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Newly published author is not new to writing

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By Cathy Barnes

Elvis Presley has been known to affect the lives of people all over the world. Even here in Taylorsville, a woman's life was changed by the lyrics of his songs.

Gena Smith-Gaines was inspired to begin writing songs and poetry when she heard the music of Elvis Presley. 

“When I heard his records I really enjoyed the music and the words. I decided I would like to write songs,” Gaines said. 

Over the years she said she's written over 200 songs, some of which are published, others that have been lost. But Gaines took her interest in song lyrics a step further when she started sending her work to various artists. In her earlier years, it wasn't uncommon for Gaines to write to her favorite artists, including Kitty Wells, Jimmy Newman and Carl Smith, all popular country music artists in the 1950's. Oftentimes, they would write back.

“The told me they liked my songs and that I had good ideas,” Gaines said.

 In 1962 Carl and Pearl Butler's "Don't Let Me Cross Over" single charted to number one. In response to this song, Gaines wrote a song entitled, “I let you cross over.” She sent her song to their recording company and it was actually printed on the back of their LP album.

Lately Gaines has written about 150 poems and has moved from writing country songs to religious poems and hymns. She feels that she has been called to write about her passion for her religion.

“A few years ago I just thought, 'I'm writing about the wrong thing,” Gaines said. “I couldn't sleep until I wrote the words down that were in my head.”

On one of these sleepless nights, Gaines got out of bed and wrote, “Shadow of the Cross,” a poem about the crucifixion of Christ.

She's been writing her poems in journals, books and on any piece of scrap paper she could find for years, but it wasn't until recently that someone recognized Gaine's talent for writing. Her neighbor, Jackie Cook, took interest in Gaine's work and offered to type her poems and songs and make them into a booklet. After typing all of her poems, Cook wanted to do more than consolidate her friends' work for easy reading. She urged her to publish a book.

“One day I came over and she was working on something,” Cook said. “I've known her for almost 20 years and I didn't know she wrote poetry.”

Cook helped Gaines apply for a grant from the Kentucky Women's Foundation to aid her in getting the book published, but she was turned down. She eventually found a company, AuthorHouse Publishing in Bloomington, Indiana, willing to publish her book.

Gaines' computer skills are limited so it took the help of Cook and Gaines' nephew to get her work ready to be sent to the publisher. By January 2009, her 156 page book entitled “Expressions From the Heart” was published. On the cover is a picture of herself and a picture of a miniature guitar that her sister whittled with a pocketknife.

“My sister practically raised me,” Gaines said. “She could carve almost anything and I thought it would be good to put that on the cover.”

Gaines writes about anything that crosses her mind but most of her poems center around God, family and nature.

The poem, “Flowers for a Mother's Bouquet” was written one day after Gaines was mowing the lawn and saw a beautiful cluster of wildflowers in her yard.

“I thought to myself, thats a pretty bouquet,” Gaines said. “So I got off the mower and came inside to write down what I was thinking.”

And this is how most of her poetry happens. An idea pops into her head and she simply begins to write.

“If it's God's will, I'll write another book,” Gaines said. “But you just never know if you got tomorrow or not.”

The book can be purchased at www.barnesandnoble.com for $15.