This week Genilee and I had a book signing at an assistant living facility—the Emeritus in Manassas, Virginia. It was quite an eye-opening experience that really showed the difference a good activity director can make in the lives of the elderly residents. When we got there, everything was already set up for us―table, chairs and about a dozen members ready for us.
For the current signing, we gave our usual background speech about how we got started and a little about the book itself. We were delighted that, with that little bit of background and some enthusiasm from attendees, the director purchased a book for each member and proceeded to set up a book review event. The group decided to divide the reading of the 300-plus pages of Twist of Fate into four sections of 75 pages each—a session for each of four weeks going forward. On the fourth week, Genilee and I are invited to come back and hear the group’s critique of our work and their opinion of the book in general – good or bad! Then they may purchase our second book, Wretched Fate, and do the same with that book.
It was a wonderful plan not only for their club but also for Genilee and me. We need people who have read our books to tell us not only what they like, but where the plot/character/sequences of events might falter so we can strengthen our books going forward.
The experience also was just an uplifting day for two authors who love to hear from readers, and we hope we inspired this particular group of readers as much as they inspired us. One of the reasons we believe there has been so much enthusiasm for us as speakers is that it’s good for older people to hear that life doesn’t have to stop because of advanced years or the reality that they can’t do the things they used to. Old age can be a time of pursuing a dream or a different hobby; and I firmly believe everyone needs hobbies. The one thing none of us needs is to sit in front of the boob tube, living someone else’s life.
I’ve always had hobbies – and they changed as I grew older yet became just as important as the ones before them. For thirty years, I wrote a recipe column for our hometown weekly newspaper as I was raising my family. After the kids were in school, I went back and took a few education classes and then served as a substitute teacher. When I found the 75-mile trip to school got in the way of completing my education degree, I took a course in accounting and then found a job doing books, which I enjoyed. From there, I went into knitting, oil painting, ceramic painting and then genealogy. Each venture lasted about three years – until I could no longer think of anyone to gift with my handiwork. After I retired, I perfected my Bridge game and taught that game to over 150 men and women. I have continued my bridge playing and tried to go back to knitting and ceramic painting, but my macular degeneration means my eyes are too bad for any close-up detail work. Yet, despite that sad fact, I could see well enough that I decided if I was ever going to write books―a desire I’ve always had―I had better get started. I was 82 by this time (I’m 86 now).
The lesson to other seniors is that, though I don’t do anything perfectly, I have kept the creative juices flowing, which I believe keeps the blood flowing and the mind active. I may not be gifted enough to win awards for any of my ventures, including writing. Our books are not literary masterpieces. They are meant to entertain and to keep people reading. But what an inspiration it is to bring enjoyment to others! And hopefully, through visits like the one to Emeritus, Genilee and I are also spreading the word that life doesn’t have to stop at 80 … or even 90.
–F. Sharon Swope