When I go to schools to present my books, I am often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” or “What made you write that book?” A hard question to answer. So I started figuring out how that story came out of my head. What experience gave me the inspiration to write down those words? Pine Cones and Magnolia Blossoms is my most recent book.
I grew up in the South during the times of so called “separate but equal” schools. After seeing the movie, “The Help,” I remembered many incidents of discrimination and cruel treatment of the women who worked in our homes. They were the nurse for the white babies and cleaned houses, ironed, cooked for the white ladies.
I wanted to expose children to the same story that adults were reading about and seeing at the movies. There must be a way to tell the story with children as the characters.
So I invented two eleven-year-old girls, Sarah Sue, white, and Princetta, black, who live in a South Alabama town, during World War II. Sarah Sue doesn’t even know people who are poor until she becomes friends with Princetta, the daughter of their black cook. She has the same attitude of the times. She knows her friends will make fun of her if she has a colored girl for a friend.
But Princetta is so smart and so much fun, Sarah Sue is attracted to her and they become best friends.
Sarah Sue gets Princetta and herself into trouble, daring anything for fun.
Sarah Sue begins to question the whites only signs, the differences in their schools, and the way the black people are treated. Princetta’s school is across the tracks and has no lunch room, few books, and a falling down building. Princetta’s mother can’t try on a hat in a store unless she buys it. Eventually Sarah Sue comes to know, “Not as much separates blacks and whites as we thought.”