Laura Derr is a retired teacher and marketing professional living in East Tennessee. A graduate of the University of Kentucky with a Masters degree in English, she taught college English for fifteen years in Virginia, Texas, and Iowa. In 1980 she co-authored a textbook for an NPR radio course on The World of F. Scott Fitzgerald. While raising a family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she and her husband owned and operated a marketing research business for seventeen years. A native of the Bluegrass area of Kentucky, she has a unique perspective on the tobacco wars of the early 1900s and how they affected lives both then and now.
Books by Laura Derr
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The easy answer is that I am retired. I am an English major. I have more available time than I have had for the last forty years. But that is not why I decided to write this book.
I wrote Nick and Viola as testimony to the family we forget, the ancestors who struggled and laid down a foundation for the people we are today. My mother rediscovered Nick and Viola through her genealogical research. My father, who never knew the story of his paternal grandparents, found peace in its hard truths. I realized this story was also important for my children and grandchildren. And I hope it transcends my family and speaks to others who seek their own truths.
I also realized it was important to me. I grew up in the 1950s and 60s in the Kentucky Bluegrass world of tobacco. I experienced that world without understanding how it evolved and how it defined me. This book helped me stand outside that world and see the larger forces that shape us all. It has been a privilege to write Nick and Viola.
When You Hear …. is the result of these efforts. I have been humbled by comments from parents and grandparents who have affirmed that this book has encouraged a habit of praying in not only their young child’s life but theirs as well.
Yes, and that includes me! I love novels and the mythical worlds they create outside actual events. I actually began Nick and Viola as a historical novel. But I realized the temptation was too great for me to romanticize and embellish the actual events. Sometimes we need to present the truth with as much clarity as we can muster through deeds, court records and memories. In writing history, I had to do hard research, and in several cases I found that the historical records disagreed with my assumptions. Suddenly the reality was far more exciting than anything I could imagine.
I love oral history, and I conducted oral history interviews with my mother and father before I wrote Nick and Viola.
Before that, I was involved in an oral history project in the 1980s in Cedar Rapids, IA. Interviews were recorded with over ninety seniors of diverse backgrounds, from manufacturing families who controlled wealth to Czechoslovakian immigrants who sought wealth. I am rereading these interviews to find a common theme for essays and possibly a book.