This week’s guest post from Dawn Downey is proof that our creative work is NEEDED in the world. Proof that your creative work has a life of its own. Proof that your work will change lives once you set it free.
Creative Stewardship in Action
by Dawn Downey
|Back in 2015 I ordered a case of my newest book from the printer. On opening the box, I discovered many had damaged covers. The printer immediately replaced the entire case, leaving me with the original forty. I was tempted to sell them. What a profit! My better angels kicked in, and I donated the forty to a local non-profit. They treated me like a conquering hero when I walked in saying “By any chance, can you use some books?”|
Last week, six years later, I received the best compliment a writer could imagine, in the form of the following email.
|Dear Ms. Downey,|
I’m an instructor at Literacy KC, an adult education nonprofit that teaches low-income adults in Kansas City and the greater metro area. … Our largest program (and the one that I teach in) is High School Equivalency.
There is a lot of variety in the students I get— their ages range from 17 to 70, they come from different countries, many are disabled— but one thing they all share is that at some point, their education let them down. Even though they choose to pursue this education of their own volition in adulthood, there’s still a heavy layer of jadedness hanging over them concerning the subject of “school.” This unfortunate sentiment, coupled with long absences since their time in a formal classroom, made teaching them the joys of reading and writing rather difficult. They often struggled reading long passages, defining vocabulary, discerning themes, and remaining attentive— until I introduced them to your essay collection, From Dawn to Daylight.
I had really hit a wall! To get their GED or HiSET, they would need to read stories and poems, but I couldn’t get them to engage. They’re bright students, but they lack confidence and tend to freeze up when asked to read something that looks big. I needed something with depth, but wasn’t so long that it would scare them off. I was clearing out a bookshelf of materials that didn’t do the trick when I found some donated copies of your book on our shelves, and I thought it seemed like a perfect fit.
The change was almost overnight. I picked a few essays from the collection, and we read aloud and discussed. The students loved them. We all laughed out loud at so many of them, and the students asked for more. I didn’t even realize you were from Kansas City until we read a passage about the Nelson-Atkins, and a student said “Hey, I know that place!” When they found out the author was from their own city, they got even more interested.
Several students have already told me that they thought they didn’t like reading until your book changed their mind. They beg me to let them take their classroom copies home with them (I’ve decided to let them keep them as a parting gift when our term ends!). Some have begun reading the stories to their kids. You’ve really opened their eyes and their minds to the joys of reading! Plus, you’ve made my job a lot easier.
Thank you from all of us in class #106!
I’m speechless, suspended between gratitude and humility. Join me in replenishing their supply of From Dawn to Daylight. Buy a copy to honor the achievements of class #106, and have it delivered directly to: Literacy KC, Attn: Book Donations, 3036 Troost Ave., Kansas City, MO 64109
Dawn Downey writes essays about her journey through everyday life. She is the author of Blindsided, Searching for My Heart, From Dawn to Daylight, and Stumbling Toward the Buddha. Her publishing career began with an article in The Christian Science Monitor. Since then, her essays have been featured in literary journals, magazines, and newspapers. Connecting with her readers, she blogs weekly and hosts Author-on-Demand private video readings. And there’s usually a reflective conversation running on her Facebook page. She protects her writing time by deploying an app that blocks the internet from her laptop. (She cheats by checking her phone.) Downey lives with her husband in Kansas City, Missouri.
What a lovely validation for your work, Dawn!