Cheryll Powell Hendershot, instructor of English in the Department of Languages and Literature at Eastern New Mexico University, has authored a new book titled "Beyond the Closet Wall: Ten Weird Stories."
Published by Scopcraeft Press, the stories were inspired by her "long-time interest in reading and teaching short stories of a gothic kind, including ghost stories, and from that activity thinking I would like to write some fiction of this kind for myself, some of it based on experiences with the occult I had experienced myself in my native eastern New Mexico."
The stories are titled: "Beyond the Closet Wall," "Late November," "Beware of Gifts," "Friends of Kafka," "Mountain Retreat," "Mortman's Eyes," "The Rocky Hillside," "Harbingers of Death," "Return at Christmas" and "Time to Listen."
Here is an excerpt from "Beyond the Closet Wall": "I've never been sure the whole episode was just my imagination. I still believe I was receiving images from someone else's reality. I think I somehow stumbled onto someone else's thoughts and became obsessed with these other lives, but I have no idea where these other people are."
Ms. Hendershot, married to Dr. Tony Oldknow, retired ENMU English professor, has been teaching writing and literature mainly to freshmen since 1997. She enjoys interacting with students from a variety of backgrounds and watching them "become excited when they suddenly see the light about something, especially as a result of reading and discussing a story or novel."
She previously worked with several New Mexico school districts as a computer programmer and financial advisor, using the programs she created for payroll and budget.
Ms. Hendershot was born in Portales and has lived all her life in Roosevelt and Curry counties.
"I find the whole area beautiful," she said, "even sometimes, as in my story 'A Time to Listen,' when the beauty comes in part through encounters with aging and decay with people and things. I especially enjoy watching and engaging in the life of the seasons, particularly in my large garden with all its plants and flowers.
"Also, the ENMU campus is very pleasing and in many parts beautiful, and the majority of the people who work and learn here are friendly and make it a fine place to work."
The author graduated from Elida High School, where she enjoyed "some inspired teachers," was interested in literature and was co-editor of her yearbook.
Her degrees from ENMU include a BA in English with Honors, with a minor in religion, and an MA in English with a thesis on "Four Modern Poets."
Always interested in reading and writing, she says it was natural for her to want to teach. She was "fortunate" to go straight from teaching as a graduate assistant in English at Eastern to teach English for 20 years and counting.
"I have worked with some very inspired teachers and excellent students," she said.
Ms. Hendershot derived "a good deal of pleasure in compiling a first book, one containing ten weird stories, and have thoroughly enjoyed writing them. I want to write more."
Seven additional stories have been revised and are ready for publication in a second book, with more in various stages of completion.
"I shall, I think, at least for now, continue using my New Mexico experiences as background in the fantasy and weird fiction realm," she said.
Ms. Hendershot enjoys working in her "big garden and especially appreciate the many trees which we have tried to make part of a kind of English garden. I love reading and writing, of course, and watching movies — particularly gothic and detective and police and court-room procedures — also ghost and horror stories."
She also enjoys traveling around the U.S. and to other countries. Destinations that stand out are Toronto, Chicago, London and Paris.
She particularly likes wandering around the mountains of New Mexico with its flora and fauna.
Her happiest moments have been seeing her children grow up and become "really interesting and accomplished adults."
Her daughter, Cyndy, is a professor of English at Arkansas State University, and her son, Scott, teaches math at ENMU.
"Undoubtedly, my saddest moments have been witnessing loved ones and friends suffer illness and death," she said.
Ms. Hendershot was raised on a cattle ranch owned and operated by her parents, Joe and Evelyn Powell, to whom her book is dedicated.
Their ranch was situated several miles to the north and west of Elida. Her one sibling, an elder sister, is a retired teacher.
She and Dr. Oldknow have two cats and a big Saint Bernard dog.
Ms. Hendershot says those who write "don't really retire from doing that. I hope to keep up my interests in literature, language and writing after I retire."
She hasn't "exactly formulated a philosophy. However, brought up in a home whose parents really were true Christians, I myself sincerely believe in having a deep respect for the whole Universe and following the precept of avoiding hatred, respecting my fellow humans of all kinds and looking for good things everywhere."