Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thank you, Miss Valley by David Freed

According to David Freed's website, "As an investigative journalist, most notably with the Los Angeles Times, he counted among his acquaintances con men, commandos, spies, people who get paid to solve homicides, and people who commit them. He chronicled affairs of state, all manner of catastrophes, and the activities of the US military, including one minor war, Operation Desert Storm. He spent myriad hours hunting for smoking guns in dusty archives, meeting confidential sources in bars and parking garages, and digging through trash cans long after midnight. Along the way, he shared in a Pulitzer Prize and won a few other shiny awards that occupy a box in his attic."

There's more you'll want to know, but I'll let you enjoy the read on his Meet David page. David's debut mystery, Flat Spin, has received excellent reviews from Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist and more. The scheduled release date is May 15th, but the book us available for pre-order now.

For my followers in Colorado, David will be at The Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Ave., Denver, CO on Wednesday June 20, 7:30 pm and in Colorado Springs at the Pikes Peak Library District East Library, 5550 N. Union Blvd, 7 p.m., June 22.


Thank you, Miss Valley by David Freed

Some writers are born. Others are made. I hail decidedly from the latter camp.

Nowhere in my early ambitions while growing up in suburban Denver was there the notion that one day I would earn my keep via the printed word. I planned on being a physician—a heart surgeon, to be specific--if for no other reason than adults seemed impressed by that answer whenever they asked what I wanted to be when I became one of them.

That I ended up instead paying the bills, not by cracking chests in the operating theater, but by stringing sentences together while swilling coffee in my T-shirt, with my feet up, is only partially explained by the fact that I lacked any real desire to be a physician in the first place. I most certainly would’ve sucked at it.

No, the real reason I’ve been blessed to spend these past 30+ years as a working writer can be attributed to the fact that in high school, I chanced to land, to my great good fortune, in the classroom of English teacher Aurelia Valley.

Miss Valley was what some might describe today as a Big Beautiful Woman (“BBW” in Internet vernacular) only minus the “beautiful” part. She wore her dark hair short and stringy in an outdated bob, parted to one side, seemingly never washed. She favored featureless, flat-soled shoes, rimless glasses and cheap, shiftless pattern dresses that hung on her like potato sacks, the hems of which hovered midway down her ham hock-like calves. She had a small, upturned nose that drew comparisons to members of the porcine family, and I seem to recall her breathing mostly through her mouth. To my recollection, she never smiled. The less sensitive among my classmates frequently made fun of her appearance. Truth be told, I probably did, too, if only to fit in.

To say that the school in which Miss Valley labored was blue collar would be like saying Tim Tebow is religious. We had no honors classes (though we always fielded a powerful football team). I recall there being few, if any, guidance counselors. Students rarely went on to four-year universities. It was the kind of school where going to work at the post office after graduation was considered high achievement. Reading and writing reports about Shakespeare, Beowulf, Last of the Mohicans and the other classic works of literature that Miss Valley strived so mightily to make us adore as much as she did was antithetical to my bored, distracted classmates and me. But that never seemed to deter her. Miss Valley’s passion for teaching was ever evident.

One afternoon midway through my senior year, after the bell rang and everyone else emptied from her classroom per usual like Russian nuclear missiles were inbound, she ordered me to stay behind. I was embarrassed. What would my buddies think? That Miss Valley was sweet on me? I wanted to run. Only I couldn’t: she had blocked the doorway with her ample frame. “You should think about being a writer,” Miss Valley said. “You have an aptitude."

I don't recall what transpired between us after that, only that I was struck by the realization that it was the first time I could recall anyone telling me that I had an aptitude for anything other than griping about having to shovel snow from the front sidewalk or take out the trash.

Flash forward a year or so later. I was at Colorado State University, a pre-med major nursing a 2.2 GPA--hardly the kind that'll get you into Harvard Medical School. I knew, given my paltry academic performance (I'd discovered beer and girls by then), that I was hardly destined to perform open heart surgery. And so, one night in my dorm room, while thumbing through the university course catalog and struggling to figure out what the hell to do with the rest of my life, I happened upon the requirements for a degree in journalism. I swear, at that moment, I heard Miss Valley as if she were standing right beside me: "You should think about being a writer. You have an aptitude."

And thus, I became one.

Upon graduation, I snagged a newspaper job in Colorado Springs where I soon met a beautiful, intelligent woman who eventually would become my wife. We remain happily married three decades later. We have two wonderful children and live in a fine old house overlooking the Pacific. It is hardly hyperbole to say that my life would've been far less fulfilled had Miss Valley not helped set me on the path that I continue to follow with the release of my first novel, Flat Spin.

Aurelia Valley died in 1996. I never thought to express my appreciation to her before she passed on.

This’ll have to do.

Thank you, Miss Valley. For everything.


David, thanks so much for being here today and for sharing your tribute to Miss Valley. I hope everyone had (or has) a Miss Valley to motivate and inspire them.

For more information about David and his novel, please stop by his website. There you can read an excerpt from Flat Spin. You can also find David on Twitter (where he definitely needs more followers).


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting David.

David - Thank you for sharing such a great story with us. As an educator for many years I can tell you that your tribute means a lot. I wish you much, much success with your writing.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Very nice post. It's wonderful how a few words of encouragement can be just what's needed to get a career started.

Talli Roland said...

What a wonderful tribute! Teachers have the ability to make such an impact on our lives.

Writer David Freed said...

No one deserves higher praise than teachers like Miss Valley. They literally shape the world. I'm glad my reflections resonated. Thanks so much for sharing your comments.


Lynn Proctor said...

this was so interesting--the best wishes go out to you

Jemi Fraser said...

Absolutely lovely! I'm always excited to hear stories like these - as a teacher, it's exciting to see this kind of impact!

Jemi Fraser said...

Blogger has eaten my comment - twice...

Love this story! As a teacher, I hope to impact my students like this - help them find their paths and their joy! Thanks so much for sharing! :)

Anonymous said...

It was great getting to know David, and what a wonderful story about how a teacher transformed his life.

Congrats to him on his debut.

Patricia Stoltey said...

David, thanks again for being my guest today. I hope Flat Spin is a great success.

And thanks to all who have visited so far. Jemi, I don't know why Blogger was eating your comments today. I try to make it as easy as possible, but sometimes gremlins sneak in.

Writer David Freed said...

Thank you, Pat, for the forum. Hope to see you up in Ft. Collins later this year.