Monday, 24 March 2014

Rave Reviews Author Spotlight - Bette A Stephens

I have recently joined Rave Reviews Book Club. A club set up to support and promote writers.
As part of that support today I am hosting a blog post from our featured author Bette A Stephens.

A Writer’s Journey Begins

I'm a writer and a retired teacher who loves nature, art, people and literature. I advocate for kids & families, childhood literacy and the protection of monarch butterflies and their habitat.

My writing journey began many years ago. How long ago? I can’t recall the day or even the exact year when my adventures in writing began, but I do remember penning poems for family and friends over the years and even writing what I call ‘nugget’ stories for our family scrapbook when our daughters were young. I had always been a reader and I love poetry. In high school I fell in love with Shakespeare. The beauty of language in the books I was reading made me want to capture some of their magic for myself. We (my talented and amazingly gifted husband of 48 years and I) are now great-grandparents and here I am—still writing.

In 1974 we moved from upstate New York to become back-to-the-landers. We set out to build a homestead on the old family farmstead property in southern Maine (We had purchased the 37-acre parcel of land that had burnt over in the 1947 fire from Dan’s family). Late that spring, with two little girls in tow, we loaded up our belongings and headed north to our deserted hilltop where we camped out and started building a small house. We moved in by August. It took ten years to finish the house, adding on a family room with a stone fireplace, a wood shed and a garage. Within the first five years we built two barns and dug a garden pool and a trout pond, too.  Somehow we did it all ourselves without a mortgage.

Being a small-city-girl, everything in our wilderness land was intriguing to me. Our second spring we tilled up three acres of overgrown field behind the house. We removed what seemed like a million or more rocks and saved the largest ones for landscaping and for our future fireplace. The smallest rocks were loaded into buckets and added to the centuries-old stone walls that surrounded the field. We planted vegetable seeds of every variety imaginable in our garden plot. The rows were about 50 feet long. That was my first vegetable garden. My mind simply wouldn’t stop spinning as I watched those tiny, dry, seemingly dead seeds I had dropped one by one into the rows grow into stealthy plants that yielded bushels of tomatoes, green beans, corn, broccoli, potatoes, beets, onions and carrots.  It was amazing to think that plowed fields like ours were where all of those vegetables I had been buying, preparing, serving and eating over the years came from before they reached the grocery shelves. There was no end to the miracles that God was revealing to me.

As our gardens grew, our girls grew too. It was a delight to watch them climbing tall pines at the edge of the field, pretending to be pirates as they peered out to the sea that lay 15 miles due east; pumping themselves into the crystal blue sky on the rope and board swing Dan hung in the old oak tree out front of the house; peeking into bird houses that they had helped build to watch tiny naked tree swallows and bluebirds hatch, grow and learn how to fly; chasing what appeared to be a dozen miniature ostriches running around a rocky field as a mother killdeer feigned a broken wing to protect her young and her ground nest; skipping to the edge of the woods and swinging empty peanut butter pails in which to capture gallons of fresh wild blueberries for munching and later helping me measure out cleaned berries for pie and jam recipes; reading books with me to discover the names and facts for the wildlife and plantlife that had become part of our new world. I can still picture two little woolen-capped girls tobogganing downhill on a moonlit winter’s night. There were so many miracle moments that I wanted to capture.

I finally bought a journal that summer and starting writing down some of my seed thoughts. I would write every day—some days it was only a few words. Other days, I might fill up a whole page. Perhaps that’s when I became a writer.  Here are four poems that blossomed in my first journal:


Delightful smiles, welcoming ways
Laughter to tears in a moment
Carefree, growing, learning each day
Time together—well-spent


When seen through the eyes
of the children we’re watching,
the whole world seems new.

Stone Walls

Hard labor—sweat and toil
Dredging the earth of large and small
Neatly piled, standing serene
Hues of greys, of blues and greens
Majestically surveying the fields they stand
A proud part of our land

Till Time Haiku

Green blades climb through earth
to seize the warm spring sunlight.
Tractor plows them down.

By year three in the wilderness, it was time for me to get a job. The girls were both in school and we needed extra income to finish projects that were underway and to start some new ones we’d been dreaming about. Our house was a quarter mile from the main road and accessed by a dirt road—all uphill or downhill depending on which direction we were headed. The third summer we bought a used bulldozer to repair the road and do some excavating on our property. We also used it to plow the road in the winters before we bought a used 4-wheel drive pick-up truck and a snow plow. But we never forgot our moonlight tobogganing when the path was only four-feet wide and the banks shone like diamond encrusted tile—when a silver moon turned two wool-capped little girls gliding downhill in front of us into a magical light show—The thrill of the ride was superior to that of any roller coaster!

Jobs were scarce, but I found a great one. God is good! For the next ten years I worked as an office manager for a food service at the University of Maine Gorham. I had plenty of time on the job to hone my writing skills—business writing. It was perfect. School vacations and summers, I was home free! That gave me time to work in the garden, learn how to preserve the harvest, read lots of great books, keep up my journal and spend plenty of quality time with the family, too.

That’s how my writing journey began. What inspired me to write? To sum it up simply—nature and human nature.

The poems in this post were written during the early days of our family’s back-to-the-land adventure. I continued my journaling through the years and I have more poems and some stories to share, but those will wait for another day.

May your journeys be filled with an abundance of little miracles,

Find out more about Bette A. Stevens and her books at

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