Posts Tagged writing

Where and How It Started

The December 3, 2021 issue of the Charleston Post and Courier posted a column from the Washington Post by Catherine Rampell, ”Priceless lessons from my sixth-grade English teacher.” This column caused me to reminisce about my own beginnings as a writer.

When I was young, two important events happened to me on the same day that played a significant role in my future. I was called to the principal’s, office, Mr. Livingston, at Woodruff high school. There to my total surprise I was presented with a check for $15.00. I was the winner of the contest to rename the Woodruff Soap Box Derby. My winning name, the Thrill Derby.

When I arrived home my dad handed me a letter which contained a check from the Progressive Farmer magazine for my article, “The Champ and I.” It was then that my dad decided that my interest in writing just might pay off. Although both checks were small, they were huge for a young teenager.

My interest in writing was kindled by Miss Coleman, my sixth grade teacher at Northside Grammar school. She introduced us to poetry and then required us to write a poem. At first I tried to ridicule the assignment with an absurd poem, but finally turned in my poem, “South Carolina.” She liked it so much that she submitted it to the Spartanburg Herald. The editor must have liked it because one Sunday morning there it was in the newspaper. Miss Coleman did not return after the Christmas break, but she had left her mark.

Eventually I became editor of our high school newspaper, Woodruff High Times, and was on the staff of both the Mars Hill College newspaper and the Furman University newspaper, The Hornet. It was through the Hornet that I interviewed Edward Weeks, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, when he came to Greenville for a lecture. I did my homework and when the time came I was prepared. He invited me to stay after the interview. “There must be others like you at Furman. Tell your instructor that I would be happy to meet with a small group of students if she will arrange it.” Sara Lowery, head of the speech department, arranged a small luncheon in a private room in the cafeteria. We ate steak while the other students ate hotdogs. That experience taught me to always do my homework.

While working toward a Master’s degree at the University of Alabama I developed an interest in how we develop and apply listening skills. I also wrote a paper comparing the traditional freshman course in speech to courses in mass communication courses. This paper was accepted to be presented at the national convention of the Speech Association of America in Chicago. Dr. T; Earle Johnson for whom the paper was written didn’t think too highly of it when I turned it in to him, but after its acceptance by the national association he said, “Mitch, let me read that paper again.” A revised version was my first professional publication. It was published in the Furman University Studies Bulletin. Dr. Reid at Furman was my first real editor.

I owe a great debt to Ms. Eugenia Coleman and Dr. Alfred S. Reid. Both started me on a journey that still continues.

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What Writing a Spiritual Memoir Can Teach You

While speaking at the Village in Summerville, South Carolina, Dr. Mitch Carnell was asked  what he learned while writing his most recent book, Our Father: Discovering Family, published by Wipf and Stock.

“When I started writing the book,” Carnell stated, “I had two questions stemming from an amazing experience at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. How did my spiritual development bring me to this point from where I started in a small provincial town in South Carolina? The second question was what am I to do with the remaining years of my life.”

Mitch continued, “As usual God had a much bigger idea. He wanted to expand my vision as to who is in God’s family. God always has a bigger plan than we have. I am reluctant to put words in God’s mouth, but it is as if he were saying, Mitch, you can’t understand me until you know who is in my family.

The process lead me to two conclusions. First, I needed to drastically expand my understanding of God’s family and second God had been preparing me all of my life to be a voice for fostering better understanding and communication between Christians and between Christians and the rest of the world. We need a more civil dialogue and that became my mission.”

The book is best described as a spiritual memoir. Mitch grew up in the segregated South where learning about the brotherhood of man wasn’t easy. He struggled through the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention and a church split. He gives credit to his late wife for challenging all of his provincial ideas in a loving way. Her death was an unimaginable tragedy. Dr. Thomas McKibbens, interim pastor of the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, wrote the Foreword. Don Kirkland, former editor of the Baptist Courier of South Carolina, and Fifi DeGroot, alumni consultant at Mars Hill University, both wrote brief reviews for the back cover.

Mitch is the founder of the Say Something Nice Day listed in the Chase Calendar of Events and the Say Something Nice Sunday Movements.

This is his fourth major book. It follows, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, published by Smyth and Helwys. Our Father; Discovering Family, is available at most book stores and at Amazon.com, Barnes&noble.com and wipfandstock.com.

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