In the Midst_Ella Kliger – Contributing Writer

Debra Woods Jenkins, author of “In The Midst,” will present the program, “I’ve Always Wanted to Write a Book – Now What?” on Thursday, April 7, at 7 p.m., at the Macon County Public Library, as part of the Walking In Spring series. She will also be leading a hike to Gabby Mountain, meeting on Friday, April 8, at 9:30 a.m. at the library, and Saturday, April 9, starting at 10 a.m. at the trailhead.

Jenkins grew up in the Cullasaja community and graduated from Franklin High School. Jenkins teaches Special Education in elementary school in Tennessee.

“Writing the book was different. When I started to write a book, I thought, ‘I don’t know how to write a book’. I’ve written a lot, I’ve written papers, I wrote a thesis in college, I’ve done all kinds of things but what do you do to write a book and how do you start?” she said.

She talked to some people who had written books and found some ideas that were right
for her. One of her teacher friends gave her the best advice of all:  “‘Just sit down and write a book, it’s just like telling a story.’ I also heard ‘Don’t stress over it.’ As a teacher, you tend to critique anything, to even get started on the first paragraph. What I learned was that you don’t write the first paragraph first. You go back to the beginning after you finish, when you know how you were going to go and where you ended.”

Jenkins took a class at the University of Tennessee on how to write a book.

“I got so much good information from that one class. It gave me permission to write my book.”
She learned certain techniques to keep her going, particularly when she was stuck.

“I would have several books, even books I hadn’t read yet, and just open one and let my eye fall on a certain word. I would get inspiration and motivation from that one word.  It helped me to start thinking again and keep going rather than get hung up on one word,” she said.

“When you start a new adventure like writing a book, you don’t even know the questions to ask because you haven’t been there before. I learned so much from writing my book that I wanted to share with people who wanted to get started. Talking about how to start may resolve some issues for others and help them to start writing their books,” Jenkins concluded.

Gabby Mountain figures prominently in her book, “In The Midst.” “People like to go up to Gabby Mountain because you can get away from everything. You don’t hear a car, cell phones don’t work, it’s good to go there to get some peace and quiet. The Bartram Trail goes up there on Gabby Mountain,” she said.

Her book was written from recollections of stories when she was growing up. The
Cherokee history is an important facet of her book. When she was writing, she did a two-day symposium in Cherokee on the Trail of Tears to get her facts straight about the Cherokee. “Hearing their stories, it made me so sad. The Cherokee used to hunt up there. So much has happened to them,” Jenkins said. “My grandfather named the mountain. That’s why I used his name as the main character in the story. There’s a lot of history to the mountain.”

A reader of “In the Midst” said, “I could picture myself there in the mountains. Very uplifting to read a book that reminds us of God’s presence in everything.”

Another said, “The characters feel like people I know. The story is entertaining while still making you consider your beliefs and challenges in a new light.”
The hike to Gabby Mountain on Friday morning will be with the author and the Nantahala Hiking Club. They will gather at the library at 9:30 AM to carpool/caravan. The hike will be led by Jenkins,is open to anyone, and will start at the trailhead. “It’s about two miles, pack a lunch, and dogs on leashes are welcome on Saturday. It’s a fairly easy hike up a dirt road, not a trail,” explained Jenkins.

For more information, contact the Macon County Public Library or the Nantahala Hiking Club.

For more on Debra Jenkins, visit debrajenkins.net

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