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March 06, 2018

My Conversation with Prince Alum and Published Author, Mez Blume

Written by:  Amy Frierson

It recently came to my attention that one of our alumni, Mary Elizabeth Blume Stead, is an author of children’s literature, and her book, Katie Watson and the Painter’s Plot, will be placed in the Prince library and on our summer reading list. 

I remember Mary Beth as a young student at PACS.  She was a sweet friend to one of my daughters, and her mother is endeared to many Prince alumni as Señora Blume, the lower school Spanish teacher for many years.  Mary Beth attended PACS for 8 years and graduated as Valedictorian of the Class of 2006.

Upon hearing of Mary Beth’s book, I was struck by the profundity of the ministry of Prince Avenue Christian School coming full circle--a graduate of Prince Avenue Christian School pursues her passion for writing and now brings her published book back to our current students. 

I recently caught up with Mary Beth through email in preparation for her Spring Book Tour and her planned visit to Prince on March 26th.  She now goes by the pen-name “Mez”, and she resides with her husband, Gordon, in the United Kingdom. 

I asked Mez to answer a few questions in order to write a feature story for our school publications.  However, because Mez is gifted with the written word, I felt that to try to fit her answers into a neatly packaged feature was too limiting.  Her responses are beautiful and insightful and truly capture the essence of her history at Prince as well as her current endeavors as a children’s author. I think you will agree that an interview was the best way to tell her story.

 

Can you offer a timeline of your major life-events since graduating from Prince that led you to your current location and occupation?

Certainly. After leaving PACS, I attended UGA where I did a double major in Romance Languages and Art History. I loved being at the university, but I must say, the highlight was my 3rd year which I spent abroad at the University of Oxford. A true Anglophile at heart, I returned to England after graduating for an MA in Gothic Cathedrals at the Courtauld Institute of Art (part of the University of London).

I had no idea what I would do following my course, but God had some major plans awaiting right around the corner! I stayed in London and soon found myself employed as the children’s worker at my church, St John’s Downshire Hill. I’m so grateful for the 4 years at St John’s, not only because I grew among a wonderful church family and enjoyed teaching young people the Bible in Sunday School, clubs, and camps, but also because that’s where I met my husband, Gordon!

Gordon and I got married in 2013, and a year later, I left my job at St John’s and took the plunge, deciding to become a full-time writer. Soon after, we adopted our Jack Russell Terrier, Hugo, who has been a wonderful source of joy, entertainment, and exercise.

2017 was a quite a year. We left London to move to a boarding school in the country where my husband is now Head of Physics. Just a few months later, after many healthy doses of struggle and rejection, I, at last, became a published author in 2017 with my debut novel Katie Watson and the Painter’s Plot. With a sequel on the way, a number of other books in the publication pipeline, and an international book tour on the calendar, life has become busier than I ever anticipated after putting just one book out into the world. But I’m so grateful for every opportunity the Lord has given me. His plans always stretch far beyond my own dreams.

 

When you are not writing, how do you spend your time?

Living at a country boarding school has its benefits. Since moving out of the city, I’ve enjoyed running, cycling, rowing, and many a long country walk with the dog.

I’ve always got several books on the go, and Gordon and I enjoy reading aloud to one another (though we’ve only recently discovered Netflix which does pose some competition to our reading time!).

During the school holidays, we love to travel, whether it be to nearby Windsor Castle or an exotic new country. And of course, no matter where I am -- on a walk in the woods or off to India -- I am always on the lookout for the next story idea!

 

Talk about your writing.  How did you begin?  What inspired you?  Did you always know you wanted to be an author?  Where do you get your story ideas?

I don’t know that I’ve always wanted to be an author. I don’t think I realized as a child that ordinary people like me could become authors. But certainly Story has always been an important part of my life and a tool God has used to shape me.

Some of the authors who have inspired me most are C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, and Jane Austen. Perhaps not so coincidentally, all of them share one key aspect: they are Christians. Of course, there are many brilliant authors who do not acknowledge God as the giver of their gifts, but when Christians write stories inspired by the Truth, stories about Hope and Sacrificial Love and Goodness overcoming Evil, those stories become more than just stories. They become windows into God’s Story: His Redemptive Plan for this world. The idea that I can use my gifts to write stories that point people to Truth inspires me more than anything.

