What a lovely thing to say! Thanks so much. Mom has shown a couple of her paintings before, but she's never had her own gallery show before. It looks like all the attention that the book has generated might make that happen. That would be just too wonderful for words.
4. Pam Webb, of Lawrenceville, Ga., writes:
I teach in a middle school which is almost 80 percent poverty. We try to give our students the things needed to succeed … but many of them don't even plan on attending college. What is the one piece of advice that I can give my faculty to help these students achieve success in the future?
Hi Pam. My husband's sister teaches in Lawrenceville. First, I'd like to say how much I admire you and all teachers who care about their students. Honestly, I think that a good teacher can change a student's life. I know that there's only so much a teacher can do, but so often that something makes all the difference. I was named after one of my father's teachers -- he said she was the first person who really believed in him. And then when my family moved to Welch, W.Va., she was my teacher, too. My advice to anyone is to figure out what you're good at -- what it is that you love doing the most in life -- and figure out a way to make a living from it. It might be fixing things, caring for people, finding out information, cooking, whatever. Even if it's a field where there aren't a lot of job opportunities -- say fashion or sports -- you can have a career in a related field, perhaps as a clothing store owner or a gym teacher. I believe that everyone has some huge talent in them; the really lucky ones discover what it is. But the students have to believe in themselves. That's not always easy if they've got a tough situation at home -- I was lucky because, despite our circumstances, my parents believed in me -- but the human spirit can be very resilient.
5. Janice Scherman, of Welch, W.Va., writes:
I have to tell you, the hair on the back of my neck is standing up!!! I don't know when you left the area, but Welch used to be a great place when I was a kid. What is your favorite memory of growing up there?
Hi Janice! I wonder if we bumped into each other in Welch. I was a bit of a tomboy and my brother, his best friend, Jack Renko, and I used to go exploring up around Wilson farm. I also used to love to go swinging on wild grape vines on the hillside beneath our house. When I got a little older, I started writing for the high school newspaper, The Maroon Wave, and that's when I fell in love with journalism.
6. Joe Stimac, of Ellington, Conn., writes:
Your story is absolutely amazing and inspiring. Have you thought about turning it into a movie?
There definitely has been some movie interest, but no deal has been signed. The Hollywood Reporter did something alerting movie makers about my memoir, saying that it was "catnip for serious actors looking to play charismatic scoundrels." That really made me chuckle.
7. Venus Branson, of Bullhead City, Ariz., writes:
I was inspired by your story of rising up from such struggle. But more than that, I was more amazed at what your parents had given you in terms of love and self confidence. As a mother of two young girls, what where the most valuable lessons your parents taught you as a child and how did they go about doing so?