By Traci Gaddis
Diane McKeithen has worn many hats in her life, wife, mother, teacher, grandmother but most recently she has added published author to her list. In the late nineties Diane could be found behind a desk at Port St. Joe High School where she taught English, Public Speaking and Drama for six years.
She is also the wife of former Gulf County Sheriff Frank McKeithen.
The family relocated to Panama City and Diane continued to teach until her retirement in 2010. After retirement Diane toyed with the idea of writing a book….just for herself….just for her own pleasure. The book she thought she would write and the book that she ended up writing became two entirely different books.
“I was writing a short story about the ending of technology,” she said and she had a working title: In An Instant, “but when I sat down to write, chapter by chapter started to emerge.”
At one point Diane had absolutely no idea where the storyline was going. This went on and off for over a year. By the end of the year she had an intriguing first draft and a tale of survival, life challenges, loss and rebuilding. There were still no plans to publish it but after her husband read the first draft he strongly encouraged her to get the book published. At first it was thought that maybe she would just get it in book form for her children and grandchildren…something to leave to them.
After speaking with her friend Ruth Corley this changed as she quickly learned how and where to get help to self-publish.
“Rewriting is the most important part of writing a book,” Diane told me.
The teacher had become the student. She now had a great respect for her students who she would make write and rewrite their papers. A classy cover was selected for the book. A sweet dedication was written, mentioning all of the students and all of the schools where Diane taught. Editing was completed and the book headed for Kindle sales and printing.
Diane said she was so scared - “I have never felt so vulnerable in my life” - knowing that her work would be out there for people to like or criticize and then wondering if anyone was actually going to read it was constantly weighing on her mind.
The day her book arrived was an emotional time for Diane.
”It was amazing, I felt like I was somebody,” she said. “A dream come true that I didn’t even know I had.”
Then came the book signings and TV and newspaper interviews and the realization that yes, people did want to buy and read her book. She had fans and readers like myself who wanted to know when they reached the end of the book…..What happens to Toni and Chase now? Is Mrs. Owens alive? What is happening in the nearby towns? Okay here is an exclusive just for you but don’t say I told you…there is in fact another book being written and a sequel to that one is highly possible. The sequel would merge the two books together for a third and final book.
Probably one of Diane’s biggest fans is Ali Edmunds, her daughter who told me, “I am so proud of her. I hope to run into a complete stranger one day who is reading her book.”
I have a feeling that Ali’s hope will very soon be realized.
Diane McKeithen will be signing copies of her new book in Port St. Joe on Saturday. For an opportunity to meet Diane, purchase a copy of her book, or just say hello, she will be at the No Name Café, 325 Reid Avenue, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. ET Aug. 2. For additional information please call 229-9277.