Many years ago when I was at North Forrest Elementary School in Hattiesburg, MS, I was lucky enough to have an awesome teacher like Mr. Neil Powe as my fifth and sixth grade History teacher in 2001 and 2002 respectively. I had always liked Mr. Powe as he was a fun and cool teacher to learn from and he was the teacher of my favorite subject in school: History. In fact, he was my favorite teacher during my entire time at North Forrest Elementary and High School. However, it wasn’t his history lessons that would stick with me long after I left his classroom. It was his love for J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings.
Just about every class he talked about the greatness of Tolkien’s work and he even let us watch the first Lord of the Rings film “The Fellowship of the Ring”, even if we may have been too young for the film’s violence, but that was one of the cool things about Mr. Powe. I was just getting into Harry Potter so my interest in fantasy literature was already peaked, but it was Mr. Powe’s love of Tolkien that made me delve into the genre.
I checked out a copy of The Hobbit from my school’s library and when I was sick at home soon after, I finished it in one sitting. It was then I was hooked and my life changed forever. It was shortly after that my interest in writing began as I started to write, looking back, not-so-good short stories (hey I was like 11!) that were clear rip offs of Tolkien and my other obsession at the time, “Dragon Ball Z”. It was during this time when I created my first characters and story ideas, some of which I still have plans to use in future stories. Mr. Powe taught at North Forrest Elementary from 1976 to 2004 and is currently teaching at Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg, MS. He is also a musician in his spare time.
When I moved on to seventh grade in 2003, I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time. This increased my love for Tolkien and writing stories even more. Over my time in Junior High School, I continued reading the Harry Potter series, watched the rest of the “Lord of the Rings” films, and read some of C.S. Lewis’ work as well. It was at this point that I was hooked on fantasy literature and films and declared my dream of becoming a fantasy writer myself.
Soon after, in 2005, my family moved to New York City for a year and I was enrolled into a home school program. Even after returning to Mississippi, I continued and finished the program, earning my GED in December 2008 in the process. From there I went to Jones Country Junior College starting in August 2010 and studied my passions at the time: American History, Philosophy, and Political Science. My fictional writing would take a step back in place of writing about these three subjects. However, learning these topics would help improve my fiction writing later on.
After three semesters of studying, being President of my school’s Philosophy Club, and working on many political campaigns, I decided it was time to choose what I wanted to do as a career. Though I excelled in political science, I held the belief that politics was a public service and not something you should make a career of. It was then that I looked back at my first passion, fiction writing, and I decided that that would be my career path.
To pursue that path, I moved to Orlando, FL in August 2012. I enrolled in Full Sail University in January 2013 to sharpen and improve my writing skills. After much hard work, I graduated Valedictorian and earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment in 2015. During and since my time at Full Sail, I have had twelve short stories published and a short film produced and screened. I am currently working on my first novel amongst other projects.
A lot has happened to me over the years on my journey as a writer, but I know none of it would have been possible without the influence of Mr. Powe and his love of J.R.R. Tolkien. I want to take this time to thank you, Mr. Powe, with everything I have. Though I was just one of the many students you have had in your long career as an educator, I want you to know that you made a lasting impression on me that changed my life forever. Thank you for sharing your love of Tolkien with me and for helping me realize what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I will be forever grateful to have had a teacher as magnificent as you.