Conversations With Colleen: Meet Author & Poet, Miriam Hurdle
Hello everyone! This week I’m thrilled to bring you a new author. Miriam Hurdle participates in my Weekly Poetry Challenge and I often run into her at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, where she participates in the flash fiction challenges. When I asked her to pick three or four questions from my huge list HERE, she got really excited. We all aspire to be successful authors and the best way to learn some of the tricks of the trade is to ask questions and learn everything we can along the way.
First, please meet my guest, Miriam Hurdle.
Miriam Hurdle is a multi-genre writer. She writes poetry, flash fiction, and short stories. Her poems are included in “Letters to Gaia,” “Whispers and Echoes Issue 2,” “Whispers and Echoes Issue 3,” and “Outkast and More Words.”
She is passionate about poetry and her favorite poets are Robert Frost with his poems “The Road Not Taken,” and Linda Pastan with her poem “To a Daughter Leaving Home.”
Music is rooted deeply in her life. Being a soloist as a teenager led her to take voice lessons and to have ongoing singing engagements. She continues to sing soprano in choral groups. Lyrics have a major influence on the natural flow of her melodic writing. She writes memoir in the form of poetry.
Along with her brother, she took photos when the films were black and white. Photography is still her most enjoyable hobby. Drawing and painting were fun activities as a child. Her favorite was to draw a Japanese girl with big eyes, long hair, small lips, and chin. She resumed drawing and watercolor painting several years ago. In her poetry collection, photos and paintings are included to illustrate the poems.
She earned a Doctorate of Education from the University of La Verne in California. After two years of rehabilitation counseling, fifteen years of public-school teaching, and ten years in school district administration, she retired and now enjoys life with her husband in southern California.
Hi, Colleen, thank you for the invitation. I looked forward to this interview.
Hi Miriam. It’s a pleasure to learn more about you. You’ve had a magnificent career in education. When you look back at your past, do you feel accomplished?
Colleen, looking back at the past, I feel content with my accomplishments. I was a vocal soloist as a teenager which led me to take voice lessons. I had ongoing singing engagements. The thought of becoming a professional musician came across my mind but it was not a profession that guaranteed a steady income. Yet, the singing engagement enlarged my social contact and helped me land two respectable jobs when I was in Hong Kong.
After graduated from college, I got a job teaching Chinese as a Second Language at Hong Kong Baptist University. My students went to Hong Kong as medical doctors, professors, military personnel, pastors or priests. While written Chinese is the same, there are over 200 dialects in China. Cantonese is the spoken dialect in Hong Kong and that was the language I taught.
Mandarin became the official spoken language in 2013. Both Cantonese and Mandarin are tonal languages. Cantonese has seven tones and Mandarin has four tones. The same sound in different tones has different meanings. Mā, 媽 means mother, Mǎ 馬 means horse and Mà 罵 means scolding.
A student told a joke of long ago that one language student tried to say, “I like táng rén 唐人 (Chinese people),” but he said it in a different tone and made it like “I like tāng rén劏 人(slaughtering people).”
The symbol above the vowel determines the tone of the word and changes the meaning. To help the students find the right tone, I used the equivalent pitch from a piano. It seemed to help many students. I had an interesting two years of teaching Chinese.
My second job, I was the Director of the children’s department in a Christian Literature Organization. I wrote a correspondence course for a series of four children’s books. The books were aimed at fourth to sixth-grade students. They contained short stories, cartoons, and the retelling of fairytales such as Pinocchio.
I held student assemblies at city schools to present the books. Students who were interested received the first book, read and answered the questions at the end of each book, mailed the answer sheet to my office and received the next book in the mail. When they finished the four books, my office team held rallies with game booths and slideshows for the students. We asked students to show interest and whether they wanted to join youth groups in their local areas. I believe it is important for young people to associate with healthy groups.
I came to the US for my graduate studies, got three master’s degrees in education, counseling, school administration and a doctorate in education.
The first job I had in southern California was being a rehabilitation counselor to help the recovering mental patients to get back to the job market. I remember one client who was a Vietnam veteran who suffered from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). He said whenever he closed his eyes he saw the buddy lying dead next to him. I loved helping people, but my job ended in two years due to lack of government funding.
My second job was the longest one which I held until my retirement. I taught kindergarten to fourth grade for fifteen years. My pride and joy were in the first year of Kindergarten to have a student come in knowing the alphabet. I provided individualized teaching for her. I had her again in second grade and referred her to the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program. She went on to college, and upon graduation, she surprised me with a present of her college sweater shirt.
After fifteen years of teaching, the superintendent promoted me to the school district office as an administrator. My job was to process the testing results of English Learners so that the teachers could tailor the teaching to the targeted students. I also worked with the parents in providing parenting education and in planning the annual parent involvement conference.
I loved my job in education and would have stayed longer. Due to my melanoma cancer in 2008 which resulted in me becoming a full-time in-patient, one-week on, three-weeks off treatment for six months, I was too weak to hold on to my job.
I went back to work for one more year after the treatment to make the most of my retirement. According to the California school retirement system, if the employees have less than twenty-five years of service, the retirement benefit is calculated based on an average of three highest consecutive years of earning. But if they have more than twenty-five years of services, the calculation is based on the highest year of earning. The last year of working was difficult, but I had a lot of help from the office to make it through.
Miriam, I’m so glad you are still here with us. What an experience. So, after all that are you where you want to be in your life?
Yes, I am. It took me several years to recuperate from the harsh bio-chemotherapy. In 2014, I eased into more activities. Currently, I’m doing volunteer counseling, singing in choral groups, taking classes for retirees such as watercolor painting, poetry, and publishing.
It’s my greatest delight that I published my first poetry collection, “Songs of Heartstrings.” The poems reflect different stages in my life and it is storytelling in poetry form. I’ve included two of the watercolor paintings from the book in this interview.
Mirian, you have so many gifts to share with the world. Your paintings are lovely. Does you family support you as a writer?
My daughter was the first one who encouraged me to write my own story. She wanted to know more about my childhood, the jobs I held (in a chronological sequence), what I think, and how I feel. In a word, she wants to know about me. Besides our having a verbal conversation, I wanted to write these experiences and leave a legacy. That means more storytelling is on the way.
My husband has been very supportive during the last two years of my writing and editing. He watches TV with the headphone on so it wouldn’t disturb me.
I also want to thank you, Colleen, for hosting your weekly Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge. I selected several poems written in response to your challenges which found their way into my poetry collection.
You’re so welcome. I’m happy to provide the means for you and other poets to showcase your poetic talents. Thanks for sharing your book with us. ❤
I read and reviewed Miriam’s book. You can read that review HERE.
How to contact Author & Poet, Miriam Hurdle
Amazon Author Page: Miriam Hurdle