Elementary School Teacher Encouraged Author To Pursue His Passion

Guest Blog Post by Kendall Smith, Author of Vault 21-12

RIDGEWOOD, NEW JERSEY:  There is little doubt that teachers (good ones) can have a profound impact on the students they teach. Fortunately, I had an exceptional one who motivated me to follow my passion.

My second novel (Vault 21-12) continues to sell on Amazon and Kindle after debuting earlier in June. It is a thriller that represents a four-year effort and fortunately it has garnered solid reviews. I can directly associate my interest in writing back to one teacher at the Ho-Ho-Kus Elementary School. Fortunately, she was kind enough to provide me with a keepsake that motivated me to pursue the art of writing.

Mrs. Stenvall was my Ho-Ho-Kus Elementary School English teacher during the 1983-1984 school year and it represented my last before entering high school. She was one of the good ones, as many teachers were at that particular institution. The writing assignments she gave us included some freestyle opportunities; Write what ever you want. Given my age and interests at the time, I took a rather liberal interpretation to the assignment.

I wrote about war.

It was gory, it was detailed, and it raised her eyebrows on more than a few occasions. She did however see something in how I approached the assignment. I recall her telling me that despite the brutality of the short stories themselves, there was an element of talent in how I told them (her words, not mine). When asked if I could try to write about something else, I declined, but she encouraged me to keep writing.

Dozens of stories poured out thereafter. It was the result of reading too many Vietnam War novels during my adolescence. I can only imagine what went through her mind when she read these, but she never once discouraged me to stop writing. On many levels, it was thoughtful; She could see I was passionate about the subject.

Graduation day came in late June of 1984 and when it did, she handed me a gift. It was a book titled, The Next To Nothing Book, and it was filled with blank pages. It encouraged one to write down ideas, memories and stories. She inscribed the book and noted she was sure I would be published one day. I cannot recall her exact words, but it did indeed light a fire in me. I have treasured this keepsake not only for the message it conveyed, but also her hope that I would pursue writing.

The book she gave me sat on my bookshelf for decades, but not a year went by when her suggestion, and encouragement, didn’t come to mind. My first novel was self published in 2007 (Double-Edged Justice), a satirical blog project followed but I returned to penning thrillers in 2011. I have another that will be published by Percussion Publishing this year and a special project in draft mode that will see the light of day in 2016.

It’s going to take a case of dementia or Alzheimer's to shut me up at this point and I hope I can contribute (on some level) to what Walt Whitman referred to in Leaves Of Grass: “That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

Thank you Mrs. Stenvall.

A book that inspired the author, and his latest thriller, Vault 21-12

A book that inspired the author, and his latest thriller, Vault 21-12