Mary Flowers: on writing, finding inspiration, and her newly published work, Ripples of Hope.

This week we had the opportunity to speak with Mary Flowers, the young author of Ripples of Hope, Story Shares's second highest selling book of 2017.  As part of the Relevant Reads collection, it is being read in classrooms across all 50 states and in more than 80 countries in an effort to help struggling teen and young adults readers improve their literacy. Beyond being a powerful tool for improved reading skills, however, this story also acts as a strong advocate for a more equal world. Flowers was, "inspired by research from a school project," and "decided to combine the story of a WWI war hero, Henry Johnson, with a story that would expose how ridiculous the discrimination was at the time." With this gripping and insightful glimpse into 19th century African American life, Flowers has certainly achieved her goal.

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Thomas Johnson, an African American teenager, faces the typical struggles of most Negros in the 19th century: discrimination and bullying. However, his life - along with his parents' - has become far more difficult when his brother, Henry, joins the U.S. Army and is shipped to France to fight in WWI. Having to endure constant torment from the white community as well as worrying about his brother, Thomas finds his only inspiration to continue believing in a just future is the hope his brother has planted in him and his family. As Thomas continues his education, he makes unlikely friends who affect his life forever and who prove that change is, indeed, possible. 

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We asked Flowers to give us some insight into her writing approach and to share with us why writing is such an important part of her life. Here's what she had to say.

"Reading and writing provide such a beautiful opportunity to escape from reality, and give access to unlimited worlds where anything can be possible. The reason I love writing so much is because it’s a chance to channel and organize my creative ideas without having to worry about any restrictions. I typically get my writing inspiration from ideas I come up with while daydreaming, or from bottled-up feelings I may have. However, I experimented a little with my story Ripples of Hope.

I tried creating an outline for the story, which was something I hadn’t necessarily used before. Usually when I’m writing a story, I allow the story-line to simply develop on its own while traveling from scene to scene. But since I had to follow the outline of Henry’s life, I found the story needed a more structured plan than I was used to working with. I found that having a vague, yet solidified outline greatly helped when faced with writer’s block – which is a frequent dilemma I deal with. It also kept the story advancing and prevented me from dwelling on specific scenes for too long. It was a great aid, and I plan on using outlines to help me finish the rest of my stories in a timely, effective manner."

We also wanted to know what advice Flowers has for those who want to write. Her reply:

"If you’re an aspiring writer or have a sneaking desire to be one, I strongly suggest trying. Story Shares has a website that has great formatting for beginning writers, and it is a wonderful outlet to share your work with others. But even if you want to keep your piece to yourself, I still recommend experimenting and giving writing a try; it’s a great way to express emotions and ideas. Travel in your words and your stories, for your mind contains unlimited universes."

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Mary Flowers is the author of Ripples of Hope. Her story is part of Story Shares's Relevant Reads collection, books that are, "easy to read, but hard to put down." These stories improve teen and young adult literacy by providing relevant and approachable texts that struggling readers are able and want to engage with. You can read her story in the Story Shares digital library or purchase a copy of your own through Amazon!

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