Writing professor’s first novel to be published

Lauren Collins, Features Editor

One Pitt-Johnstown professor marked a milestone two weeks ago when her novel was accepted for publication.

Writing professor Cherri Randall said her novel, “The Memory of Orchids”, was halfway done in 1997, but she had to delay her writing because of her college homework (Randall said she started undergraduate studies at age 34).

The idea for the plot came from my brother. He was a correctional officer at Allred Penitentiary in Wichita Falls, Texas.

He would come home and tell stories about his work.

“I started thinking about it, and (the novel) just happened.

“I changed everything to a woman’s prison because women and justice are big issues on my agenda,” Randall said.

She said that the title was inspired by a Discovery Channel show regarding the more than 20,000 types of orchids. However, only one species, the vanilla orchid, produces fruit.

“From 1600 to 1800, Mexico had a monopoly on vanilla because, although plenty of people were trying to export the plant, they failed at exporting the bee that pollinates the flower.

“Finally, some French guy perfected the process of (pollinating) by hand and now the major producers of vanilla are all colonized by France,” Randall said.

Randall said that orchids play a role in the novel and in Stacey Sharp’s (the main character’s) time in the Oklahoma corrections department for credit card fraud.

The plot follows Sharp’s journey through the prison and the relationships she develops, Randall said.

The novel is in a preproduction phase. When it is released, Randall said it will be available online so e-reader owners can buy the novel in an electronic format.

Cyberwit of Allahabad, India., the company publishing the book, published two of Randall’s poems in their magazine and she said they asked whether she had any fiction for them.

“My editor at Cyberwit read (two of my) novels, and said they both were wonderful,” Randall said.

Randall said she hopes the second novel will be published, too, and is working on a third.

Randall said that her advice for writers can be applied to any major.

“I was reading Parade Magazine out of the Sunday paper this week and some actor said that: ‘The best moment was when what you love to do marries what you do best.’”

“I think that (the statement) perfectly describes writing – or anything else. I love to write, and I’m pretty sure it’s what I do best. So my advice for life is the same for writing.

“Do what you love, and work like a dog until it is the best thing you do.”