In my first meeting, I could tell Lois was in the "senior" category but I had no idea of her age so I asked.

She smiled and told me, "Ladies and ships never tell their age." It was a bit of information which I never managed to uncover about Lois despite our numerous interviews and a number of magazine articles which I wrote about her.

I have personally witnessed the mobs of young readers who loved the chance to meet Lois Gladys Leppard. Her adoring fans will be shocked to learn the news which revealed an unusual detail about her life--her age: "POPULAR CHILDREN’S AUTHOR LOIS GLADYS LEPPARD DECEASED AT EIGHTY-FOUR."

While you'd almost never imagine it from the "juvenile fiction" of the Mandie books, they have sold over seven million copies. If you haven't read one, I encourage you to get a copy and curl up with the story of this young adventurer as she tackles mysteries. It will send you back to another time and place for a few hours. I love these books and can see how they stir the imagination of young people everywhere.

Earth's loss is heaven's gain with the passing of Lois Gladys Leppard. I wanted to give you several keys for your own writing life that I learned from Lois.

First, never give up on pursuing your dreams. As recently as several years ago, Lois was pitching full length adult novels that she was plotting and writing to move beyond her Mandie audience. Your writing dreams will change over the years but hold them in your heart and work every day toward accomplishing something on that dream to move it forward.

Second, never forget your beginnings and where you started your work in publishing. Lois understood the importance of relationships. She built and maintained those relationships in the publishing community. A long-time publicist at Bethany House, Jeanne Mikkelson told me that Lois remembered to send her birthday cards.

Also Lois continually promoted her books. You can see that evidence at her website and I can tell you firsthand because to my surprise I often would receive autographed copies of her books. Finally Lois was committed to growing in her craft as a writer. She was an active participant in mystery writer groups and other ways to learn about improving her writing.

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3 Comment:

At 11:20 AM, Blogger Eva Ulian Left a note...

Lovely article about a lovely lady, Terry, from whom I for first will learn some lessons on what writers are all about. For one thing, without sounding superficial, I'll take her tip about one's age- from now on I'll never publish it again- By the way, I'm following you on twitter- that's how I got the link.

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Bonita Rose Left a note...

great post Terry, tfs! She sounds like an incredible woman and I love the writer's advice you shared with all of us, good food for thought, thank you. Having you in my corner makes all the difference as I write my first manuscript! *note/ I'm following u on twitter too!

At 8:21 PM, Blogger Krista Phillips Left a note...

Good grief that makes me want to cry! I LOVED the Mandie books. They were what made me fall in love with Christian fiction as a child. I have a 7 year old daughter, and just the other day I was telling her about them and how I had to find some for her to read.

At a very young age I would stay up till wee hours of the night (with a flashlight so my parents didn't know...) and read them!

This wonderful lady will be greatly missed!! May her writing continue to inspire and spark the creativity of young readers for years to come


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