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How a young girl from Temecula turned her experiences into published works

By in Press Enterprise on November 18, 2017

By Carl Love

A middle school-aged girl moves to a small town in the 1980s. She aspires to be a writer, but how do you do that?

The girl meets a remarkable high school teacher, takes two classes from her, and becomes a class favorite. When that teacher — her mentor — reads her work out loud, it validates her talent, something all writers crave.

Meanwhile, the town seemingly overnight turns into a city — construction and change everywhere. It’s like something out of a fairy tale or a Greek tragedy, depending on your perspective.

About 20 years later, the girl becomes a National Book Award Finalist. She’s recognized for her first book that includes the small town, just not by name.

It’s a story that sounds far-fetched, although not as far out there as science fiction, which the girl (now a woman in her 40s) hopes to write someday.

Yet, it’s all true, Carrie Arcos, a Temecula Valley High School graduate, said recently to a crowd at the Ronald H. Roberts Temecula Public Library. Many in attendance have the same dream of being a publisher author.

November is National Novel Writing Month and four teens raise their hands when Arcos asks who’s working on one.

Sitting in the front row was Donna Dutton, the motivating teacher now retired.

“Everyone used to say she was my teacher’s pet,” Dutton noted. “She did everything right.”

Dutton was demanding, Arcos said, yet if a student was lucky enough to earn her praise, it was the ultimate. “She’s a big influence. She was very inspiring.”

Arcos started her talk by saying “Go Bears,” affirming her local roots. Her parents still live here and Arcos visits often. She now resides in Eagle Rock, part of the L.A. metropolis.

One of her books includes a character named Mrs. Dutton, and Arcos says, another scene where a substitute teacher […]    

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