Friday, September 13, 2013

Mrs. Johnston by Arlene James

Arlene James

You may have a teacher who stands out in your memory as someone who made learning fun, made you feel special, or was particularly hard on you. Author Arlene James had such a person in her life, and today she shares how that teacher helped her embrace her calling as a writer and begin her journey to publication. ~ Dawn

Mrs. Johnston

Trust me on this, if you are not called by God to write, then writing is nothing short of cruel and inhumane punishment.

Those of us called to write are compelled to write.

Even as a girl I knew that I would write. Indeed, I wrote as a child and even published as a child. God blessed me with an ogre of a teacher who made it her goal to prove to me that I could write if I chose to do so. Her name was Bernice Johnston, and she was my seventh grade English and Literature teacher.

I didn’t like her much, and frankly, I thought she was picking on me at first. She would assign a theme subject on Mondays. We handed in 500 words on the subject on Wednesdays and were supposed to receive them back, heavily marked up (edited) on Thursday, to be revised and turned in again on Friday. I routinely dashed off mine and turned them in at the end of the period that same day. So, Mrs. Johnston soon began giving me special assignments.

The rest of the class got 500 words on what it meant to respect one’s elders. I was told to write a short story about respecting an elder. And so it went throughout the semester. Oh, was I resentful. Short stories––that is, fiction––is much more difficult to craft than a simple theme. I complained to my father, who listened then refused to intervene. Wise man.

The day came when Mrs. Johnston provided me with a check. For five whole dollars. My first payment for publication, in this case for a short story that she had sent to a children’s magazine. She had been sending my work to every publication she could find, as well as entering my stories in contests, several of which I actually won. By the time I entered high school, I knew what I wanted to do for a living and didn’t doubt that I could do it.

Life, as it always does, intervened. I was 26 and a mom when I sold my first book, but I had lived for a long time under the firm conviction that I was called to write. A Christian from the age of nine, I was blessed with wise grandparents who taught me that God calls all of His children to something (and often to more than one thing). Mrs. Johnston helped me find God’s career calling in my life. Eighty-plus books and more than three decades of steady publication later, I don’t think I missed my calling.

Do you have a Mrs. Johnston in your life? Has God placed someone to nudge you toward a calling? Pay attention, whatever you stage in life, and trust God. Let Him direct you. If you just aren’t sure yet, then pray for your Mrs. Johnston. My prayer for you is that you’ll recognize your Mrs. Johnston when you bump into her.


God blessed Arlene James with a teacher who set out to prove that Arlene could write. Click to tweet.

A teacher helped author Arlene James find God’s career calling in her life. Click to tweet.

Has God placed someone in your life to nudge you toward a calling? Click to tweet.

LOVE IN BLOOM is Book 1 in the Heart of Main Street continuity series from Love Inspired. Set in Kansas, the series involves six businesses that receive matching grants to locate in a small town trying to save their beloved city from economic death after the main employer closes its doors. When Lily Farnsworth opens her floral shop there, she is escaping the expectations of her family and a disappointing love life back in Boston. The last thing she expects is to fall for widower Tate Bronson and his matchmaking 8-year-old daughter, but Tate will have to forgive God for the death of his wife before he can open his heart to Lily. Can planting a rose bush and giving a little girl a birthday wish really help him do that?

ARLENE JAMES is the author of more than 80 novels. Publishing steadily for more than three decades, she has concentrated on Inspirational Romance for the past several years. She loves providing her readers with uplifting stories of true love as God has ordained it. She and her husband, the artist James Rather, have traveled extensively and now live in northwest Arkansas, near the two brightest granddaughters in the world.

To learn more about Arlene and her work, please visit:


  1. If you have or had a "Mrs. Johnston" in your life, I'd be interested in hearing about her/him.

  2. I had several inspiring teachers, and now, I seek to be the teacher who inspires my students.

    Great read.


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