SHSU alum returns, shares writing experiences as author of 'My Boys and Girls are in there.'
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 23:10
Storyteller, author and Sam Houston State University alumni Ron Rozelle returned to share his creative writing experience and story about the 1937 New London school explosion in his newest book, Thursday and Friday, “My Boys and Girls are in there.”
A spark from a sander ignited the worst school disaster in United States history, killing more than 300 people, most of which were children at 3:17 p.m. on March 18 1937 in New London, Texas.
When Rozelle decided to write about the school explosion, he set out to tell the story for those who have never been able to talk about it and for the children who were never able to go home that Thursday afternoon.
Before writing the story, Rozelle wanted to hear first hand from those who were affected by the explosion. He shared the story of Bill Thompson, a fifth grader at New London School who was sitting in an English class at the time of the explosion.
A few moments before the explosion Bill had switched seats with Ethel Dorsey so he could be closer to Billie Sue Hall, “whose dainty curls and wide smile had caught his attention…” Rozelle wrote in chapter 9 of the book.
Bill survived while Ethel didn’t.
There are 100 more stories like Bills which are told throughout the book, which covers both the horrifying details and terrifying first-hand experiences of that unforgettable day.
As Rozelle read excerpts he described what it was like to sit next to the people that this disaster affected and listen to their stories.
Rozelle said that at times he wanted to cry, but he had to listen to their stories so that he could tell them, but many times at his desk he found himself in tears as he wrote about the stories of the New London children.
Friday, Rozelle talked about creative writing in the Evans Complex.
Rozelle first became mesmerized with writing when one of his college professors read “The Dead” by James Joyce.
“How did a human being reach inside himself and come up with that,” Rozelle asked.
Although Rozelle was inspired by this piece of literature he didn’t write a creative word for 25 years. Rozelle made sure the audience would not wait 25 years to write.
Rozelle said his first story that got published wasn’t on purpose. He was feeling down one day and started writing memories of his father, who had died recently of Alzheimer’s. His wife read what he wrote and urged him to send it into a publisher.
He received more than 32 rejection letters, but instead of letting them bring him down he took the constructive criticism they gave him and applied it to his story.
Once “Into That Good Night,” was published his books just kept coming. He learned a lot about creative writing and shared with the audience.
Rozelle said that everyone is given the same toolkit for writing but how they use that toolkit is their voice.
“If you’re committed to the craft, you work every day,” Rozelle said. “My time is 4 o’clock every morning.”
One of his writing secrets was finishing the days writing in the middle of a thought so he knew he had something to come back too.
Rozelle finished by saying he doesn’t believe in writers’ block.
“It’s okay to write badly because at least you’re writing,” Rozelle said.
Rozelle is author of six books including a memoir of his father entitled “Into That Good Night” and “The Windows of Heaven” which tells the story of Galveston Texas’ great storm of 1900.
Many of Rozelle’s publications were available for $25 at the book reading, in which all proceeds went to “Friends of Literature”.
Rozelle said he is about to start writing a biography.