Press Release from Coahoma Community College Public Relations; (662) 621-4061 - Brittany Davis-Green - firstname.lastname@example.org
CLARKSDALE – She had them at Page 1.
All eyes were on Sharon M. Draper Thursday morning as she read an excerpt from her popular novel, “Tears of a Tiger” during a visit to Coahoma Community College. The New York Times bestselling author discussed a variety of topics with CCC and local high school students—from how she discovered her own gift of writing, to advice on completing a college paper.
The event, hosted in the Pinnacle, was part of a “Community Book Talks Lecture Series”, organized by Clarksdale’s Carnegie Library in collaboration with the Coahoma County Higher Education—a partnership between CCC and Delta State University.
According to Sarah Rusky, director of the Carnegie Public Library, Draper’s visit marked the kickoff event for the program’s fourth season.
“We’re glad that we had opportunity to host a large crowd today and give you the opportunity to hear some of Ms. Draper’s wisdom and hear her voice in person,” said Rusky. “This is one of the things that we’re trying to do with this series, bring in high-quality authors—people who are thought provoking. When you read great writing it should change your perspective, and I definitely think that’s something that happens in Ms. Draper’s books.”
The short program included a welcome from CCC’s Chief of Staff Jerone Shaw, a video greeting to Draper by CCC’s President Dr. Valmadge Towner and a formal introduction of Draper by CCC English Instructor Glynda Duncan.
Draper, who’s written 34 books and counting, and is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Literary Award and one of the few authors to be honored at the White House six times.
Although she is well traveled and well versed, Draper’s said her favorite place to be is with students. Candid, energetic, and down-to-earth, her passion for teaching showed as she easily captured the attention of the young readers.
Draper said she never planned to be a writer and hadn’t even considered it until one day, a student in her class challenged to enter a writing contest hosted by Ebony magazine. Out of roughly 20,000 entries, Draper won first place and her short story was published.
“Nobody ever gave me the power. When I was in school we didn’t read anything from African-American authors—everything I read was by someone who was dead,” Draper said. “I’m here to tell you that YES— you have the power. …You can do anything that you want to do.”
She then shared some of the joys and woes of being an author.
“You don’t go into writing for the money. You do it because you love the words, you love the language … it makes you happy,” she said.
After winning, Draper felt compelled to begin her first novel, the popular young-adult fiction novel “Tears of a Tiger.” However, she soon discovered that while writing was difficult, finding a publisher was even more difficult.
“I sent my first manuscript to 25 publishing companies and received 24 rejection letters in a row,” Draper said.
Four years later, after her work was finally published, Draper was still teaching when she began to receive boatloads of letters from students and teachers admiring her work.
She then read excerpts from several of her novels, including “Tears of Tiger” and her latest work “Stella by Starlight” while entertaining questions from the audience.
When asked where did she find her inspiration, Draper said she could only describe it as a “gift”.
“Books are like gifts. They just come to you. When you are blessed with something and it just comes to you, it’s a gift and I accept it as that,” she said. “It’s a blessing from God. I don’t know how I get the ideas—they just come.”
And while she may experience writing block and other obstacles from time to time, Draper said she plans to keep continuing to use her gift.
“I’ve never wanted to quit because writing is fun. If you’re doing something you love doing, it doesn’t matter if you can get paid or not because you’re enjoying it,” she said. “Even if I never get anything published again, I’m still having a good time. I enjoy getting the words out of my head and onto a piece of paper.”
To view more photos from Draper's visit on CCC's Facebook page, CLICK HERE!