Ten questions with Ann Tarpley Francesco, Author and Salem native

What’s the history between you and the City of Salem?

I was born and raised in Salem. I graduated from Salem High School in 1979. My father, William Crippen Tarpley, owned and operated Tarpley’s Inc. from 1948 to 1994. My dad’s business was a central part of my life until I left to pursue a college education. Occasionally, I helped in the business doing various jobs. I assembled salads, replenished food on the buffet line and cleaned tables in the cafeteria. I also worked in the jewelry and gift department selling merchandise. I traveled to Atlanta with my mother and older sister every summer to attend the gift shows at the Merchandising Mart. They did the buying, and I tagged along for the wonderful food and shopping. It was a vacation for me but work for them since they managed the gift and jewelry shop. During my childhood, Tarpley’s was the central hub of downtown Salem because it attracted a large group of regular customers to dine in the cafeteria. I had the privilege of getting to know quite a few people in Salem. Many of my relatives still live in the area, including my mother, my 100-year-old uncle and my cousin, Sonny Tarpley who served as mayor of Salem for many years. I have many other cousins in the area as well.


Talk about your education background. Where did you go to school?

I attended Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where I earned a B.A. in business administration. Later, I attended Radford University to pursue certification to teach elementary and middle school education.


What is your proudest accomplishment to date?

Besides being a mother, my proudest accomplishment to date would be my children’s book, “The Gingerbread Train, Santa’s Secret Gift.”


How did you become an author and how many books have you written?

I started writing rhyming poetry at a very young age and gave the poems as gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and graduations. I also wrote a few lyrics to familiar tunes for special occasions to be sung to the recipient. When my son was in first grade, he had a weekly writing assignment that involved sending a short letter home to parents with a parental reply. I wrote poetic responses that had to do with trains because my son loved trains. The poems led to my first short story about trains. From that, I was inspired to write a Christmas story about trains as a gift to my son. My children and I made a gingerbread train together that Christmas which also served as an inspiration for the story. I did not intend to publish it until family and friends encouraged me to do so. This is my first book, but I plan to do a holiday train series. I am halfway through the Easter train story, with Halloween to follow.


What are some things you like to do in Salem?

When I visit Salem, I enjoy walking on the Greenway along the Roanoke River because I love looking at the scenic views of the mountains and river. I also enjoy drinking coffee at Mill Mountain Coffee shop because it makes me feel right at home since it is in the Tarpley’s old building. One of the highlights is eating at the Blue Apron restaurant which is one of my “favs.”


Are there any books besides yours that you would recommend to others?

I would recommend the classic children’s stories: Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson, Rumpelstiltskin, Goodnight Moon, Dr. Seuss books, Christmas in the Big Woods and, of course, Polar Express.


Who are some people that inspire you?

My children inspire me the most. Without them, my book would have never been written. I am also inspired by people who have overcome adversity and worked hard to become successful.


What motivates you?

I am motivated by a passion for what I believe, what I enjoy and wanting to contribute something positive to the world.


What does an average week look like for you?

Currently, my weeks consist of traveling to and attending Christmas craft shows in three different states and scheduling book signings. I am wearing quite a few hats right now managing book sales, marketing, processing website orders, shipping and assembling gift sets for the next shows. And, occasionally, I get to eat ?


If you could go back and give an 18-year-old Ann some advice, what would you say?

My advice to an 18-year-old is to follow your passions and talents. That way, you will never work a day in your life, and you will live a fulfilling life.


-Compiled by Shawn Nowlin

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