It’s the thought that counts, author Witham tells students


OXFORD – If third-graders could pick their own names, teachers would be calling on students such as Dumbo, Butterfly, Manny, Basketball, Cinderella and Lilly.

At least, that’s what Oxford Elementary School students wanted to be named after local author Lois Witham read them her book “My Name Is…,” a story about a girl named Linda who didn’t like her name, so she adopted new ones.

Witham is speaking to Oxford third-, fifth- and sixth-graders this week, telling them about the process of writing a book with emphasis on the editing and rewriting stages.

Wednesday morning, she engaged two third-grade classes by asking them questions about themselves. Students raised their hands to the point where their arms got tired in anticipation of wanting to speak.

“The main thing is to get the thoughts down, then work on fine tuning,” she told them.

“My Name Is…” is the shorter of Witham’s two self-published books. Her first book, “The Pork Thieves,” is a true story passed down in her family, which involves Snow Falls and Mollyocket.

Tuesday she quizzed students on the history of Mollyocket and places such as Paris Hill.

“That’s a hotel where you swim!” one student quipped.

Witham smiled, and told students about the person the motel was named after.

After reading the two books to the classes, Witham fielded questions. Students wanted to know how she got into writing.

A former teacher in Connecticut, Witham said she “had lots of stories in her head,” but, while raising a family and working she never had the time. After moving back to Oxford, where she has roots, she said she took a watercolor painting class through adult education and it all came together.

She held up a story board with sketches of her work-in-progress – a story about a dog called “My Sammy.”

Teacher Karla Billings said her class enjoyed the presentation, and she offered them the option of starting on a new writing project if they felt inspired, when they resumed working on the projects they had begun before the author’s visit.

This was Witham’s first time talking to students. She said she aimed to, “make them feel special, that they have gifts.

“Children are put down so much,” she added.