Tag Archives: Outstanding writing

Madelyn Given enjoyed writing letters as a child.

Childhood Memories: Letter Writing

I enjoyed writing for a purpose at an early age and the main reason was letter writing. There was joy when my mother or father brought home mail from our box at the Post Office. I waited anxiously for a letter or card from an aunt, a great aunt, my grandmother, or a pen pal. I was so excited that I would read the letter and sit down and respond right away. Each person was different, and the mail was very special to me.

I became a regular letter writer by third grade. After third grade, I went away to summer camp for two weeks each summer. I would write home telling all the adventures happening to me in my young life. Telephone calls were not allowed unless deemed necessary by the camp staff.

My Aunt Isabel was a Latin teacher and she would write asking me to come and visit her, or invite me to go out to dinner. One day on a visit I overheard her telling my mother to work on my spelling. This damped my desire to write to her, as I was very sensitive to criticism. In my eyes I was a great letter writer. We still wrote to each other and visited until her passing at an elderly age.

My great aunt Sylvia was the most fun to write to and receive letters. She asked just the right questions for my age. She understood what little girls liked to do.

My grandmother would send a newspaper cartoon or an article from a magazine and usually included a dollar or two to buy a treat. She was a kind and loving woman and a wonderful grandmother.

As a child I didn’t have as many distractions as children today. There was more time to read and write. We had no television; radio was played in the morning for weather reports and in the evening for news. The US Mail was an important part of communication outside of school, church, neighborhood, and the family at home. People were great about sending letters and postcards on a regular basis, not just when they went on vacation. Although people used the central telephone service to make important calls, phone calls were used with moderation, so letter writing was a part of daily life.

In 4th grade in my Girl Scout Troop I was paired up with a pen pal from Mexico. We corresponded for many years and when my mother visited Mexico she met her.

Writing letters has continued all my life. When I left home to go away to college, my mother wrote a letter to me every day. Her letters were current, upbeat, funny, and happy and she never repeated anything. She died at age 91 and wrote cards and notes up to the time of her death. That was a lifetime of letter writing. I hope this family tradition continues with my granddaughters.

-July 8, 2014

Madelyn Given's first book signing was a night to remember.

A Night to Remember

The first book signing event reminded me of a graduation, the culmination of many hours and years of hard work. It was a community celebration–the coming out party for my new book.  It came about through amazing press coverage and the dedication of the senior college hosting the event. I had no idea what to expect. It is not easy to put yourself in the public eye, but it is not about yourself. It is about the community and how they treat you that is special. It becomes about how you can make a difference.  It is a wonderful collaboration of friends from all walks of my life. Neighbors, former students, teachers, and people touched in some way by a kind gesture, remark, or smile.

It is the first time for me to go public with something I have created. It is the first time for friends to see my book. It is a strange feeling. A little bit of you is being shared to give an example to help others along the way. Despite the work and many steps that go into publishing a book, it is worth it to tell this message to others, and it is rewarding.

For me I had no examples to follow. I did not grow up with authors or writers as parents. I did not intend to write a book and do not consider myself an author. I simply had something to share and somehow it came to life. I wrote a manuscript because I had a story to tell and a legacy to pass on to my children and grandchildren.

Another reason became evident at the book signing. I was also doing this for all my former students as an example that if I can do this, you can too, if you so desire. I spent many years in an elementary classroom teaching children and caring about them as my extended family. It is about leading by example and taking one step at a time. You must believe in yourself when others doubt you, persevere when others give up, and make your dreams come true.

I reminded myself that I am here because so many people helped me along the way. They may not have been visibly sitting in seats in the audience but I know they were there praising me, supporting me, and pushing me to higher goals. My mother, my greatest mentor, would not be as surprised as me but genuinely happy. My guides around the world who helped me climb and believed we would make it. Runners who were out there training and offered me a smile or a wave as I ran by them were in my thoughts. Families who make sacrifices every day to reach their goals were in my heart. As nervous and excited as I was to be there on that special night, it was not about me, it was about all those who made it possible for me. It was a night to remember.

-June 17, 2014

Writing for Life

Madelyn enjoying a rest stop while hiking in Maine

Madelyn enjoying a rest stop while hiking in Maine

As I sit in my writing studio working on the publication of my book I recalled a writing achievement of mine that took place over 50 years ago. What is interesting is that I hadn’t thought about this for a long, long time—funny how long forgotten thoughts often return unbidden. It was at my high school, a private preparatory boarding school for boys in central Maine, where I was sent to prepare for college.  Day students from the local community and surrounding area were able to attend and their tuition was paid by the local towns. It was a great opportunity for a good education and I felt fortunate to attend this school. The focus for my writing achievement came in my junior year when all the students in my class had the main assignment for the year to write an essay that would be graded in both English and history.  It was a term paper of sorts with research, rough draft, foot notes, and bibliography. Continue reading