At eight-years-old, Annette Schober, also known as Grace Deer, penned her first poem.
More than half a century later, Schober, 65, still can recite the verse: "I have a horse. His coat is all black. A saddle rests upon his broad back. With his head held high and his mane all aglow, a more beautiful horse I do not know."
"It wasn't very good, but I memorized it. I was very proud,' the Ash Fork ranch poet and author said.
Years later, Schober is a well-regarded poet, a member of the Mad Women Poets in Prescott and the 1997 winner of a $5,000 fellowship in poetry from the Arizona Arts Commission - the proceeds of which she and her husband, Al, used to buy their five-acres of ranch land outside of Ask Fork where they live quite simply with their six dogs and two cats. Schober has one adult daughter, Terra Rose Pineo, and two grandchildren, Josh, 19, and Julia, 14.
"She is Mother Earth," said Eunice Ricklefs, a member of the Prescott Unitarian Universalist Society where Schober has presented her poetry on various occasions over the years.
A warm-hearted and loving woman who "envelops everybody," Ricklefs said Schober's words reflect her ability to connect with people, animals and nature.
"She can talk about coyotes or a walk in the woods. She is at one with nature," Ricklefs said.
Schober's husband of 35 years, Al, said he was never much for reading poetry or literature until his wife started sharing her poems and writings with him. And now he is her biggest fan.
"You feel like you're there," Al said. "I feel like I'm there with her characters, and there is always so much more going on beneath the surface."
Schober's most recent literary accomplishment is the publication of her first novel, "Joe Long Road - A Journey of place and timelessness." The story is told through the voice of a male narrator, Leo, who in a drunken stupor ends up on a remote piece of Navajo reservation land where he meets the middle-aged Joe Long Road stepping outside the front door of a dilapidated trailer.
The book of descriptive, sometimes vulgar, vernacular, is a tale of one man's roamings and encounters that speak to a far deeper, inner journey. The main character's last name is a metaphor.
"Life is a long road," Schober said. "I've had an off-the-grid, unconventional life and so this is a composite of people I've known in my life."
Schober is one of nine children who grew up between New Jersey and Texas in what she called a "restless family" that at times had no electricity, running water or television.
In her family, Schober said she was always the curious one. She was always asking, "Why?"
Though just publicly released this year, Schober started her second book - her first publication in 1992 was a collection of short stories titled "The Book of One Tree" - in 1998.
"I scribbled it down in a three-subject notebook longhand," Schober said of the 188-page tome.
"I love writing, but I'm lackadaisical about getting stuff out," Schober said.
She eventually forwarded the manuscript to Simon & Schuster Co. An editor there praised the fictional tale, but no contract emerged, she said.
Friends and fellow poets encouraged her to persist. They wanted her work to be read.
After some revisions, Schober tried again. She initially published it through a small press in Williams last year. She then opted to self-publish a second edition through Amazon in April.
She has done a few local readings, and her book is on the shelf at several local bookstores.
She, too, is working on a sequel; this time with a female narrator.
A humble woman with a soft, welcoming voice, Schober said despite writing fiction she is still at heart a poet. All her books include original poetry.
So how do her poems and plots emerge?
"They come out of the ether," Schober said of the process that even to her is a mystery. "It's like a spiritual experience."
"Joe Long Road" is all about people who are "seeking something" and Schober said she hopes her poems and stories enable her readers to find something that speaks to them.
"They're never a strict whodunit," Schober said. "It's always about the journey under the surface."
Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041, or 928-642-6809.