Fictional book highlights Sussex County over the centuries
With Memorial Day arriving and bringing the start of the summer season with it, many people are searching for that perfect beach read. “Settlin’ In: Love, Death & Deception” is a compilation of short stories by Joseph Scott spanning four centuries of life on the Delmarva Peninsula.
“I’m the ninth generation of a man and his wife who moved to this area from Wales in 1675. I have somewhat of a passion for Delaware… Joe loved it, too. To write this book about these places was something he really, really loved doing,” said his wife, Priscilla.
Scott, a journalist who had written for more than 50 major magazines and newspapers, including New York magazine, McCall’s and Good Housekeeping, passed away last September, just one month after his book was published.
“When he finished the last story, he was so gratified… To get the proof of the book three weeks before he passed away was just incredible,” said Priscilla Scott, noting that when he received the book proof, she danced around their house, celebrating for the both of them. “I was just so thrilled.”
Joseph Scott’s first book, “Hello, Joe,” recounts experiences and tells the story of how he was shown the way to God and to figure out why he’s here.
Following a successful career in journalism, and a move to Sussex County, Scott became an English teacher at Delmarva Christian High School.
“When he had applied to teach at Delmarva Christian, at that point in time they didn’t have enough students to justify having a second English teacher,” recalled Priscilla Scott. Later that year, a teacher left the school to teach abroad, and the principal called Scott about the opening, asking him if he’d be interested in interviewing, along with some other candidates. Scott said yes.
“He was like, ‘I’m 59 years old. I only taught one year’ — which is true, because he was drafted to Vietnam, and after that went into journalism — ‘there’s no way they’re going to hire me.’”
However, Scott was hired and taught at the school for years, where he touched many lives.
“The reason why he got that job was because he could teach his students how to read analytically, write clearly and use vocabulary correctly and to the extent they could learn about it. He loved the word and taught all the classics,” said Priscilla Scott, noting he had to read 46 books before starting his first year of teaching at the school.
She said that, when he passed, she heard from so many of his students who had loved him. She noted one student he had was dyslexic and had had trouble in his English class; however, with the encouragement and persistence from Scott, the young man graduated at the top of his class and went on to the University of Delaware to study English.
“He never complained. He loved his kids.”
When he was 65, Scott decided he wanted to get his master’s degree in liberal arts, while also working fulltime as teacher at Delmarva Christian.
“Once a week, he would drive to Newark to take a three-hour course and drive home, and go teach the following day,” said Priscilla Scott. “He did that and finished his degree at 68.”
She said his master’s degree program was the first-time Scott had taken a course from a writing professor. The book came out of a number of short stories Scott wrote for his master’s thesis, with approval from professor David Teague.
Teague loved Scott’s stories so much, in fact, that he encouraged him to keep writing.
“Writing is what he did. He was absorbed by it,” said Priscilla Scott.
After 2014, due to illness, Scott could no longer teach in the classroom, but he continued writing his short stories.
“He would attribute everything to God, always,” said Priscilla Scott. “To see him working on the book was so amazing and such a gift to me, to see his perseverance and his use of his God-given abilities, even though he knew his body was failing and that he was never going to get better.
“To see him, despite all the physical ailments, he just kept moving forward. He never let them get in his way, he never complained. He was just an inspiration to me and to many, many people. He just kept on going.”
Scott’s book was proofread by his wife, who is a professional editor and who said that, at the time, she was nervous as to whether or not the book would appeal to a wide audience.
“Settlin’ In” is currently being sold at Bethany Beach Books, Made by Hand, Patti’s Hallmark and Browseabout Books for $15.
“I think it would make a great beach read and a great ‘souvenir’ to bring home to friends and family. That’s why I contacted the local bookstores,” said Priscilla Scott. “People love to go into book stores and wander around to see what they have. You never know. I’m not trying to become wealthy with this book, I just think it’s a wonderful read and I would like as many people as possible to enjoy reading it.”
Priscilla Scott said most of the stories came from her husband’s mind and are not based on life experiences that he had personally.
“He was so committed to write about the places on the Delmarva Peninsula because he loved it here… He would get ideas in the middle of the night, and he wouldn’t want to forget them,” she recalled, noting that he would scribble on paper towels if that was the only nearby paper at 3 a.m. “It’s kind of mindboggling to me.”
Priscilla Scott said the 19 stories are all so different that there’s something that will touch everyone.
“He had so many stories to tell. He really projected getting through life and enjoying what life has to offer.”
She also noted that those who knew Joe Scott should pay particular attention to the names of the characters in the book.
“The names of the people in the book aren’t necessarily by accident. Some of them were names of people who live here or lived here years ago. Other names in there are people Joe knew, whether it was a student, relative or whatever. Also, of course, he used the places people would be aware of here. That was fun for me to read, and my family, because they’re aware of the names and things like that.”
Priscilla Scott said she hopes readers will check out the book and enjoy it as much as Scott loved writing it.
“I just hope people have the opportunity to enjoy it, because I think that they will.”
For more information about Scott and his work, visit www.josephscottauthor.com.