donelson christian academy

When Rachel Dunaway invited me to spend an hour with her creative writing class at Nashville’s Donelson Christian Academy, I was ecstatic. I read her email while shuffling through Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, and I know I scared my fellow travelers.

I squealed.

It echoed through cavernous Concourse A.

People stared.

On January 16, I spent part of a morning with Mrs. Dunaway and her class. They sent thoughtful, curious questions in advance. Like:

  • How do you deal with writer’s block?
  • What was your publishing process like?
  • Why do you care about the Natchez Trace?
  • How do you reconcile faith and creative pursuits?
  • How do you expand upon small ideas?
  • What characters do you find difficult to write? How do you develop your characters?

We engaged in conversation for close to an hour. They asked even more questions, and they shared their experiences with the assignment I gave them.

Ask a parent about a favorite memory from before he/she had you. Write a short essay about that conversation.

As they shared their stories about how it made them feel to connect with their parents on that level, we talked about writing. Our relationships and our willingness to delve deeper anchor any creative endeavor. Several students heard new stories about their parents. I’m honored to be a catalyst for those memories.

I’m grateful to Mrs. Dunaway and her class at Donelson Christian Academy. Through reaching out to me, you took me back to when I was one of you. In a class in a Christian school. My soul bursting with dreams.

May you surpass your dreams.


Not Without My Father debuted in the top five Sports books on Amazon. Top ten Adventure Travel books. Top 100 memoirs.

And that’s great.

But don’t buy this book for me.

Buy it for YOU. Buy it for someone you love. Be inspired to Make a Memory.

Click to read a sample of Not Without My Father

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jessie holman jones hospital, springfield tennessee, birthplace

Beginnings. It’s what my brain is telling my fingers to shape this week. I can think of no better way to start this series than with one of my all-time favorite pieces.  Thank you for visiting,  for reading, and for sharing my words.

I Will Remember You. Will You Remember Me?

scrim. It’s a theatrical device. Essentially a translucent piece of fabric, it’s usually employed to evoke specific feelings in the audience. Fog perhaps. A scene illumined by odd light and shadow. The dead of night.

Times past.

My memory works like a scrim. Things happened to me behind it. People move. They change. Scenery advances and contracts. The play is there, but the outlines are muted, fuzzy.

That’s the way I’ve always felt about the town of my birth. Few people would guess, but I am a Tennessean, hailing from a town outside of Nashville called Springfield. Right after I was born, my parents moved us to another town, giving me a few random experiences in the place of my spawning before we left it all behind the scrim when I was four years old. To me, it’s always been this mythic, misty place, separated from me by hundreds of miles and decades that wove a heavy veil over my memory.

My seminal memory from the place of my birth happened before I was two. I sit in a car with my Mom across the street from a boxy building on a hill with a filmy green lawn. Her voice is there, but I can’t see her when she tells me that building was the place I breathed for the first time, the intersection where I became me, started living in front of the scrim of whatever comes before we existed. Not seeing that structure for over forty years didn’t mean I forgot it. The edges were blurred, maybe, and the colors were off, but I still conjured what I saw with my baby eyes on the stage of my mind.

Yesterday, I viewed it again. The same sloping hill. The windows. The odd mish-mash of rectangles and squares. The site that gave me life, tarnished and uncovered, preening in front of the scrim of my recollection.

I sat in the car in the parking lot, afraid to get out and walk. Instead, I talked to some of you right here, used your words to give me the courage to see the place again. A concrete stair. The smell of asphalt. Sunlight glaring from glass. People buzzing around me as I stood underneath a portico and cried alone.

It was the same. And, it wasn’t. A trick of the scrim that highlights some bits while shielding others. I don’t know what I expected. The earth didn’t move; yet, it did. The air wasn’t different; yet, it was. Traffic still whizzed along the roadway; yet, it stood still. Seconds ticked by; yet, time stopped. I didn’t want to feel anything; yet, I felt everything. Sadness and euphoria. Pain and ecstasy. Laughter and tears. Anger and joy. Frustration and purpose.

I imagine if I could see my birth through the scrim of my consciousness, that’s what I’d feel. All of it. At once.