• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Award-winning author talks to students at WCMS

Having an award-winning Kentucky author speak at Woodford County Middle School was an exciting opportunity that librarian Kim Joyner knew would benefit students. Author C. C. Payne read from her book, “The Thing About Leftovers,” then told students about her journey to becoming a published author after receiving hundreds of rejection letters. Payne credits her second-grade teacher, Mrs. Saylor, who never gave up on her becoming “a big reader,” and her grandmother, “a beautiful writer,” for putting her on the path to becoming an author. “I wrote just because I had to, because somewhere deep within I’m a writer,” Payne told students April 26. “I wrote whatever struck me,” she said. “Sometimes, it was good writing. Sometimes, it was bad writing. “For years, it was mostly bad and I have the rejection letters to prove it.” When this author of three books for middle school-age readers asked her WCMS audience if they love to read and some hands didn’t go up, she told them, “It doesn’t mean that you don’t love to read. What it really means is that you haven’t found the right book yet, but you will if you keep trying. So don’t give up.” Every student at WCMS received a signed copy of Payne’s Kentucky Bluegrass Award-winning book as part of the school district’s Woodford READS program. They also heard her message about perseverance and never giving up – even when life gets tough. “There are no shortcuts,” Payne said. “We become excellent by doing. Because I kept on writing, I got a little better at it.” “I am an ordinary person,” she said later, “who refused to give up” on becoming a published author. Joyner said she read “The Thing About Leftovers,” last summer, and thought students at WCMS should read this fictional story about divorce and blended families. “So many of our students deal with that, but no one really talks about it,” she explained. Because Payne doesn’t gloss over the hurt felt by Fizzy, her central character, “it’s real,” said Joyner. She knows reading can be “very empowering,” and appreciates the candor of this story. “It’s told honestly,” said Payne, “but it’s also told with hope and humor. “I hope that it starts conversations among families.” The Lexington native urged students to always tell the truth when they write, too. “Whether you’re writing about yourself, whether you’re writing about a fictional character,” she said, “tell the truth. Let your characters be scared, let them be jealous, let them be angry … let them have problems. Make it seem impossible for them to get back up and go on. And then make them get back up and go on. “Perseverance is a key element in characters we love, in writing, and in life.” She told students about the many failures and obstacles that Abraham Lincoln had to overcame in politics and life before becoming the 16th President of the United States in 1860. He provides an example of what can happen if someone does not give up, she said. Facing the insecurities of adolescence and self-doubt during a time of social media’s cultural dominance in their daily life, Joyner said, “middle school is the right time to start hearing those messages,” of overcoming obstacles. “When life knocks you down, and it will. That’s okay. Get up. Keep coming,” said Payne. “When life tells you, ‘No,’ … tell yourself, ‘yes.’ … You can do it.”

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