By RICHARD ROURK
The Erwin Record
A local writer has released a book that explores the important and personal journey that relates to being an adopted child.
Serina Marshall, a journalist employed by the Herald & Tribune of Jonesborough, has written before but never on a subject that touched on something so personal.
Her latest work, which is titled, “Handpicked,” is a book about being adopted.
“I have always been a huge advocate for adoption, especially since I myself had been adopted,” Marshall said in a recent interview. “Putting a spotlight on adoption and those who adopt and are adopted had always been important and I made sure everyone knew how wonderful my mom and dad were.
The idea for the project came about after I moved back home to Kingsport from Orlando in 2017 to help take care of my daddy as his dementia progressed.”
Marshall said she knows what it means to feel the pain of loss.
“My mom passed away in 2005 and I felt I hadn’t done enough to thank my parents or honor them for what they did for me,” she said. “That’s when the idea to write a book based on my life being adopted came to me.”
Marshall’s adoption journey began at age three.
“I was adopted at the age of three by my grandparents, James and Allie Marshall,” she said. “They took me out of an unsafe home life and brought me into a loving one.”
Like many, Marshall’s path to a happy and healthy life was a struggle.
“Growing up, I was bullied for being adopted,” she said. “Kids noticed my mom and dad were older. I was told I wasn’t wanted, that I was a freak, that I was an orphan and my parents got stuck with me. I didn’t really have any support by way of books on adoption or reading about people like me. But Mom and Dad always told me it wasn’t that I wasn’t wanted, it’s that I was wanted more than anything.”
As Marshall grew older, she began to blossom.
“The older I got, the more special and unique I felt,” she said. “Pretty soon I was proud to be adopted because I was specially handpicked to be their daughter. I wasn’t the easiest child to raise, especially as they were a bit older. But they never once hesitated to love me, believe in me and support me in so many ways. They were my best friends. I miss them every day. But they will always continue to inspire me.”
Writing has been a form of therapeutic healing for Marshall.
“Writing has always been a means of escape for me,” she said. “It’s a great way to get my emotions out. I’ve been writing creative stories since I was in elementary school.”
She added that she always had a big imagination.
“Not only did I like telling stories, I liked hearing them,” she said. “That’s what drew me to journalism. Everyone has a story to tell, they just need someone to listen.
“My biggest inspiration for writing itself came from, oddly enough, Reader’s Digest,” Marshall continued. “My mom loved that booklet and would read me the stories out of it when I was little. It got me fascinated in writing stories for others to read.”
Her work “Handpicked” has inspired Marshall to expand on the Allie Rose universe.
“I plan to make ‘Handpicked’ a series,” she said. “The second book is actually in editing now. I want it to follow Allie Rose (the main character who was named after my mom and her favorite flower) as she grows up. This way, it is relatable to a variety of audiences. In addition, it will include diversity and inclusion to span those audiences as well.”
Marshall’s love of writing makes her work a dream come true.
“I love telling stories and I love meeting people,” she said. “Working with the Herald & Tribune, I am blessed to get to do both every day,” Marshall said. “I’ve met some of the kindest and most captivating people in Jonesborough. For a small town, it holds big hearts. I love the personal aspect of it. I will be walking down Main Street and people will just say hi to me by name. It’s like neighbors and friends that just so happen to live in the same town. It reminds me of ‘Cheers,’ where everybody knows your name. It is so special. And I think it’s important to form that bond of trust and respect between a reporter and the community. I’m so grateful they allow me to tell their stories and news every week.”
Marshall shares “Handpicked” with those that have inspired her over the years.
“First and foremost, my mom and dad. Everything I do is for them and their memory,” Marshall said. “I wish they were here to see this come to fruition, but I know they are clapping for me from up above.
My family for supporting me my entire life and allowing me to read everything I write out loud at least 12 times to make sure it sounds right.”
She said her best friend, Kelley, helped come up with the name ‘Handpicked’ and the idea to make it a series.
She also gave credit to her professors Robin Byrne, Miriam Bryant, Ashley Rattner, Michael Bodary, Kurtis Miller, Wayne Thomas, Desirae Matherley and Kelsey Trom for pushing her to follow her dreams and for being a huge support system in everything that she does.
Marshall thanked her publishers and editors, Dustin Street and Anayia Cook, for all their hard work making her story happen.
“And definitely, my illustrator, Sierra Palmer, who brought the story to life in ways I never fathomed,” Marshall said. “She has been respectful throughout and wants to do justice to the memory of my parents and our story…and is brilliantly talented. She is one reason we are best-sellers. This wouldn’t have been possible without her, and I can’t wait for what is to come.”
“Handpicked” is available for preorder now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, Book Depository, Indiebound, Walmart and Bookshop.