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York Co. author encourages excellence in Nation Ford students

Famed western York County author Dori Sanders didn't have to look far from the farm to find inspiration for the characters in her signature novel, "Clover."

Speaking to an auditorium packed with students at Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill on Thursday, Sanders said she only had to write about the brothers, sisters, drunks and crazies around her on a farm in Filbert to pen characters that would be "genuine items."

She also related her experience about coming up with the book's self-titled character, Clover, while watching the only black girl among white family members wave out of the hearse in a funeral procession.

"...Then I thought, she could become my imaginary Cinderella," Sanders said.

Sanders, whose family operates one of the oldest African-American-owned farms in the Carolinas, was a featured guest at Nation Ford's Black History Month event commemorating black women in American culture.

Brainstorming with other school administrators, Beverly Bowman, Nation Ford High's principal, said she remembered reading "Clover" years ago. So, she took a chance and sent Sanders an email requesting her presence.

The next day, Sanders replied.

To this day, Sanders lives and works on the farm, hopping on and off tractors and stacking peach baskets.

Growing up in Filbert, she learned in a two-room schoolhouse that had no indoor plumbing or electricity.

"But we had books," Sanders said.

Her father used to tell her, "If you read, you can go anywhere in the world because reading takes you there," she said.

Thus far, her reading has made her the accomplished author of "Clover," which details the relationship between a young African-American girl and the white stepmother who's left to raise her.

The book has gone to press 27 times, Sanders said, and has been translated into Dutch, Danish, German, French, Swedish and Norwegian.

She's also "the only peach farmer in America who has a bestselling book in Japanese," she said.

Sanders has also written two other books, "Her Own Place" and "Country Cooking," which is filled with Sanders' prized recipes. "Clover" was made into a 1997 TV movie.

Though an author, Sanders is a born-and-bred farmer.

She admitted that working on a farm is mundane and a struggle but she still left students with an impactful message.

"Whatever life may offer you, whatever you're doing...it can be ritually rewarding,"

It's a message 11th-grader Maria Castillo took to heart.

Speaking about Sanders' speech, Castillo said, "I thought it was very enlightening and inspiring."

Castillo said Sanders helped her realize that anything is possible with hard work and a made-up mind.

The same goes for Ashley Manning, a senior who's applied to Harvard, Boston and Wake Forest universities.

After listening to Sanders' speech, Manning, who plans to double major in business administration and pre-law with a minor in Spanish, said she now feels confident about doing well in college.

Giving Sanders star treatment, students in the high school's art classes painted portraits symbolizing images depicted in "Clover."

Students in the culinary classes cooked foods made famous by Sanders' cookbook, which include recipes for celery cake, sweet potato rolls, honey ginger bread and her own brand of sweet tea.

English students reading "Clover" created story and character maps from the book, while agricultural science students did studies on farming techniques Sanders mentions in the book.

Waiting patiently in a line, Georgia Tech-bound senior Jaylin Carter got is own personal copy of "Clover" signed by the author herself.

Hearing Sanders speak about her past was "almost like listening to my grandmother," Carter said.

As she signed his book, Sanders listened as Carter explained his plans to study biomechanical engineering and work with medical equipment and prosthetics.

With a glowing smile, Sanders replied, "I am so very proud of you; truly so proud of you."

VIDEO: Sanders discusses the writing process

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