Writing is now career of retired teacher
By Carole Kelly
Carol Ashley, Clinton poet and novelist, is a retired teacher who cannot help writing stories and poems.
“It’s in my blood,” she smiles, suggesting that she probably inherited the storytelling gene from her grandmother.
Her grandmother Jane, or “Gran,” was a natural storyteller who told of her earlier years that coincided with the same time period as the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” stories about life on the prairie.
Says Ashley, “Gran didn’t know the official rules of storytelling, but she knew how to build up a story, continue the flowing, its peaking, and then the closing. Through her, I learned the art of telling a story. In the days before television, the front porch swing was the place to be as Gran told me ‘Little Jane’ stories.” Ashley has written down many of the stories, which may become a small book in the future.
A native of Ellisville, Jones County, Ashley was born on New Year’s Eve. After completing early school years in Ellisville, where she was class poet in high school, she earned degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and taught for forty years. Her bachelor’s degree included history as her major, with other courses in economics and government. She taught history, economics, social studies and government in high school for a year. The master’s degree in elementary education led to her to teach in elementary schools for thirty-nine years.
“These were my people,” she fondly says of her elementary students.
Her first novel, Shattered Jade, tells the romantic mystery about a young woman who has amnesia. A gunshot, a mirror mystery, and bewildering circumstances offer an intriguing read, with locations many will recognize in Louisiana.
“Shattered jade has beauty and worth even when broken,” Ashley says, as she shares a few insights about the novel’s title. She talked about the book with Clinton’s “An Hour to Kill Book Club” members and participated in a Zoom interview with a book club in Colorado, which was set up by a friend who had read the book.
Ashley finds that participating in a group of persons sharing their work and critiquing each other is a necessary and helpful exercise for her writings. Working when inspiration hits, she does not adhere to the practice of forced writing an allotted quota every day.
“I write when I feel like it, when I’m motivated,” she reports.
She admits to a little innocent eavesdropping on conversations that often offer inspiration.
“I get ideas from listening. People talk like they don’t think you’re listening,” she laughs. She once heard a boy lamenting over a bad grade, saying, “My mama is going to kill me.” Lifting that line, it became a part of the novel.
Ashley doesn’t compromise her Christian belief in her works, and the language and action reflect her faith, which all combine for intriguing storytelling and good reading.
A member of Morrison Heights Baptist Church, she received encouragement from a fellow member, Kent Mummert, who is the illustrator of the novel, and who was a great encourager for her to publish Shattered Jade. The book was published by Lulu Press and is available on Amazon.
She also has a book of poetry, Growing Old Disgracefully, that discusses in rhyme such topics as the feeling of being eighteen inside and the obvious changes depicting a graying granny on the outside.
“Start funny, then move into the serious,” she says, a move to get and keep the reader’s attention.
Growing Old Disgracefully is a collection she has written over the years, described as the musings that close girlfriends laugh, cry, and fuss about over a cup of coffee. Her recitation of a seasonal poem, “I Didn’t Send No Christmas Cards,” is worth a listen.
More writing memories in addition to her gran include those of her father, Tom Carter, who served as City engineer in Laurel and enjoyed writing poetry. He joined a round robin of poets from a variety of professions, which included a judge in New York and Winifred Hamrick Farrar, who became a Mississippi poet laureate.
Her father had challenges with failing eyesight from cataracts, along with arthritic pain and other illnesses.
“He never gave up, but made the best of everything with those health challenges. And he read many, many books,” she recalled, mentioning that she enjoyed reading critiques from his round robin. “You can’t read that much without learning, and I learned from it,” she added.
Another encourager is husband John, who describes his role as transportation manager/driver and chief supporter of his wife’s work. Now at home in Clinton, the Ashleys have lived in Laurel, Savannah, New Orleans, Vicksburg, and Mandarin, Florida. John, originally from Simpson County, is an engineer, retired from his work with the Corps of Engineers. They enjoy their two sons and their families, Jason and wife Beth, and Andy and wife Ashley, and eight grandchildren.