PACE — Writer Sean Dietrich is well known for his blog, Sean of the South, and for his work that has appeared in numerous publications such as Southern Living, Yellowhammer News and South magazine.
On Thursday, he visited Living Truth Church, speaking to an audience of roughly 75 people. He told stories of his childhood and becoming a writer. The event, which also included a silent auction and dinner, benefited LEAD Academy.
The writer touched the crowd as he told the story of a boy growing up in Walton County who failed fifth grade, lost his father to suicide, then dropped out of school in the seventh grade.
Although few today would argue about Dietrich's talent for turn of phrase, that wasn't always the case.
Dietrich’s fifth-grade teacher, a preacher’s wife, asked him what he wanted to do with his life and even then Dietrich knew he wanted to be a writer. He offered her his notebook of stories, which didn't impress.
“She said I have a promising career in construction,” he said.
This discouragement, he said, influenced his downward academic motivation, leading to his failure of the fifth grade.
However, with his mother’s support, Dietrich moved to another school and met an encouraging teacher who pushed his creative writing aspirations throughout the year.
His teacher declared him a writer at the end of the sixth grade, but after his father's death he dropped out of school and eventually went to work at age 14 learning to hang drywall. The man who taught Dietrich said he would pay $35 a day but, at the end of the day, gave Dietrich $65.
When Dietrich asked why, the man said he did $65 worth of work — and he would have to learn how to accept charity because he would need it.
“Sometimes the people who need the most charity have the hardest time accepting it,” Dietrich said.
After years of learning various aspects of construction and landscaping, Dietrich tested his way into community college and earned a degree in writing. He soon met his wife, Jamie, who watched him receive his degree.
By the end of his talk, Dietrich said he met the same teacher who failed him in the fifth grade while working at a grocery store. He said when she hugged him he realized she was a human being like everyone else and she asked him what he does for a living.
“I said, ‘Ma’am, I do construction work,'" he said.
Dietrich’s seven novels are available through Amazon.com. His upcoming eighth book is titled “On the Road With Sean of the South,” he said.
See his blog posts and other writings at seandietrich.com.