An Ode to Lillian Bartholomew: Backwards Inspiration

Sometimes, the greatest influences in our lives come from unexpected people or places. Take Lillian Bartholomew, the middle-grade English teacher I credit with changing my career aspirations.

So there I was at Winfield City High School in rural NW Alabama, this shy and uber-cool geeky 15-year-old who kept a green notebook full of bad poetry, liked to draw pencil illustrations of rock stars, and wanted to be a doctor so I could be like Marcus Welby’s young partner, Steven Kiley, riding a motorcycle to and from house calls.

“Write a book report,” says Mrs. Bartholomew, assigning me James Michener’s mammoth Hawaii. So I did, learning a couple of things in the process. First, I like big, massive sprawling books (which explains my love of book series). Second, I realized I could write more than bad poetry.

I didn’t learn that lesson because Mrs. B praised me. On the contrary. I was called into the guidance counselor’s office and told she’d turned me in to both him and the principal for plagiarizing my book report. As a 15-year-old, I was told, Mrs. B felt I could not possibly use phrases like “traumatic experience” unless I had copied them. Fortunately, the guidance counselor knew me better than the teacher and leapt to my defense.

Man, was I pissed. Forget being a doctor. I’d be a writer. I’d show her a traumatic experience.

Oh, I probably would have wandered in this direction anyway. But Mrs. B gave me the push I needed without ever knowing it.

Ever have anyone provide “backwards inspiration” you in your career or avocation?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

4 thoughts on “An Ode to Lillian Bartholomew: Backwards Inspiration

  1. Wow, how ridiculous is that? You’re not mature enough to use big words? Glad it worked out for you. You should send her a copy of your book. LOL

  2. So glad you made it to where you are today, my friend. I’m already all the better for knowing you.

    Backwards inspiration? Oh you betcha! Most recently?

    After telling my in laws about the 12th book I’ve sold in 1 year, my own father-in-law says, “but when are you going to write a real book?”

    Eh? Apparently, he doesn’t consider anything romance a “real book”.

    Now, I’m penning a children’s book that I’ve always wanted to write as inspired by my own daughter’s struggle with diabetes.

    Of course, he’ll probably not consider that a book unless it is made into a movie (as he told me– “something like those Tom Clancy books”)


    Love from your Bama neighbor,

  3. I just went and googled her and she died a few years ago, so I can’t taunt her with my books. Darn.

    LOL, Kerri. My relatives feel that way about my books too. Why can’t I write a real book that doesn’t have vampires and undead pirates and such in them? As my mom said, “You know–books people want to read.” Oy.