Cherry Dawn Chambers’ colorful ensemble perfectly matched her personality. The bright orange hat, intermingled with turquoise jewelry and bright blue nail polish, hinted at both her upbeat disposition and her eclectic talents.
An avid volunteer, a photographer and a poet, Chambers has covered a lot of ground in her life. And now she can check “novelist” off her to-do list. Chambers recently published her first work of fiction — “Dark Shadows of Light.”
It was a goal that she had longed dreamed of, but like many, she didn’t believe it would ever come to fruition.
“It’s one of those things that ‘if you could do anything,’ ... I wanted to be a published author,” she said. “I am a retired English teacher so words mean everything to me.”
Her journey to fulfill that dream began as a member of a local writer’s group. There, other enthusiasts would share their work and offer support for one another. At one meeting, Chambers offered up a poem that eventually became her children’s book.
“It was called ‘The Raindrop Stream.’ Another group member said I should make it into a children’s book,” she said. “So I would go around to different schools and read the poem, and children would draw pictures based on the poem, so that’s how it came to be.”
Chambers also released a book of her photography, another of her many passions. But it was the novel that was her ultimate goal. Determined to see the vision realized, she began to put all her energy into pulling it together.
“I’m a house-sitter so I got off in a nice a quiet house, and from basically daylight to daylight I would work on the book,” she said.
The world she created was much like the one she resides in. The main character graduated from Baker High School in Columbus — Chambers’ own alma mater. The protagonist also moved to and through this area as her life evolves.
Set in southeast Georgia, it features familiar locales like downtown Brunswick, Jekyll Island and the Darien waterfront. And many readers will be able to recognize names and places that are highlighted.
“I just wanted to use places that I’m familiar with ... the McIntosh Art Association is mentioned and so is Twin Oaks. When I was doing a reading at St. Mark’s Towers, I mentioned their French fries, and everyone got excited,” she said with a laugh.
While the locations will be recognizable to area readers, the path the characters walk is entirely unique. Chambers used her imagination to create realistic dialogue and situations that make for a compelling read.
“It is a story of the three choices a young woman makes in her lifetime,” she said. “She is trying to get out of the darkness into the light.”
Throughout her creative process, she had the help of one special friend — novelist Jackie Strickland. That, Chambers said, made all the difference.
“I would call her and say, ‘You have to hear this,’ and we’d just laugh and laugh (about lines in the book),” Chambers said. “She was very close to me through it all.”
Currently, she is in the process of sharing the result with the community. She has done readings in the area and distributed her books to centers like the Old Jail Art Center in Darien.
“It’s also available with all the online folks and on Kindle, where it’s only $3. I really wanted the story out there. It was a labor of love — it’s trite but true,” Chambers said. “And it’s just a good story ... a good ‘what if’ story. I’ve gotten really positive reviews. I’ve been very pleased.”
Even so, Chambers is not one to sit on her laurels. She is already starting on her next novel. And she encourages anyone who is on the fence about doing the same to get to it.
“Start writing and save every scrap,” she suggested. “We need more Southern writers. Have a little faith in yourself. If you write it, someone will read it, but you have to write it first. Even if it’s just your family and friends, you’re sharing your work.”
Coastal People appears Tuesdays. Contact Lindsey Adkison at email@example.com or at 912-265-8320, ext. 346 to suggest a person for a column.