Maria Matiouchin, author Han Nolan, Michael Owens and Marissa Williams enjoy a moment of their writing journey together. (Contributed)

Archived Story

Writing is a journey

Published 4:14pm Friday, April 27, 2012

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

When visiting author Han Nolan asked if anyone had questions, Zachary McCann raised his hand. McCann, a Pelham High School junior and first-year creative writer said, “I have great ideas, but I can’t get them down on paper. How do you turn your ideas into books?”

Nolan said, “For me, a great idea is not enough. I have to be emotionally invested in my topic. If I don’t care about my topic, I can’t write about it.”

Watching McCann nod knowingly, I’m reminded why an author’s visit is incredibly valuable. While I tell my students that their best writing will be about topics they’re passionate about, hearing Nolan’s words rebroadcasts my original message in megaphone fashion.

Nolan speaks to the question on all of their minds. How did she go from wanting to be a writer to publishing books? Nolan’s skillful storytelling takes these attentive students on her journey, from distracted kindergartener to fifth grade repeater. The students are speechless.

If Nolan flunked fifth grade, how did she become a published author? Nolan goes on to reveal what adults know, but young people have a hard time believing. We’re all imperfect, but those who persist succeed.

Nolan recounts the details of the snowy day she discovered that her first book would be published.

“Had I stopped trying the day before that publisher’s phone call, I wouldn’t be a successful writer today,” Nolan said.

Nolan, a Birmingham native now living out of state, tells my students to work hard and enjoy the journey. She advises them to get their hopes up and believe in their dreams. Junior and second-year creative writer, Michael Owens said, “I loved her honesty.”

A junior new to PHS this year, Marisela Williams said, “Han Nolan was the first published author I’ve ever met. Meeting her made me see myself in her position one day.”

“In middle school, I read Nolan’s novel, Dancing on the Edge, and it became my all-time favorite book,” sophomore and first-year creative writer Maria Matiouchin said. “Seeing her made me believe that I can become an author.”

Our thanks to the Shelby County Arts’ Council, Pelham Public Library, Harrison Regional Library and Library Director Barbara Roberts for bringing Nolen to Pelham High School.

Nolan closed by saying, “I write to see where it takes me.”

Perhaps writing is the journey that reveals who we are.

Connie Nolen can be reached by email at

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