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Three authors who share a common thread that weaves through Lancaster County have recently published books.
The Rev. Jesse Adams became an author quite unexpectedly.
Harriett Hodges Diller became an accomplished author years ago and continues to write.
Malcolm Jones has made a very successful living reviewing books and is now writing his own.
Here are their stories.
Adams a reluctant writer
The Rev. Jessie Adams never imagined he would one day be an author.
“I don’t even like to write,” he said.
But after serving as youth minister for 10 years, Adams decided to further his education and enrolled at Carolina Bible College near Concord, N.C., to work on a master’s degree in theology.
Part of Adams’ coursework involved a 30,000-word dissertation, which he saw as an overwhelming challenge.
However, once Adams selected his topic, he said the words began to flow.
Little did he know at the time, this final work would become his first book, “A Guide to the Spiritual Development of Children.”
His professor, Ronnie Simpson, was so pleased with the finished manuscript that he encouraged Adams to send it to a publishing company, which picked it up.
“A Guide to the Spiritual Development of Children” is based on information Adams gathered from three random, confidential surveys of teenagers.
Simple and straightforward, the book has struck a unexpected chord with many.
Adams will have a book signing at Annette’s Hallmark House, Lancaster Square Shopping Center, from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday.
“Children and teenagers don’t come with guide books,” he said. “Using the teenagers’ own words, I wanted parents to see how their children feel. Even if you don’t have teenagers, this book will help you understand how our young adults feel and what we can do to help them.”
Adams advises parents to make their children feel great just the way they are. He uses Bible verses from Proverbs and Matthew to provide spiritual guidance and then follows up on the scripture with suggestions that draw on his own personal experiences as a youth pastor.
Adams said one survey question was, “If you could change one thing about your home life, what would it be?”
The No. 1 answer was, “I would like to spend more time with my dad, or I would like a closer relationship with my dad.”
“As parents, we tend to get wrapped up in our everyday routines leaving little time for interaction with our teens,” Adams said. “We need to be part of their lives, not just a financial supporter.
“Understanding what is important to them, making time, and showing them that you care is as meaningful to them as it is to you.”
Diller preserves Lancaster life in ‘Confirming Kershaw’
Harriett Hodges Diller grew up on Hawthorne Road in Lancaster. By the seventh grade, her writing talent began to emerge. Diller finished school, married and started out as a freelance writer for the children’s magazine, Highlights.
After 10 years of writing short stories, Dillers was approached by one of the Highlights’ editors who suggested she take her writing in a different direction.
“They were beginning a children’s book division and asked me to submit a manuscript,” Diller said. “I decided I’d give it a try and later authored a total of six books.”
Her most recent work, “Confirming Kershaw,” has a distinct local flavor.
A work of fiction set in the 1960’s, it has many Lancaster landmarks cleverly sprinkled throughout, including the town of Springdale.
Hagins Drugstore, Springdale Cotton Mill (the World’s Largest Cotton Mill Under One Roof), North Junior High School, Forty Acre Rock, Flat Creek Tower and First Methodist Church are also included.
“I wanted to use this book to bring Lancaster’s past back to life,” Diller said. “So much is gone now, I wanted to preserve the way life was then.”
“Confirming Kershaw,” follows the adventures of 13-year-old Kershaw Brittingham as she struggles whether to take a class to ultimately achieve confirmation into the Methodist faith or to become Hindu. Her beehive hairstyle-wearing mother insists that the teenager attend their pastor’s confirmation classes, but Kershaw resists and sneaks off into her own world.
Kershaw’s brother, Mark, bought a book, “Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation” that becomes her personal roadmap for discovering her faith.
She turns the garden shed of a neighbor, Mr. Bundy, into a makeshift ashram where she read her brother’s book while completing Methodist confirmation exercises on her own. Kershaw diligently searches for spiritual truth, but only finds more questions until the events of her life begin providing those answers.
She also shares many teenage adventures with her best friend, Penny. One those is involves Kershaw’s crush on Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek). One night, the two girls call the Nimoy’s parents with a yarn that they are writing a story on Leonard for school and need his middle name. After hanging up the phone, they jump on Kershaw’s twin bed, screaming in laughter.
Kershaw’s younger brother, “Jimmy” (aka, former S.C. Gov. Jim Hodges) is cast as a walking encyclopedia of commercial jingles and TV shows who constantly pesters his sister (and family) with his characterizations.
The book is also peppered with references to signs of the times, including other television shows, music and popular products.
Diller said while the book was written for middle school children, many adults have enjoyed the 1960s look at their childhood years.
Malcolm Jones’ literary credits span back to his college years at Wake Forest University when he was a part-time newspaper reporter. After graduation, he served as an editorial writer and later, as a book editor for newspapers from Greensboro to Petersburg, Fla. For the last 21 years, Jones has worked in various capacities with Newsweek magazine, including reporter, all-purpose culture writer, and book and features reviewer.
Given this background, his career took an interesting turn whenever he added author to this impressive list of career achievements.
Jones memoir, “Little Boy Blues,” was released earlier this year. Based on his childhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jones vividly depicts his dysfunctional family with Lancaster County roots.
“I lived here until age 2, but my family had been here forever,” Jones said. “Half of my family worked for Springs.”
Throughout the years, Jones and his mother were mostly alone. He said his father was an absent alcoholic, who disappeared for weeks at a time. Jones’ mother, an English teacher, stretched every dollar to make ends meet. She was a strong willed, musically-gifted woman determined to raise Jones as a well-mannered, God-fearing young man.
Jones said he and his mother moved to Winston Salem after leaving Lancaster, where his dad continued to drift in and out of their lives. While his mother worked, he spent most of the time with his childless aunt and uncle.
At the age of five, Jones’ uncle took him to a local marionette show where he fell in love with the stringed characters. As Christmases and birthdays began to pass, he soon amassed a large collection of marionettes and found great comfort in them.
Through the years, Jones and his mother traveled back to the Lancaster. Jones spent one summer with his estranged father, Mack, at Jones Crossroads, (named for Jones’ great grandfather). Here, his Uncle Richard owned a small country store. The store building still stands today, although it’s now an upholstery shop.
Jones describes many of his childhood memories vividly. One special memory includes a favorite uncle.
“It’s funny how some memories are so clear,” he said. “For example, the coins…I remember my uncle Buddy always giving me silver dollars. I never spent them, just collected them. They meant so much to me.”
Jones said writing “Little Boy Blues” was never planned. After his mother’s death in 2004, he simply wrote to understand, as he always did.
The book was four years in the making, but the time and effort was worthwhile. Jones was surprised and pleased to learn at his recent 40th high school class reunion that several of his classmates had read “Little Boy Blues.”
“They said the book has sparked their memories of childhood,” Jones said. “I’m happy to have set off a chain reaction causing people to think about their own lives.”