MY STORY

I’ve been writing in my head and heart since I was nine but it wasn’t until I turned fifty-nine that I committed to putting pen to paper. Did lots of free style writing to build my confidence. Attended classes and workshops and intensives to learn the craft. So much to learn! So much terrible writing to overcome!
 
To paraphrase an old saying: I’m not where I want to be but I’m better than I used to be!

Hello, and welcome!  So glad you’re here!

My name is Gilda Lorraine Packard Thompson. I write under the name Lorraine Packard because I like my middle name and don’t get to use it much, and, I want to honor my father by using his surname in my writing.

I grew up in Bogalusa, Louisiana, a small paper mill town in Washington Parish with a population of approximately 12,000. The town is located about an hour and a half north of New Orleans, and about thirty minutes or so west of Poplarville, Mississippi.    

As the middle child in a family of five children I wasn’t sure how I fit in the overall scheme of things. I was too old to play with the younger kids, too young to hang with the older kids, and extremely introverted. Making friends was hard for me. I learned to sit back and observe.  

I was at home in books, even books I didn’t quite understand. I read those with a dictionary handy. I was intrigued by the discovery of new places, new people, and new ways of thinking about life; books provided a perfect platform for discovery.

When I got my first public library card at ten or eleven years old, it seemed to me that I’d struck gold. That little card was my ticket for exploring the world. While Daddy waited patiently in his blue pickup truck, I made my way through the stacks, eager for the next adventure to jump out at me. At home I sometimes read at night by flashlight, well past bedtime. I believe I got my first pair of eyeglasses after reading Gone with the Wind that way. I don’t recall any particular series of books that were favorites; I simply loved to read, especially about places I’d never been, which meant that I loved to read about anywhere, and everywhere.  

During my childhood I read one book that stood out in my mind above all others. It was a travel book of sorts, with pictures and stories of some of the most majestic places in the country, including the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, coastal California and coastal North Carolina.  

At the time of discovering this book I had seen the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Pearl River, but I had not seen the ocean. Through that book and my imagination, I picked seashells at Wrightsville Beach and took in the smell of the ocean while I watched seagulls take off and land. The imaginary feel of sand between my toes made me giddy. I never saw myself frolicking in the water, though, probably because I didn’t know how to swim, and the water scared me. Imagine that, being afraid of the water and yet drawn to its magnificence. 

My love of books gave me the courage to dream beyond the confines of my humble circumstances. One of my dreams had been to graduate college, and I did, from the University of Connecticut, after which I took the opportunity to see some of the places I’d read about in the books of my youth. I even ended up moving to North Carolina, where I’ve lived off and on for twenty years. 

J California Cooper, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks—all helped stock my first adult bookshelf. They challenged my thinking, too.  

A few years ago I found myself telling Bogalusa stories to my children and grandchildren. 

They loved hearing them, and encouraged me to write them down. Around that same time my sister Wendy and I began reminiscing about our childhood experiences, and I knew it was time to wander back to where it all began. The Bogalusa stories are a result of that wandering. 

Although there will be other stories here that aren’t about Bogalusa, Bogalusa will always be there, reminding me who I am, and where I came from. 

This site was created as a platform to share my little stories. I hope that as the stories are added to the site you’ll find one or two that you enjoy; perhaps you’ll meet a few folk who seem familiar to you. 

Lorraine       

December 11, 2020