Anita Friddle Stubbs: Writing straight from the heart

Hopkins County native gives huband’s traumatic childhood a happy ending

BY TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

July 22, 2007 - Hopkins County native Anita Friddle Stubbs writes from the heart. She doesn’t know any other way. If it doesn’t ring true, she doesn’t put it down on paper.

www.anitastubbs.com

Anita Friddle Stubbs

In her first first novel, “A Velvet Bridge,” Stubbs tells the heart-rending story of Mattie Featherstone, a young mother living in a shanty town while her husband does dangerous construction work.

Suddenly, Mattie finds herself a widow with two small daughters to support. Without an education during the dark days World War II, Mattie has no chance of holding her family together. 

Mattie turns to booze and men to ease her pain, leaving Judith and Edith Kay, ages 12 and 5, to fend for themselves. Judith is raped and becomes pregnant. 

County welfare puts the girls in a home for orphans and then marries off Judith to an abusive older man. Edith Kay is adopted by a family and the sisters lose all contact.

As stark as Mattie’s fictional story is, it is anchored in the truth. 

�As a family genealogist, I often come across mysterious occurrences where the facts beg to be more closely examined. Such is the case with �The Velvet Bridge.�� Stubbs said. �When my husband was a little boy, according to county documents, his mother, a widow, left him and his sister in the care of �vicious and immoral people, without proper food or sanitation.� My husband and his sister were ultimately separated from each other. They never saw their mother again.�

Stubbs, who now lives in Canton, said she wanted to “tell a ‘second chance’ story with a happy ending ... and Mattie Featherstone appeared.”

The novel grew from “Paper Dolls,” a short story, which won the 1993 William Owens Award for Fiction at East Texas State University, now Texas A&M at Commerce, where Stubbs was a late-in-life student.

Stubbs said once she decided to turn the story into a novel, it took her ten years to complete the job.

Rather than trying to find an agent and publisher, Stubbs decided to publish the book herself.

�Once I finished, I was ready to see it in print, so self-publishing was an option that seemed to work best,� Stubbs said. �My son is a graphic designer who wanted to tackle the book�s layout and cover design.�

Stubbs’ Hopkins County roots run deep.  Her mother, Juanita Rhodes Friddle, was born in the Union community. She volunteers at the Hopkins County Memorial Hospital gift shop. Her father, Avon, was born in the Greenpond community. He died in 2004. Friddle was born in Sulphur Springs in 1943. She attended school first in Como, then for a couple of years in Yantis, before coming to Lamar Elementary in the middle of the fourth grade.

She graduated from Sulphur Springs High School in 1961, married Charlie and lived here until 1964. The family moved back in 1978 and stayed until 1995. Her three children, Tony, Terri Stubbs Frazier and Shannon, graduated from Sulphur Springs High School.

She has fond memories of growing up in Northeast Texas.

�I grew up south of Sulphur Springs in the Union community. My early social life was more centered around the church than school activities. It was an age of innocence I can hardly believe today,� Stubbs said.� �Some of my happiest early memories are those spent with my group of friends at Union Baptist Church. Every generation's period in history is unique, but nothing compares to being an East Texas teenager during the legendary 50s.�

Stubbs went back to college in 1989, receiving a degree after her children were grown.

�I majored in English, and those four years generated more creative ideas and pages of writing than any other period in my life,� said Stubbs. �I had no shortage of ideas for the true-to-life fiction I wanted to write, and college exposed me to the higher level mechanics and methods required for serious writing.�

When asked what advice she would give to aspiring authors, Stubbs says, “Read. Read. Read. Write what you know. Develop critical thinking skills. Take writing classes. Find your voice and stay true to yourself. Expect rejection; it’s part of the process.” 

Stubbs will talk about writing, research and the power of circumstances over lives at the Sulphur Springs Public Library on Thursday, Sept. 20. 

The program begins at 6:30 p.m. and is free to the public. Call 903-439-3070 for information. To order a copy of “The Velvet Bridge,” visit Stubbs’ website: www.anitastubbs.com

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