Monday, May 30, 2011
New Series on Seniors Writing Novels
Today I’m beginning Part 1-A of what, I hope, will be an interesting series about writers who began their careers late in life, as I myself have done.
Associating with new writers in a variety of writing groups such as the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards) Forum, Authonomy, and YouWriteOn, I’ve discovered that, like me, many of my colleagues are senior citizens. Men and women who had the desire to write but somehow life got in the way, until now. One of these is Maura Gallagher who writes under the nom de plume of Clue Gallagher. I am happy to have her as my first guest writer, in this series about senior storytellers. Clu’s book “Shattered Seeds: Sophia’s Story" is currently for sale on Amazon and Kindle.
Betty: Thank you for participating, Clu. You have an interesting story to tell, I know. I understand your name is actually Maura, which has a lovely Irish ring to it; but where did the nickname “Clu” come from?
Clu: I began writing at age 59. At the time, I had just about given up hope of ever having my former life back after being stricken with the devastating effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, which disabled me at age 54. One day, I became inspired after a new adult friend shared her life story with me. Her father had been a NAZI under Hitler. Since early childhood, a story had rattling around in my mind about a girl who became an immigrant to the U.S.A. That girl had no face, no name, no country, and no story.
After talking to my German immigrant friend, I sat down at the keyboard and started to write. The FM and CFS had taken away my memory. I strained to focus, trying to remember the particulars of the English language...then, this amazing thing happened to me. Suddenly, I began to find words and sentences to describe the life of a girl named Sofia Gunter. I used every scrap of energy I could muster to write the first MS, astounding myself more than anyone. I asked my mother to read that first manuscript and she said that she stayed up all night reading it. Shortly afterwards, she saw an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a competition on Amazon.com. She told me that I should enter the MS then called “The Quilt.”
After deciding to enter the first ABNA competition in 2008, I used the pen name of ‘R.E. Cluse.’ I arrived at that name by using my beloved father’s initials, “R.I.E.” and the first word that came to mind was “Recluse.” It seemed to fit my new lifestyle, since becoming disabled from my career as an Elementary Art Teacher for almost 28 years.
I met a wonderful group of writers on the ABNA forum and they befriended me. Several—in particular, Shye Mendelsohn and Erica Olsen—helped to give me a new nickname and soon the all the members of the forum started referring to me as ‘CLU.’
Betty: Like myself, you are now a senior and yet this is your debut book. Did you always have it in mind to write a novel?
Clue: The desire to write a novel was my hidden secret starting in childhood; one I had stashed away securely, never really sharing it with anyone. I trained as an artist and became an art teacher in the public school system. However, I always loved to write and, at one point, I was going to go to college to major in English and Creative Writing. I didn’t come from a wealthy family, so I waited to go to college until I was able to save enough money. I had good typing and accounting skills and worked as a secretary. Up until then, I had never had an art class in my life, and I had a burning desire to have some instruction in the visual arts. I enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University evening classes and studied painting and drawing. I fell in love with the Arts and knew that I needed to make them my life work. Herbert Olds, a professor at Carnegie took an interest in me and my work and guided me to a state university that I could afford. His teaching showed me how valuable it is to anyone in the Arts to surround themselves with others who want to share their thoughts, their expertise, and their experiences. However, in order to pay the bills with a secure paycheque, I devoted my life to the work of teaching children to appreciate the arts and to foster a wave of creative thinking for them. My dream of writing that “book” was put on the back burner...life’s journey seemed to have gotten in the way.
(To be continued: Next week, we’ll learn what motivated Clu to finally write that book and why she decided to self-publish. And I’ll include my Amazon review of Sophia’s Story)