Saturday, May 5, 2012

Against the dying of the light

I have a friend, Willma (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), who lives in Sedona, Arizona. Of the writers I know personally, she is the most prolific. Some years ago, as I prepared to introduce her as guest speaker to my writers group, I asked her to remind me where she’d been published. She handed me a list with over thirty national publications on it—including Popular Mechanics.

“Wow!” I said. “How does a woman with a background in literature sell a piece to Popular Mechanics?”

“Well,” she replied, “you can sell a piece anywhere if you have the right slant.”

Thus her role as my mentor began. That same year I sent her something I’d written about The Grandson. She sent it right back, telling me, “Drop the last paragraph. You don’t need it. Make the second to last paragraph your first paragraph. Then send it to the Home Forum section of the Christian Science Monitor.” I did. And earned $185 for a piece that took me an hour to write.

A year ago, Willma published a memoir, Iron Grip. If you’re married, consider how you would respond if your spouse lost both of his hands in an explosion. Imagine if it happened in the first weeks of your marriage…. As I read through Willma’s book, I had to keep reminding myself that this was a true story, that the energetic, caustically funny, positive and productive woman I knew had endured a depth of heartache I had never known.

In recent weeks, Willma released a novel, Braving House Calls. The word is out that it’s funny, which doesn’t surprise me; her previous two memoirs, Just Pencil Me In and Something's Leaking Upstairs, reflect her wry sense of humor at life’s unpredictability. I’ll be grabbing the new book for my Kindle next time I’m down the mountain.

I sent Willma an email yesterday to let her know I was looking forward to coming out to AZ for her birthday party next month. Her reply said in part:

I still lead four writer workshops, each meeting twice a month. This is my “social” life—as much meet and greet as I want or need. And I have moved to the apartment next door to the one where you visited me. While I was able to move all the light stuff in boxes, my son Alan and another friend moved all the big stuff in two hours.

She also said she’s looking forward to that birthday party in June. Because, you know, you only turn 90 once.

Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

~ Dylan Thomas

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