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Johnston book signing draws crowd

By Staff | Aug 19, 2010

A steady stream of fans and friends of author and former Sanibel Mayor Carla Johnston streamed into MacIntosh Books and Paper Monday to buy her recently released memoir, “Raising Myself: A Teenager’s Odyssey.”

Johnston continued writing personal messages and signing books as she chatted with islanders and queried tourists about their visits to Sanibel. As the memoir of her first 16 years shows, curiosity is one of her defining traits and asking questions one of her favorite things to do. She called questions “word candy.”

Johnston said the book was a “bucket list” project for her. 

“I wrote the book because I always get upset when I run into adults who talk at kids rather than with kids, and because it’s terrible to see teenagers from broken families who get marginalized and don’t have a chance to reach for their dreams.”

Johnston’s book depicts a childhood fraught with challenges: orphaned at 13, a stepfather with questionable sexual intentions toward her, much jostling among relatives and many unhappy moves, with little adult company or supervision. So she raised herself.  It’s interesting that the first sentence of the book is “Keep your mouth shut!”  but in the last paragraph, after surviving trials and tribulations almost by herself, Johnston wrote, “I’ve acquired a spirit, a viewpoint, a way to approach tomorrow … The future is exciting.”

The author didn’t hesitate to write about personal experiences some might prefer to keep private, especially living in a small community like Sanibel. “If experiences any of us have had over the course of a lifetime can be useful to other people, I think sometimes it creates teachable opportunities to share those,” Johnston said. “I find people who have read [the book] telling me of their own experiences and talking about how one might change things or find solutions to problems of the past so they might not be problems for the next generation of kids.”

The book is written in the voice of Carla Lee Brooks as a child, helping the reader more easily experience what she’s going through. Johnston decided to write that way for a couple of reasons. “I have written seven policy wonk books,” she laughed. “I was fascinated by the idea that I think people learn from stories more than from policy wonk books, and I wanted to learn how to write dialogue.”

The book is dedicated in part to “those with hopes and dreams.” Johnston had to fight harder than most to accomplish all she has and find herself at MacIntosh Books signing her eighth book. Her hopes and dreams now include finding ways to teach adults to recognize and talk with children and to actually hear what they are saying.

After learning of her mother’s death via telegram, 13-year-old Johnston is alone with no one to talk to. “Talking is a good thing; helps you figure out what you think yourself, and maybe helps hear other people’s ideas too.” But it only helps if someone is listening.

“Raising Myself: A Teenager’s Odyssey” is available at local bookstores and on www.amazon.com.