Thursday, August 25, 2011
A WRITER’S INFLUENCE
Many authors have promoted worthy causes and influenced readers’ opinions. Philip Freneau, the poet of the Revolution, rallied patriots to the cause of freedom. Rachel Carson sounded a warning about the grave danger of synthetic insecticides when she wrote Silent Spring..
Harriet Beecher Stowe helped to abolish slavery in this country when she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She did it with fiction. (If you haven’t read her book, you should.)
Not all authors set out to change the world, but all have the potential to do so. Some—like me—intend to entertain and offer their readers hope in the beauty of everlasting love.
Other writers do not expect to change the world—only a small part of it.
Marguerite Henry was given such an opportunity. As a children’s author, her publisher sent her to Chincoteague, Virginia, to write a story on the town’s wild ponies. Ms. Henry stayed at Miss Molly’s Bed and Breakfast, visited the Beebe Farm and forever immortalized Misty, the little filly who is still loved by millions of children. It wasn’t quite the same as fomenting a revolution, but the book’s popularity has endured and among other things provided a booming tourist trade for Chincoteague.
We visited Chincoteague through a Road Scholar program. Last summer, hubby and I joined the Road Scholars and journeyed to White River Junction in Vermont to learn about the railroads of that area. You can read about that adventure here.
Road Scholars’ motto is “Adventures in Lifelong Learning.” An elderhostel, their programs are all-inclusive. In addition to all meals and lodging, they provide participants with lectures, excursions, and other experiences so that they can understand more fully the culture of the area.
We were treated to the seafood at various restaurants on the small island. We learned about the wild birds of the area, watched an artist demonstrate her skill in painting a duck, and saw a decoy carver fashion a sandpiper from a block of white cedar. We listened to the music of the Three Sheets. We heard the tale of a waterman and how he spends his days catching crabs or gathering oysters.
We also went on a safari of the interior of the wildlife refuge.
We heard about the history of Chincoteague and how the ponies came to the island.
Nearly every shop has copies of Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. You can see Misty and her foal, Stormy, at the museum in town. They have been preserved by a taxidermist.
Every year in July, the ponies are rounded up to swim from Assateague to Chincoteague. Thirty thousand—or so—people come to witness the event immortalized my Ms. Henry in her book.
How’s that for influence?
Whatever you write, write well.