Recounting his time spent with a blind elderly woman, Heflin weaves Hettie Keller's story of inspiration and encouragement through the words of wisdom she imparted before her passing.
"Mockingbird's Song: Hettie Keller's 10 Maxims for Peace and Happiness" was released Aug. 15 as an Amazon e-book. Heflin met Keller when she was 93 and has her biography memorized but it was her wit and love for life that left its mark on Heflin's life.
"She was born in a Georgia cotton field in the summer of 1899, three months premature, weighed less than two pounds, probably 200 miles from a hospital, daughter of sharecroppers. She got a special degree from Harvard in 1927, she played eight musical instruments, she performed at the Fox Theater in the '40s with a musical troop. She married a blind man and was married for 37 years to Joe Keller," Heflin said.
Heflin made Keller's acquaintance while volunteering with the Center for the Visually Impaired. After meeting Keller and learning of her life, Heflin visited her nursing home every Saturday for four years.
"This is a magical story," Heflin said. "This is a story that will make you cry. This is a story that will make you laugh as well, but she was the one that convinced me I could write this story."
Heflin graduated in 1961 from Auburn University with a degree in journalism and aspirations to write but life carried him instead into the sales arena where he made his career in Atlanta's high-profile commercial real estate market. Heflin has now, since his retirement, accomplished a lifelong dream with the help of an old friend.
"I feel like I am on top of Mount Everest after completing this story. This has been an almost 20-year project for me," Heflin said. "I didn't write it to make money. I wrote it to fulfill a deathbed promise I made to a dear friend, that's the reason I wrote this story -- and to inspire. As long as I was writing, I thought, why not try to inspire every person that reads this story into maybe helping their neighbor or doing public service for someone you don't know."
During her lifetime, Keller journeyed to Philadelphia where she worked teaching children to read Braille. Heflin described how Keller read, as fast as anyone with sight, with two fingers to the page, looking straight ahead. In that manner, she read a book a week for 60 years.
Her ability to overcome obstacles and maintain a positive attitude struck a chord with Heflin, one which later inspired his work. Recounting a conversation with Keller, Heflin summarized the spirit with which she lived.
"She said to me one day, 'Arnold, being blind has some distinct advantages," Heflin recalled. "'I've never had the distractions that people with sight have had.' And she said, 'The more distractions that you have in your life, the less opportunity you have to find your destiny.' We all have a destiny and God will place people in the path of your life's journey and they're there for one reason, to help you find your destiny."
Throughout their time together, Keller passed along words to live by. Ten maxims she promised, if practiced daily, would lead to peace and happiness. Each made of only three words, it is messages such as these that make up Keller's legacy: Prayer always helps, less is more, power in forgiveness and love thy neighbor.
For Heflin, the hardest part of publishing his first book was just that. Writing comes easy, writing well takes some work but getting published was a challenging feat.
"I thought about the story for a couple of years, then I started working on it. It took me two years to write the story. It's not a long story as stories go, it's about 47,000 words. Then it took me eight years to get a New York literary agent. It's easier to win the lottery than for an author to get a first book published in this market today," Heflin said.
"Mockingbird's Song" is available at $9.99 for download online at www.amazon.com for Amazon's Kindle e-reader, Apple products and on desktops with the help of a free downloadable software. The softback version will be available for delivery from Amazon within a month for $8.99.
For more information, visit www.mockingbirdssong.com.