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Doing Old Age the Right Way

??????????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

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Getting a Jump Start

How did you ever get started writing a book?

That’s the single most often-asked question mom and I get at book club meetings and signings and other events where we’re gathered around a table gabbing with readers and potential book buyers.

I usually turn that question over to mom since she was 82 when she started writing. [Okay, okay, I admit it’s also because I’m slightly ashamed that I am probably the person besides my newspaper editor father who has written the most words in our family. And yet, I wasn’t writing what I wanted to write—fiction.]

To answer the question, mom usually picks up The Pea in Peanut Butter to show people that she has a daughter who is a successful children’s author. Allyn Stotz, my sis and her daughter, also started fairly late in life pursuing her passion for story-telling. She’s about to publish a sequel to that first book, has three others in the works or at a publisher, and her stories have appeared in many children’s magazines and one compendium of short stories. None of us in the family knew Al was even pursuing writing for children until she was well into it—attending classes, hooking up with online writer’s groups. Like with everything she does, she pursued it with passion.

“I figured if she could do this, so should I,” mom always says.

Before I knew it, mom was writing, writing, writing away. I was amazed at how much she put into the art with no formal training. I knew she had always been an avid reader, and I knew that like Al, she was a good story teller. But I was as shocked by mom’s zeal as I was when I found out that Allyn was not only interested in writing, but well into it, with many stories already done and being fine-tuned.

And so we come to me … I don’t even know when mom and I had the initial discussion about the possibility of collaborating on the writing. I am an editor by trade so I volunteered to take a look at what she was doing. However, it’s a scary thing for an editor to look at a family member’s work. And so I must refer back to Allyn. I looked at her first works with the same trepidation. What if I hated what my sister or my mom were doing?

I’m an idiot.

Both Al and Mom have always been very creative and that creativity comes shining through in the stories they tell. Allyn was lucky to have worked with talented artist Valerie Bouthyette on that first book who could bring the words to life visually. But the ideas are pure Allyn, and I know she’ll go on to create many more ideas and books. And the same is true of Mom’s characters and plots. Her books (ahem, our books) are just plain fun to read. Like Allyn, mom and I love to lose ourselves in a good story, and to be able to create those stories is a pleasure.

So how did I get started writing? It was a jump-start provided by my family. But now, I’m zooming away down a fun highway, and I don’t intend to ever stop!

Mom and I send our thanks out for the inspiration provided by the Seniors Lunch Bunch from St. Francis of Assisi, Triangle, VA. Thanks to my friend Francia Salguero for introducing us to the group and to Anne Tunney for inviting us.

St. Francis

St. Francis Lunch Bunch

The group asked the question above, but they also asked many more and gave both mom and me the inspiration that makes creative writing and publishing a book so much fun.

 –Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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