BETHANY, W.Va. – A Bethany College alumna’s picture book has reeled in praise from the New Hampshire Writers’ Project.

“Sam Fisherwoman: The Reel Story” by Maggie Kemp ’81 and illustrated by Melody Zahn Russell recently received a Readers’ Choice Award during a New Hampshire Literary Awards reception.

The book tells the story of a little girl who goes fishing for the first time without help from her brothers.

“She’s very independent and determined; she’s going to do it on her own,” Kemp said. “It’s the story of what she does when things get difficult.”

Kemp drew on her own childhood experience in creating Sam. Unlike Sam, however, Kemp said she kept up the adventure only until a tangled messing of fishing wire.

“I gave up fishing, went back to bed, and pretended to have nothing to do with it,” Kemp said, recalling that her father and grandfather assumed that her brothers had left the mess – “which was perfect.”

Kemp studied chemistry at Bethany College and went on to get her medical degree. She said she practiced before going on disability. She then worked on raising her children and writing some poetry, but the fishing story was always in the back of her mind, she said.

“In this process, I was very much like Sam in that I was going to get this done,” Kemp said.

She repeatedly asked Russell, who specializes in potato print art, to illustrate Sam’s story. After much perseverance on Kemp’s part, Russell agreed.

“I like using her illustrations for children, because they are just very approachable and very friendly,” Kemp said.

Overall, she credits her Bethany education for giving her the courage to write and publish “Sam Fisherwoman.”

“Even though I studied chemistry, there were so many other things in my life,” Kemp said. “Part of what happened to me at Bethany, was I decided that there were many things that I could do and should do, so I started writing.”

According to the New Hampshire Writers’ Project website, the organization supports the development of writers and encourages an audience for literature in New Hampshire.

The 13th annual New Hampshire Writers’ Project Awards were announced last month at a reception at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown. The nominees for the awards are either residents or natives of New Hampshire.

“Sam Fisherwoman” was released in June 2018 through Peter E. Randall Publisher and is available for purchase at the author’s website.


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.