The Curry High School Bookworm Club is in its first year at the rural high school. Since the club’s inception, students meet every Wednesday after school in the classroom of teacher Nelly Fielding, also sponsor of the book club. What started as a branch off the school’s Etc. Club, the CHS Bookworm Club has formed a bond between its members.
“We’re a bunch of nerds, and we like books,” said club president Maggie Argent, also known as the club’s “dictator.”
Junior Jesse McLeroy chimed in, saying, “We’re all friends.”
A few of the activities the club partakes in include reading short stories while sipping on coffee at Wednesday meetings, visiting the movie theater in Cullman and watching a movie based on a book, shopping or just killing time at the Cullman Walmart and Books-A-Million, and writing quotes to put on the quote board in the hallway at Curry. However, the small group of teens is very diverse, enjoying different genres and categories of books from thrillers to classics to romance.
“We don’t have a set book we read because we can’t really agree on anything because we like different stuff,” Argent said, “so we just kind of read our own books. Then, we come together and talk about it.”
The book club, consisting of mostly juniors and seniors, made a special trip to Kathy’s Book Store in downtown Jasper Wednesday afternoon to meet and listen to local author Dale Short.
Wednesday’s trip was the second time the club had visited the quaint book store, and students seemed to absorb every word that left Short’s mouth as he read his flash fiction tales to them.
“I decided to write a collection of stories called ‘Scientists In Love,’ and each story is about a scientist of some kind who has really screwed up relationships,” Short said before reading one of his stories titled “Reuben and the Roundabout,” a tribute to Reuben Goldberg, who was a well-known American cartoonist and inventor.
Short explained how he is a journalist for a living, but his true passion is fiction writing. He told students that he’ll start his day writing fiction for two or three hours, followed by his morning coffee before he begins his daily duty of journalistic writing.
When asked where his inspiration for writing comes from, Short said, “I’m crazy. I have attention deficit disorder, so 50 times a day I think, ‘Wow! That would be a story. Wow! That would be a story,’ so I force myself to carry a little black notebook and write stuff down and stick newspaper clippings in it.”
Students were captivated as Short continued to sputter off interesting tidbits of information, from the 1972 underground mine cave-in at Brookside, Ky., to modern-day upgrades in technology. He also touched on his failures in writing before mentioning the moment in high school when he knew what he wanted to do with his life.
“I was in West Jefferson High School, the smallest school in the county; they have since closed it down, bless their hearts. I had an English teacher named Pearl Huffman, and we got to a poem by William Cullen Bryant named ‘Thanatopsis,’” Short said. “... The last stanza we had to memorize, A, and B, write a long essay about it. So, I memorized it, wrote a long essay about it and turned it in.
“The next day Mrs. Huffman said ... ‘I won’t embarrass the person who wrote this by telling you their name, but there’s something I think you should hear.’ Everybody thought, ‘Oh, man!’” he continued. “Then, she got up, and she read my essay to the class. She said, ‘I just think that the person who wrote that should consider doing this for a living.’ Then, she put it aside and went on to other stuff, and that was it. I’ve been in a fog ever since.”
Fielding and book store owner, Carlotta Crawford, sat in on Short’s readings Wednesday afternoon. Crawford, who has owned the business since 1996, says she delights in having the small group of Curry students visit her shop and how she admires their passion for reading.
“I’ve really enjoyed them. They’re very polite kids. I love to see young adults that are interested in reading books, instead of video games and things like that. It made me proud how well-mannered they were and how interested they were,” Crawford said. “They came in here and were like, ‘Oh my gosh. Look at all these books!” They were just so excited. I try to keep everything organized as much as I can. It’s so big, it’s hard to try to keep everything together, but I thought they’ll come in here and make a mess. But, actually, they had straightened it up a little bit by the time they left. ... They’re very enjoyable. It gives me hope for our future with young adults like this.”
After the students had left, Short finished his coffee and commented on his career, in general, and about the kids from Curry.
“I am an introvert by nature. I’m terrified of people, but writing is such a solitary occupation, as you know, except if you’re in a newsroom,” Short said. “If you sit for six, eight, 10 hours a day by yourself, you wonder, ‘Does anybody read my crap?’ and to run into somebody that reads period, who is an avid reader, is such a rush. And to be able to read to somebody and get a reaction, a response, it’s just heaven, and these are great, great kids.”
Fielding was asked what she liked about the day’s speaker and she said, “Everything about Mr. Short is interesting. He loves kids. That’s what I like about this man. You ask him anytime to come and talk to kids, and he’ll respond just like that. That’s how I met him.
“He used to visit at Curry and talk to the kids there. They would all pour into a classroom and sit on the floor, and he’d talk to them about writing, encouraging them to write, even if you’re not going to be a writer to write,” she continued. “He’s got a lot of stories every time I hear him. He’s got different, and I don’t mean the stories he writes, stories about his life that are just so interesting. It’s the fact that he connects with the kids, and they like him too.”