Spring woman's books translated into sign language
By Flori Meeks
October 29, 2013
Spring-area resident Marcia Bennett has loved reading since she was a child.
"I could not wait to get home from school and grab a snack and a book," said Bennett, 83.
It means a lot to Bennett now to know that children's books she has written during the last decade could be enticing new generations of children to lose themselves in a story.
"It is very gratifying," Bennett said. "I'm so pleased when I hear about a reluctant reader who enjoyed one of my books."
Bennett, who lives in The Village at Gleannloch Farms, writes mostly for children, though she has written a humorous novel for adults.
Now the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin is translating two of her children's books into American Sign Language to be signed on a video.
"She was so positive and passionate about this," said Sonia Bridges, distance-learning specialist for the school. "We're pretty lucky to have found her."
Bennett, who grew up in Atlanta, got her first taste of writing as a reporter for her high school newspaper.
After marrying, she focused on being a full-time homemaker. She and her late husband, Bill Bennett, had three children. They moved with Bill's job to Mississippi, and later to Texas.
"I used to write to my mother about the children and their antics," Bennett recalled. "We didn't have Facebook."
Bennett's mother couldn't resist sharing the letters with others, including one friend who had them published them in the local newspaper.
When Bennett's youngest child started kindergarten, Bennett started volunteering at his school and later took a job as a special education teaching aide.
Later, she started taking night classes at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
She completed her bachelor's degree in library science in 1983, and then started working on her master's degree.
Though Bennett retired before completing her graduate studies, she did get work before that as a school librarian.
It was during one of her college courses, a class on children's literature, when Bennett started writing again.
The students were assigned to write their own children's book, complete with illustrations, and bind it.
"That was so much fun," Bennett said. "I still have it."
The first of Bennett's books to be published was "Mystery at Jacob's Well," which came out in 2001 when Bennett was 71.
She started writing it after a friend who wrote adult mystery books turned down a publisher's request to write a children's mystery book and passed on the project to Bennett.
The story was inspired by a visit to Jacob's Well Natural Area in Wimberley.
"It was a beautiful, fascinating place," Bennett said.
In her mystery novel, geared for ages 8-13, four students get entangled in a local mystery while preparing a science report on caves.
The book's sequel, "Mystery at Saddlecreek," brings the original characters back to a subdivision of Wimberley to solve another mystery.
One of Bennett's favorite books is "The Backpack Cat," set in Corpus Christi.
In this story, a 9-year-old boy dealing with his parents' separation is sent to live with his grandmother and finds that she and her cat are cooler than he thought they'd be.
The 2004 book is for children age 4 and up.
Bennett's humorous novel for adults, "Ladies of the Bomb Squad," is the story of four older women, best friends, and their adventures together.
"Somebody Left the Door Open," is a book of verse and a nod to one of Bennett's favorite writers, poet Shel Silverstein.
The latest book by Bennett, "Umbrella Town," was published in 2012.
In the story, a little girl living in Umbrella Town ignites the other townspeople's anger when she seeks a way to transform her black umbrella to full color.
The book won first prize in the Texas Katherine Anne Porter Literary Contest.
"Umbrella Town" will be the first book translated by the Texas School for the Deaf, followed by "Mystery at Jacob's Well."
"We were dong a little bit of research on authors in central Texas and found her and found her book," Bridges said. "She was really open to working with us."
The videos of the books being presented in sign language will be available to the school's students, and also to deaf and hearing-impaired children throughout the state.
A number of these children are not read to because their parents or teachers do not know how to sign the story.
"The students will get to see the books read in their language," Bridges said.
"We hope the kids will more fully understand the stories."
Bennett said she loves the idea of helping a wider base of children.
"I felt really pleased.
"The school has a storytelling site.
"I can't wait to hear when the books will be on there."
Writing for children has been a satisfying experience, Bridges added, and has felt very comfortable for her.
"I try to have cliff-hangers.
"I do not particularly worry about vocabulary.
"I think my own vocabulary must be about fourth grade."
It may be a while before she writes another book, however.
She said she is feeling more inspired to focus on her other interests, including pottery and making miniature furniture.
At one point, she said, she built a harp and then learned to play it.
"I'm no good at it, but it's entertainment for me."
For more information about Bennett's books, visit http://www.marciabennett.com.