Back in their days at Toccoa Falls College, not only were Jeannie and Sarah roommates and fellow mischief-makers, but they were also members of a writing group called the Inklings Too. The handful of us met in the library on Thursday mornings to read and discuss the books, poems, or short stories we were crafting. Our illustrious mentor, head of the English department, was Dr. Don Williams (a.k.a. Gandalf). Another member of the group was author Mark Carver, who also writes as Michael Winstell.
Dr. Williams . . . what can we say about DW? We probably wouldn’t have started this company without his influence, and Sarah would definitely not be the writer she is today if not for his encouragement. A lot of our fondest college memories involve DW. He took us to several Renaissance festivals—dressed up as Gandalf, of course, or wearing a Green Knight costume Jeannie made him. He also hosted trips to the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta.
Jeannie was the English department’s secretary for two years, so she and Sarah spent a lot of time hanging out in DW’s and Jeannie’s offices, which were connected. We still remember the Middle-earth and Narnia posters on the walls, the floor-to-ceiling shelves of books surrounding his desk, and the Shakespeare and Star Wars action figures perched everywhere. The air smelled of ancient tomes and wisdom and was often filled with beautiful music by Loreena McKennitt. Many lines in Old English, Middle English, and Elvish were quoted there.
From the first day that Sarah had Dr. Williams as a professor, she knew there would be something very special about his classes—she’d go on to take nine more. He wore his Gandalf costume, carried a staff, strode solemnly to the front of the room, and proclaimed, “You shall not pass . . . unless you study hard.” It only got better from there. References to Star Trek, Star Wars, and of course all things Tolkien and Lewis peppered his lectures. (Sarah never skipped out on any of those.) In Shakespeare class, DW assigned us characters, having us read important scenes aloud. Jeannie and Sarah performed two of the witches from Macbeth, and you know we hammed it up! *evil cackle*
Those days will stay with us forever; they remind us of why we started this publishing company: because stories matter, and quality stories deserve to be read. We improved our quality of writing thanks to Inklings Too, and the fellowship of like-minded people sharing the same belief about Story still fuels our passion to keep honing our skills, and to help others be able to present their stories to the world.
Has your life/writing been impacted by a great mentor or writing group? How did they help and encourage you?