As to ideas for particular stories, I find them everywhere! Once you start looking, listening and asking questions, stories are absolutely falling from the sky! The idea for Katie Watson and the Painter’s Plot came from a visit to an Elizabethan manor house near where my husband grew up. It is so full of mystery and history; I couldn’t resist putting it into a story.

           

I love your pen-name.  Do you go exclusively by Mez, or is that just your public persona?

Why thank you! As a matter of fact, I do go by Mez, though it wasn’t entirely by choice. When I moved to the UK, I quickly discovered that long names will be shortened. My name - Mary Elizabeth -- didn’t stand a chance. Some of my rowing friends shortened it to Mez, and it’s stuck!

What advice would you give to students who love to read and write regarding pursuing those talents?

First of all, keep reading. Every good author is also a good reader. You learn how to write by reading and emulating the authors you love.

Secondly, and this sounds obvious, you must write! Start by keeping a journal and jotting down ideas. If you spend just 5-10 minutes each day writing, you’ll be amazed how quickly your words will grow into something … a page, a short story, even a novel!

Finally, don’t be afraid to share your work. Creativity works best when we collaborate. When I was a student at PACS, my friend, Marissa Stocks, and I would write stories (in break time, of course) and share them with one another. And do you know, we still share stories and help each other grow as writers today!  

Creativity is hard work, but it’s also a gift God has given us to enjoy. Don’t forget the fun of it!

 

Are there any thoughts or details regarding the book that will be in the Prince Avenue library and on the PACS summer reading list that you would like to share?

Katie Watson and the Painter’s Plot is, I think, a book for the whole family. It has action, mystery, some very interesting history, and yes, a bit of danger sprinkled in. But it’s also about the power of friendship to inspire true bravery.

If you’d like a copy of your own, you can get the paperback just about wherever books are sold. You can also download the ebook and audiobook for free on my website! Here’s a link:

http://mezblume.com/book/katie-watson-and-the-painters-plot/

 

In thinking about your time as a student at Prince, can you specify ways that PACS influenced you spiritually or educationally that helped you along the way?  A certain teacher or class?

My years at PACS were so special. I’m indebted to so many wonderful teachers who inspired and encouraged me, both spiritually and academically. One person who stands out is Mrs. Linda Gore, my 4th- grade teacher. Mrs. Gore fit reading time into every day, and she let us borrow books from her own wonderful collection. She also read The Chronicles of Narnia aloud to us and let us watch Anne of Green Gables during classroom lunches. Reading was never a chore in Mrs. Gore’s class. It was a treat!

Another special person was my drama teacher, Mrs. Candy Todd. Mrs. Todd helped me develop confidence on stage which translated to my life off stage as well, the kind of confidence that comes through hard work done for God’s glory. The skills and confidence she encouraged in me have played a part in every job I’ve done, including the often frightening job of sharing my writing in public.

 

How about your book tour?  How long will the tour last, and where will you visit?

I’ll only be in the US for 10 days this Spring, so I’m focusing my school visits in Athens, Watkinsville, and the surrounding areas.  Besides schools, I’ll be visiting the Oconee Library and several bookshops including Barnes & Noble, Normal Books and The Story Shop (dates and times TBA).

In May and June, I’ll be continuing the tour in the UK, but I do plan to return to the US to share the next book, coming out this October!

 

Anything else that I did not think to ask?

I’m happy to invite parents & older students to keep up with me through my newsletter (sign up is on www.mezblume.com), as well as on social media. I only share news and resources that I think would be of interest to parents, teachers, and young readers. I’ll copy the links below:

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share with the PACS family!

 

Mez will visit Prince Avenue Christian School on Monday, March 26th as part of her book tour for Katie Watson and the Painter’s Plot.  Mark your calendars, and watch the Wolverine Weekly for more information in the days to come. 

As for me, I have already ordered my copy and cannot wait to get to know Katie Watson.