To honor the memory of his mother, a local author has published a collection of poems written by her.
Released earlier this year, the collection, titled “Poems from a Coal Miner’s Daughter,” primarily features the work of Minnie Zerby, the mother of Thomas Tidwell.
Tidwell, a resident of Graham and himself an author, discovered the work after Zerby’s death in 2011. He remembered promising his mother, who was born in 1934 and raised in Mobile, Alabama, that he would one day turn her poems into a book.
“She didn’t know what to do with the poems,” said Tidwell. “So, she left it up to me.”
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Zerby began writing her poetry in the 1960s when she was in her 30s. Many poems in the collection are memories of her childhood and what it was like to work on a farm and have a coal miner as a father.
While most of the collection was written by Zerby, Tidwell’s brother and sister also each contributed selections. Tidwell also contributed a poem to the book titled “A Difference in Time,” the last in the collection.
When Tidwell, 64, decided to explore possible publishers for Zerby’s work, he eventually landed on Tate Publishing, a Christian-based, family owned, mainline publishing organization headquartered in Oklahoma. Soon, an agreement was reached and the process began.
It took just four months to get the book into print — a rapid amount of time when it comes to publishing, said Tidwell.
“How fast your book gets published depends on how quickly you respond to your publishing team,” Tidwell said. “I think I drove them a little crazy sometimes, but I wanted it to be done right.”
Tidwell, whose writing interests range from poetry to children’s books to adult novels, started writing during a 20-year career as an aviation and electronics technician in the U.S. Navy. After leaving the military, Tidwell retired to Graham, where he has made his home.
Currently, Tidwell is working on a children’s book about a bunny, based on his family’s real-life experiences with a pet rabbit that often begged for food and acted like a dog.
Tidwell’s service in the Navy has made him passionate about American values and history, which he also hopes to explore in future writing projects.
“I’ve always wanted to write and tell stories that people will enjoy,” Tidwell said. “I want to provide entertainment that you can’t put down.”
Tidwell, who works on weekends as a security guard, spends his weekdays writing. He said he is happy to finally see his mother’s writing talents in print and publicly on display.
The collection “Poems from a Coal Miner’s Daughter” is now available for purchase at local book-signing events or online. More signing events will be held in the future, Tidwell said.
Although Zerby passed away in May 2011 at the age of 78, Tidwell hopes her poems will reach many for years to come.
“She was always there for me,” Tidwell said of his mother. “This book is honoring her.”
Allison Needles, a Covington-based freelance writer and member of MediaLab at Pacific Lutheran University, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.