By: Gracie Stains, Contributing Writer
Mrs. Beth Koster recently visited with Ms. Kortney Sebben’s CHS Creative Writing class to share her journey as a first-time author. Koster, coordinator of outreach/injury prevention at MU Health Care and a retired Centralia teacher/librarian, wrote a children’s book called I Remember.
In her book, Koster tells the story of the relationship between her mother and her daughter Emily throughout her mother’s experience with dementia. The book captures several special memories that they shared as Emily grew up: visiting the family farm, fishing, hiking, and canoeing down the Upper Iowa River.
The story shows how Emily helped her grandmother when she started to lose her memory and how Emily worked to keep those memories alive for her.
Koster’s biggest inspirations included her mom and Emily. Koster mentioned that the two of them had a unique relationship, and it was enjoyable to watch them grow closer and spend more time together as a grandmother and granddaughter.
“I want others to know that dementia impacts so many families and that there are ways to help the one that is losing his/her memory. Emily’s biggest gift to my mom was time spent with her reliving the memories of the past,” Koster said.
Ashley Watson, Koster’s niece, drew the pictures for her book. “Once I saw the illustrations that my niece drew and how they were such a compliment to the story it became “real” – I knew it was actually going to be in print and others could read it,” she said.
Authors often struggle with the process of writing a book, and Koster was no exception. She said she was so close to the people who are portrayed in the book that it was pretty emotional. She had to set her work aside and take breaks as she tried to tell their story in the best possible way. She would write, rewrite, send it to her brothers and sister and make corrections based on their suggestions.
Mrs. Danielle Bennett, CHS librarian, set up the meeting for Koster and Sebben. “I know that Beth is a great person and always has such great rapport with teenagers. I wanted to use those great qualities she has and have her visit with our students who are honing their creative writing skills.” Bennett’s goal was to use Koster’s life experiences and writing knowledge to give students inspiration and provide them with some tips to improve their individual skills.
Sebben was excited about having her students meet with Koster. Sebben explained, “I hope they were able to get some productive advice, such as how to write daily, how to write even when they are uninspired, how the publishing process works, and the collaborative effort of publishing a book.”
Students who listened to Koster speak gained valuable insight based on her writing experience. Willow Sanders, CHS senior, stated Koster provided tips on writing, discussed creative ways of becoming motivated and shared ways to think of new stories.
Another one of Sebben’s students pointed out the impact of Koster’s presentation: “This was very inspirational, especially since I would love to become a writer myself one day,” said Annika Kirtley, CHS junior.
Koster offered great encouragement for student authors. She said, “You are very capable of becoming an author! Consider what you enjoy, what you find entertaining, what you dislike…those can all be starting points for you as an author.” She also told students to “Read, read, read!” to help prepare them for the world of writing.
Koster states she is hoping to be invited to visit with other students to share her story. Her presentation fits into the personal narrative of many writing classes. With all of the virtual meetings happening, she hopes to visit with students across the United States. Copies of her book are in at least seven states at this time.