Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My First Experience on the Writing Journey by Deb Hockenberry

A few days back, Deb gave me a chance to submit a guest post for her blog. Now she is honoring my blog by being a part of it. She narrates here her childhood adventure with 'writing. Those of you who are parents will enjoy this little bit from Deb's life when she was a child. We live in different times. But we all encourage our children's creativity and help them recognize and achieve their full potential. For Deb, things worked a little differently. Do you want to know what happened when she dared to 'write'? Well, read on. 

Deb Hockenberry

Hello, and thank you for having me to your blog, Sunaina. Today, I’d like to talk about one of my own experiences when I first became interested in writing and the importance of encouragement.

My parents started me on this journey we call writing. They always read and encouraged my siblings and me to read. Thus, started my love affair with books and my journey in writing for children. It really is a journey since it’s always changing. Back to my parents. They always encouraged us to follow our dreams. I always knew I had their support.

When, I was still in elementary school. I wanted to start a school newspaper for my elementary school. That was *ahem* quite some time ago!

Remember those toy typewriters that actually worked? Well, my sisters and I got a red one that year for Christmas. The thought of writing a newspaper for my elementary school popped into my head. The following March, I finally got the nerve to actually do it. One night after supper, I crept up to my bedroom to write my newspaper. It wasn’t going to be a big deal or anything.  I’d just have things that were happening in school, around the school yard, and things about teachers. I particularly remember writing how one of my schoolmates fell in a mud puddle (it rained buckets the night before) and she looked so silly. I also put in little tidbits about who was mad at who or who was being bullied. I typed up several copies of my “newspaper.”

I didn’t sell my masterpiece since it was the first issue. I figured that as it gained in popularity, I could sell it for a nickel.

It seems that the girl who fell in the mud puddle didn’t like my newsletter one bit and took it to the office. I was told to go down to the principal’s office. Naturally, I was shaking in my shoes. Back then, being called to the principal’s office meant one thing: you were in trouble!

The principal really put the fear of writing into me that day. She yelled at me for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only two minutes. She wanted to know if my parents knew about this. I told her yes. She asked if I was selling them. I said no, which was the truth. Then, she talked about my having to go before the school board. This frightened me TO DEATH!

I have no idea if she called my mother. She probably did and both of my parents probably got quite a good laugh out of it! But, they never said anything about it to me. They always encouraged my siblings and I to develop our talents.

Needless to say, this experience frightened the urge to write out of me for quite a few years. When it came back, I started forming a talking animal story in my head and telling it to my siblings and the neighborhood children. I also made up little fairy tales and told them those too.

It really never dawned on me that I wanted to write stories for a couple of more years.

Every summer, my mother would suggest that my siblings and I visit the neighborhood public library. This was one of my favorite things to do, so Mom didn’t have to twist my arm! My wanting to write books dawned on me on the walk to the library. I know this sounds strange but it did. I decided to ask the librarian, who I knew from church, if there were books written that could tell me how to do this. The closer we got to the library, the faster those butterflies flew around in my stomach. Would Miss Austin, the librarian laugh at me? Would she tell people in church and they would scoff and laugh?

Finally, we arrived at the library. At first, I went into the children’s section of the library with my brother and sisters. Then, I told one of them I was going to talk to Miss Austin for a minute. I figured that talking to her in private would help. I didn’t want to take the chance of my brother and sisters laughing at me too! I walked up to her desk.

She asked if she could help me and my mouth went so dry I couldn’t speak. I did manage to gulp. Then, she asked me again and I told her what I wanted. She didn’t laugh. Instead she had the biggest smile on her face I ever saw! She told me to follow her and led me into the adult’s part of the library.  Back then, there was no way kids were allowed in the adult’s section. This was a big deal! She sat me down at a table by myself and asked me to wait there while she got the books I wanted. While she was looking at the bookshelves, I looked at the room. There were many adults sitting at tables like the one I was at reading. Some were looking questioningly at the kid in the room. I looked at all the huge books in that room. It was opposite from what the children’s library was like.

Finally, Miss Austin came back carrying an arm load of books about writing. She placed all of those books on my table. She said there were books there about writing for adults and children. Then she said I could stay as long as I wanted. I still remember some of those titles today. Writer’s Digest Market Book,  
The Writer’s Handbook, and Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Markets.

I forget how long I was in there. It was long enough to make by brother and sister ask where I was, though. But I received a whole new shot of encouragement that day. I realized that this could be done and no-one would laugh.

I’m still on that journey today. Now, I have my siblings support as well. In fact, two of them have tried their hand at writing. But if it weren’t for the encouragement of my parents and that kindly librarian, I wouldn’t be writing today.

A Little bit on who Deb is and what she does....

Deb has always wanted to write for children. She loved making up stories and telling them to her younger brothers, sisters, and neighborhood friends. If no – one was around, she told them to her pets – and she still does!
Finally, she decided the time had come to write these stories down. But she knew that in order to do it properly, she needed to study. So, Deb took two courses in writing for children from the Institute of Children’s Literature. She also belongs to the ongoing children’s literature workshop called The CBI Clubhouse.
Deb was born in Pennsylvania. When she was in her early teens her family moved to Central Pennsylvania. She enjoys living there, there’s always something to see!
She likes watching the mountains wake up after a cold dreary winter. She enjoys watching the pale green leaf buds popping out on the trees and slowly changing into bright green leaves. She especially loves the fall when the trees change their colors. Then the mountains are dotted with the most colorful reds, yellows, and oranges you ever saw! When she’s not writing Deb enjoys reading and reviewing books, watching movies, television and doing crafts. You can learn more about Deb by visiting her website at http://www.debhockenberry.com.


  1. Sunaina,
    Thank you so much for letting me share with your readers my first experience on that bumpy road to writing for children. I really enjoyed it!

    1. I loved the story so much...how I laughed at the audacity of the little child who thought she might 'sell' the newspaper for a nickel......The story took me to a time I have not seen but I can well imagine a child typing on the 'typewriter'....The bit about how libraries functioned was a delight to read to. Thanks so much for giving this story to me and my readers. Really appreciate it.

    2. Yes, I was a stubborn little girl but still had respect for teachers. In the 1950s, when you were called to the principal's office, you knew you were in BIG trouble. Having a librarian talk to you, especially not laugh at what you wanted, was an honor!