When Carol McAdoo Rehme was a sophomore at Cowley, serving as editor of the student newspaper, Tiger Tales, was among her many activities. The 1971 graduate, who was a Queen Alalah candidate in 1970, was a member of the Student Government Association and served as vice president of the Tiger Action Club, was a natural leader.
Here’s what appeared in the 1971 Tiger, the Cowley yearbook:
“The staff, under Carol’s leadership, attempted to improve the Tiger Tales in layout design, story content, and complete news coverage. Special emphasis was placed on better feature stories, surveys and editorials.”
Carol was a writer almost from the beginning. At age 8, she was the scribe for her Bluebird Troop and had stories printed in the paper. “I loved seeing my name in print,” she said. And her ninth-grade English teacher, Geneva Maag, wrote on the top of a book report on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, “You are a writer.” After editing student newspapers at Arkansas City High School, Cowley, and then Wichita State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree majoring in journalism and minoring in speech and sociology, Carol went a different direction with her writing. But not until after she spent the next 25 years of her life raising four children. “I thought writing translated to journalism,” she said. “Truly, I much prefer this creative non-fiction, where I found my niche. You can get very literary. There’s more room for metaphor and imagery and those sorts of things. I’ve evolved with this.” She certainly has.
Carol, who lives with her husband Norman L. Rehme in Loveland, Colo., writes prolifically for the inspirational market. She has six stories in the highly competitive Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She is the primary contributor to two hardbound gift collections, “An Angel By Your Side” and “Whispers from Heaven for the Christmas Spirit.” Other stories were published in “Tea-Time Stories for Mothers” and “Heart-Stirring Stories of Love.” Still more will appear in several of the upcoming “God Allows U-Turns” volumes. In the magazine market, Carol has free-lanced for both adult and children’s publications. As a professional storyteller, she practices and witnesses the impact of story on individuals. She performs, presents, and keynotes at educational and professional conferences, festivals, and tradeshows.
Carol, an Arkansas City native, always has immersed herself in anything she’s ever attempted. That was evident when she finished her coursework at Cowley in three semesters, in December 1970, and then WSU in 1972. She gave up full and half scholarships to two other schools to attend Cowley. Her time at Cowley left a lasting impression. “When I went over to register, Mary Margaret Williams hired me on the spot to work in the registrar’s office,” said Carol, 51. “Working with her was just a delight. My two biggest cheerleaders were (then college president) Gwen Nelson and dean W.S. Scott. Those three probably influenced me the most as far as educators there.”
Carol also remembers taking organ lessons from Fostine Moncrief. “I use music a lot in my programs,” she said. “I remember her emphasizing to me that if you make a mistake, you just keep going. As a performer and a writer, you just keep going, keep trying.” And in speech teacher J.P. Dewell’s class, Carol learned another valuable piece of information. “For the first time, I recognized that storytelling could be an art form,” she said. “I learned that from him, and that gave me confidence to perform.” And Cowley journalism instructor Tom Newton, whom the students called “Fig,” “taught me what good writing is, and that it can really stoke the fire of feeling. With that combination of writing and storytelling, there’s nothing else quite like it. It’s the heart of the human experience.”
After graduating from WSU, Carol came back to Arkansas City to work for Gilliland Publishing. She and Norman, whom she’d met at WSU, were married a year later. Norman was a photographer/reporter for KAKE-TV in Wichita. Carol’s journalism career began with Penny Power. She later worked for a brand-new weekly started by KAKE called The Wichita Sun. It folded after two years, and it was time for Carol to become a mother. “I had four children in six years,” Carol said of Kyle, Katrina, Kayla, and Koy. “I always wanted to grow up and be a stay-at-home mother, and I got to do it. I was one of the fortunate few who got to do that.” In 1977, Norman took a job with the ABC affiliate in Denver, and the family moved to Loveland.
About 15 years ago, Carol started looking into the future, realizing that her four children would leave the nest at about the same rate they entered: quickly. “I started free-lance writing,” she said. “I’d done journalism-type work all those years. Public relations work for the church, newsletters for the school. So I decided to toy around with submitting my work.” She wrote children’s stories for magazines, an occasional item for the local newspaper, and entered poetry contests. “When I got a rejection, I assumed they didn’t know what a hot commodity they had in their hands,” Carol said with a laugh. “So, I’d send the story to someone else. I got published because I was so persistent.” Sounds like Carol.
During the last four years, her writing career has taken off. She has found her niche, writing for the inspirational market. She has sold 100 stories for anthologies, and recently was designated as one of Chicken Soup for the Soul’s most prolific authors. She’s in a dozen of their books, sometimes with several stories in the same book. Earlier this fall, Carol was honored by Chicken Soup for the Soul co-founders Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson by having her name appear on the cover of Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman’s Soul. Each book in the Chicken Soup series is comprised of 101 submissions. The first book in which Carol was published had thousands of submissions. This year, Carol’s stories have appeared in five books. She’s also in the process of editing an upcoming Chicken Soup book. “My stories are all non-fiction,” she said. “And they’re not necessarily about my personal life. I often will research something and write about it. I also collect stories from other people.”
A major project right now is writing her own book, a memoir with the working title “From the Ground Up.” The book is half finished and already has won two writing awards. “I’ve published about 11 excerpts from it,” she said. “I just need to finish it and try to get it published. I have high hopes.” Carol won the Paul Gillette Writing Competition for the Pike’s Peak Writing Conference, and recently won the prestigious Top Hand Award from the Colorado Authors League for the first chapter of the book. The book is an inspirational story about how Carol dealt with the tragic accident that left her oldest son Kyle critically injured. Kyle, who was in Los Angeles on missionary work, was hit by a drunk driver in LA three-and-a-half years ago. He was on life support and had to learn how to walk again for the second time as an adult (he was badly burned in an electrical accident when he was in high school). Kyle survived and now runs his own business. The book is on the first three months of the accident. “I filled three journals” when the accident happened, Carol said. “That’s very unlike me. But I had learned from his first accident. There’s nothing like trauma to throw details out of your mind.”
When Carol isn’t at her keyboard, she can be found performing for adult daycare centers, assisted living, and long-term nursing care facilities in Larimer County. It’s through a non-profit organization she founded called Vintage Voices, Inc. She received the No. 1 grant from the Colorado Council on the Arts for 2003 to continue working with those facilities. “That was humbling,” Carol said of receiving the grant. “But it feels like they’re recognizing not only a need, but the art forms that go into it. It endorses and validates it. “I perform a lot of what I write and publish. I take in interdisciplinary programs that are thematic and incorporate music, story, reminisce, creative movement, and tactile stimulants and try to offer a quality program to one of the under-served segments of communities. It’s one of my favorite things to do.” Carol performs 11 programs a month, and it’s all funded by grants she writes. “I have a real passion for this,” she said. “I wanted to find something to do with my life that I was as passionate about as raising children, and I’ve achieved that.”
Talent runs in the family. Husband Norman was named Photographer of the Year by the Colorado Professional Photographers Association for his accomplishments in the skill of photographic imaging. He has received the Kodak Gallery award and the Fuji Masterpiece award. “I’m very proud of him,” Carol said. She said her life was “braided together” through the combination of research, writing, and speaking.
“My goal is to remain as healthy and happy and involved as I am now,” Carol said. “I hope to get to do more of what I’m doing. I have such a passion for what I’m doing. Stories span life and connect generations. They are the thread of our social fabric. To have this opportunity to use story in writing, speaking, publishing and to know that it can help change lives makes an impact on my own life.” You can keep up with the Carol and Norman through their web site at www.rehme.com.