Retire VA 21-22 - 26

Writing into Retirement
written by Dan Smith
Whether it is a novel, an essay, a memoir, or a poem,
retirees in this region are finding an inviting outlet
for their literary ambitions.
T
here is no shortage of activities that make
retirement richer, and one of the truly popular ones
among those leaving a lifetime of work is writing.
Whether it is letters to the editor, essays, memoir,
fiction or war and remembrance, those in their
waning years tend to want to leave a legacy. What better way to
do that than to put it in writing?
The Roanoke and New River Valleys, as well as Central
Virginia, are a virtual continuing seminar on how to do just that.
Lynchburg, for example, offers up the cases of smashingly
successful novelists Kathleen Grissom ( " The Kitchen House " and
" Glory Over Everything " ) and Leah Weiss ( " If the Creek Don't
Rise " and " All the Little Hopes " ), both of whom had their first
commercial success in retirement, after turning 65. Roanoke
and Smith Mountain Lake feature a bevy of older writers, many
of them in writing groups and book clubs. They share ideas,
inspirations and critique each other's work. The New River Valley
is rife with retired college professors and prospective writers.
Linda Kay Simmons of Moneta retired as a flight attendant
after 31 years, then went into mental health work and teaching
before finally scratching the itch she'd had since she was a child.
She is now working on her fifth Southern gothic novel (all set in
the Roanoke area) and has found considerable success in the
self-publishing arena.
Her most recent book, " Pissant and Cinderella, " has even
found a cause. It tells the dark, hard-to-read, fact-based story of
forced incest in a family, and proceeds from some of its sales are
being funneled into SARA-Roanoke, which assists rape victims.
Discouraged from seeking non-traditional pursuits as a child,
she kept a journal " delving into [my] subconscious mind, while
dealing with bouts of depression. Writing saves lives, in many
ways it saved mine. "
Ultimately her journals brought her full circle and she
" began writing, writing, and writing, embellished family stories,
changing names to protect the innocent and the downright
tawdry. " The result has been " Cahas Mountain, " " Lightning
Shall Strike, " " Lamb on A Tombstone " and the aforementioned
" Pissant and Cinderella. " She is well into " The Devil Rolls the
Dice. "
Simmons recommends that those wishing to begin the
writing journey " find a community of writers. There are all sorts
of groups around, or you can start with a few friends over for
coffee. I've taken a couple of [writing] classes and attended
conferences. Being around writers will make you a better writer.
Read good books and join a book club. Feel what you feel and
write it down. "
Dick Raymond has been writing poetry since he was a child,
but that flourished only in retirement, where he has won a
number of awards for his writing. Among his works are " Blue and
Gray Ballads, " " Tales of the Fox, " " My Life With Holmes, " " Robbie:
A Boy of the Shenandoah, " " Pomes, " and " Eagle, Globe and
Anchor. "
Writing, says Raymond, a retired plant engineer, is " what I've
been doing all my life. Going to retirement just gave me more
time and computer availability to write. " He has been especially
active in writers' groups in Roanoke, Smith Mountain Lake and
the state. He recommends new writers " read a whole lot, and
write, write, write. "
26 / Retire-VA.com / RETIRE-VA 2022
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