Author Archives: Steven James

Mrs. Beale

Sometimes at my writing and storytelling seminars I’ll have the attendees tell a partner about their favorite teacher. Today, I taught a fiction-writing course in Tampa and it got me thinking about my own story, my own favorite teacher, Mrs. Beale. She taught first grade and was nine hundred years old when I first met her. (Well, at least that’s what it seemed like to the six-year-old me.) Every day during “show and tell” one kid got to bring something to school with him, and Continue reading →

Children Visiting Their Mother in Prison

I’m in the visiting area waiting to see my friend who is in prison here in Nashville, Tennessee. With the quaint round tables and the snack machine in the corner, it makes me think of a cafeteria. Except the tables are bolted down. And windows are barred. It’s almost time for visiting hours. Nearby, three young girls jump all over each other like anxious puppies, stretching to peer at the door the inmates use to enter the cafeteria, hoping to catch a glimpse of their Continue reading →


Recently, I took a reading retreat: I escaped to a cabin in the mountains of eastern Tennessee for four days with a handful of novels and DVDs. I figured I would read as long as I could, watch a movie to give my brain a break, and then read some more. No other real agenda. Just catch up on some reading. And, oh yeah, I left my cell phone behind. No texts. No tweets. No email for four days. Sounds easy, right? And it was Continue reading →

A Conversation in a Target Store

I was only there to buy some coffee cup coasters. That was all. For my office. And the checkout lady glanced up at the woman in front of me who had a whole cart full of towels, dresses and children’s puzzles, and she mumbled, “So, how are you.” And it wasn’t really a question. And the woman said, “Fine.” And it wasn’t really an answer. Then she wordlessly unloaded her items one by one and the checkout lady dutifully scanned them. At last, without a Continue reading →