Kentucky Girls Books

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              Share the trials and tribulations of Betsy and her friends as they deal with Shaker life in the 1830's.
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Rebecca was the first Mitchell sister to move to Kentucky

Kentucky in US map
 
Rebecca Mitchell Turney photo
We do a great disservice to young people, regardless of their age, if we ask them: “What do you want to be?” as if they can only be one thing and have to do that for the rest of their lives. Each of us can have many careers. Being a children’s book writer is my third.

-- Rebecca Mitchell Turney    

I have to thank my Iowa roots for never questioning that I could do anything I choose. Growing up in a small town in the southeastern part of that state, we were surrounded by farmers. Women were absolutely equal partners in every aspect of the home, business and community. In sports, the girls’ high school basketball tournaments attracted infinitely more attention than the boys’ did.

My parents were hard workers at minimally paying jobs who sacrificed their own teen years to the responsibility of raising their three little girls. I was the first on both sides of my family to graduate from high school and then work my way through the University of Iowa to graduate with a degree in mass communication.

My first paying job was in public broadcasting, when seats were just being offered to women. By reporting news and public affairs for nearly 15 years in public radio and later in public television, I learned how to tell a story by first understanding the story. What passed for hard news was so superficial. Only public radio dug deep enough to find the meaning in the story – then used language and sensory material to tell it. The process was the same for the two weekly series I produced for Iowa Public Television, only with pictures.

Whether I was ...

  • covering Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign,
  • describing how to make latkes,
  • shooting a documentary on the battleship USS Iowa or
  • doing a feature on the Little old Lady of Dubuque (Yes, she really did exist.),
I was learning to really listen to the story before trying to tell it to anyone else.

My second career was as a full time parent – not only to my daughter Shannon, but through my volunteer roles as PTO officer, room mother, Girl Scout leader, and enrichment class teacher, to a lot of other people’s children. - Respect the faithful school volunteers who are part of the “village” that raises your child in your absence.

Tucked into my empty-nest when my daughter set off on her first career, I got the kick-start from my sister Marie to get busy on the book series. Together we applied for a grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women to cover mostly travel costs for us to get started. Without KFW’s initial support, I’d still be envisioning instead of writing.

So here I am ... just beginning my third career ... and learning more about it every day.  And, I may not be done yet!

Changing the world one girl at a time

As did many teens in the late 1960s, I left home to change the world. And, as a baby boomer parent in the `80s and `90s, I learned the best way to affect change is a few young minds at a time.

For many years I headed an after-school enrichment program. Part of it involved an “American Girls” class to foster an appreciation of “girls’ history,” and this showed me the shortcomings of current approach to teaching Kentucky history in grade school. That's when I began to envision a series of books that would explore Kentucky history in the same way American Girls books address American history and heritage.

I also helped shepherd a Girl Scout troop from grades 1 through 8, encouraging these 20 girls to explore creative life plans. Later, I helped girls realize their potential as a high school mathematics tutor and maintained my certification as coach and judge of the Kentucky Governor’s Cup academic competition even after my daughter had moved on.
 

 
Rebecca with daughter, Shannon Rebecca and daughter Shannon in Costa Rica

Advocating women's rights and equality

After pulling myself up by my own Earth Shoe strings to become a working professional, I attended one of the first women’s studies classes ever offered at the University of Iowa. Later, I was one of the first female radio news anchors in Lexington, Kentucky, starting behind the microphone of the mighty WVLK in 1974.

Nowhere was my championing of women more evident than in the raising of my daughter (now 25) in a staunchly conservative neighborhood and parochial schools. As an active parent, PTA officer, event organizer and homeroom Mom I constantly challenged teachers and administrators to think beyond the limits of what-has-always-been. I joke that the schools’ file on me is probably as thick as the one on my daughter's progress through grade school and high school.

Still dreaming and living the dream

My fingers frequently wander from the keyboard – to snip from my herb garden, hand quilt a bedcover for a family occasion, strum my dulcimer on the deck, or bake a loaf of fresh bread.

I’ve been on the creative team that produced and recorded CDs for the Hills of Kentucky Dulcimers, an officer of the Licking Valley Quilt Guild, and chair of Northern Kentucky's National Quilting Day celebration. I currently run a home business selling hand-sewn items and note cards featuring my photography.

I'm in my sixties now, but I'm still living and loving the dream I’ve had since I was 15 – to be a book writer.

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