Molly Best Tinsley escapes writer's block to finish first...


May 05, 1991|By Mary Corey

Molly Best Tinsley escapes writer's block to finish first novel

Stuck in the "vast middle" of her first novel, Molly Best Tinsley did what any angst-ridden writer would: She got sick.

So sick, in fact, that even approaching her word processor induced queasiness.

"I thought, 'This isn't going to amount to anything,' " recalls Dr. Tinsley, 47, who has a Ph.D. in English.

But judging from "My Life with Darwin," the finished product due out this month, the struggle (and the self-hypnosis she used to beat writer's block) was worth it. Reviewers are using words such as "enchanting" and "dazzling" to describe the tale of a contemporary family headed by the daughter of missionaries.

"I don't think everybody's going to like it," cautions the author. "It's a woman's book."

Since 1977, the Silver Spring mother of two has been inhabiting a mostly male world, teaching creative writing at the Naval Academy. "It's a great thing," she says of her job. "It's sometimes the only chance those kids get to be creative."

Jacquelyn Mitchell doesn't always know where work ends and family begins.

That's because during her 20-year career as an educator, she's often used her experiences as a single mother to better understand her profession.

Take her dissertation, for example.

Struggling to raise two children while working on her doctorate at Harvard, she put her youngsters' arguments to good use, secretly taping their quarrels and writing a paper analyzing sibling interaction.

"Anything I do I believe in," she says, "but parenting is the most important of all."

She also credits her children (Jill, 22, and David, 21) with convincing her to recently move to Ellicott City and accept a position as associate dean of academic affairs at Johns Hopkins University.

"They kicked me out of the nest," says Dr. Mitchell, who is divorced and declines to give her age.

In the late '60s, she began her career teaching preschool and has gone on to receive national attention for directing the Afro-American studies program at the University of California, Davis.

Her goals today include elevating the status of teaching and remaining active in the classroom.

Have someone to suggest? Write Mary Corey, Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or call (301) 332-6156.

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