Former English teacher Kerri Huffman finds “simple joy” writing her first novel
Published at 11:34 on Thursday 22 December 2022
- Former North Stanly High School English teacher Kerri Huffman wrote her first book this year about the trials and tribulations of three sisters.
During her 36-year career as an English teacher at North Stanly High School, Kerri Huffman has had the opportunity to unleash her creative side through the written word. She has written numerous plays for her students, including Louis Cato, bandleader for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and has also composed poems to honor retired teachers and staff.
“I think writing is cool because you can personalize so much of it,” she said.
Despite everything he accomplished and completed during his tenure at North Stanly, including earning Stanly County Teacher of the Year honors, founding the Comet Players Theater Program, serving as a yearbook consultant and instructor at Teacher Cadet, Huffman never got the chance to do something that has always been on her bucket list: write a book.
That recently changed when Huffman, who retired in the fall of 2020, released his debut novel “The Greenhouse Sisters” in October. The process was a family affair, as his son-in-law Matthew Leonard was the cover artist.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do, so when I retired and suddenly had all this time, I needed something creative to do,” Huffman said.
Set in North Carolina, the relatively short book at just 149 pages centers on the Green sisters – Lily, the eldest, and the narrator, Violet and Rose – who follow them from childhood to adulthood, focusing on the trials that arise from getting older. Knowing that they come from “good soil” (their father runs a greenhouse, growing tropical flowers), the sisters learn that each has their own path in life that they must discover in order to find their passion or “simple joy, as Huffman puts it.” .
Kerri Huffman’s debut novel, “The Greenhouse Sisters,” was released in October.
Going back to his teaching days, the book was based on a humorous play he wrote for the North Stanly faculty about a picnic involving three sisters.
Several aspects of Lily’s character are based on Huffman, including that she is also a teacher and attended college in the mountains. (Huffman is a graduate of Appalachian State University.)
While Huffman isn’t an accomplished gardener, he structured his novel around plants, which serve as a key metaphor: Just as flowers need love and attention to grow and bloom, so do people, including the Green sisters.
Huffman wrote the book to appeal to all kinds of people, noting that the novel’s themes of being strong, finding good ground, and discovering simple joys can be applicable to anyone.
“I hope they reunite somewhere in the book,” she said.
At the heart of the novel, “it’s a family story,” Huffman said, noting that many of life’s significant milestones are included, including getting married and coping with challenges, like the death of a loved one.
“It’s not a Hallmark story,” he said. “There are very sweet and wonderful stories mixed in, but there is sadness and there is tragedy.”
While she’s not sure about another book chronicling the sisters’ lives, many people close to her have inquired about a sequel. Huffman said she’s open to writing more books in the future.
“The Greenhouse Sisters” is available on Amazon, and Huffman plans to provide a copy to the Stanly County Public Library.