I wouldn’t have met Anna if a leopard hadn’t escaped the Oklahoma City Zoo in 1950. Although I wasn’t yet born, Anna had vivid memories of that leopard roaming around town, and she wondered if she might be the one to help catch it. She later wrote a fiction book based on that memory, Spotting the Leopard.
In 2004, I was doing research on my book Oklahoma City Zoo: 1902-1959 and wanted to talk to Anna about her first-hand recollections of that event, which made headlines around the world. I set up a phone interview with her and she said, “Looking back, it seemed like we were in terror for weeks, not just three days.”
Although I had read many of Anna’s books and heard her speak at several EncycloMedia events, in my view, that interview was the catalyst to our friendship. A few years later, I joined the Oklahoma chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), which she had been voluntarily leading for years. Through that organization, she has become a mentor and cheerleader for my writing career. I’m so grateful to have met her and to study at her feet.
What I admire most about Anna is that she generously fosters other writers along their journey. She invests her time, energy and hospitality in to us. Many times I’ve heard her say that some of her favorite people, besides family, are her writer friends. I’ve come to feel that way too, and many of those friendships have been formed in her very own living room.
Last night, it was an honor to attend the ceremony that inducted Anna Myers into the Oklahoma Writer’s Hall of Fame. Anna has written 19 young adult novels, including Red Dirt Jessie and The Keeping Room.
Her son, Ben, gave a lyrical introduction of his mother, speaking of her perseverance and integrity. In her acceptance speech, she eloquently stated that the power of “story” is second only to love, and that children are easily moved by the power of story. She referred to the Bible scripture Joel 1:3, “Tell it to your children….and their children to the next generation.”
Through her books and through her life, Anna is passing her wisdom down to the next generation, and I’m proud to call her friend.
I’d like to mention that one writer friend Anna and I share is Patti Bennett, who celebrated her 85th birthday recently. Sitting in Anna’s living room, Patti surprised us by quoting beautiful poetry from her days as an English teacher. She has retained her youthful beauty and spirit. I love Patti dearly and admire her writing.