… I am very conscious of the indignities suffered by those who are unable to do for themselves. DIGNITY was written in memory of my mother who insisted, all her life, that she, and all others, be treated with dignity.”
How did you discover that you were a writer?
During my 25 years as a materials scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, I authored or co-authored 120 papers published in scientific journals. Not until a couple of years after I retired in 1984 did I try my hand at poetry and, not until I was 85 years old did I start writing memoirs. My very first poem was entitled Herrick Lake in Autumn, and it won the Grand Prize at the Danada Nature Poetry Festival. That made me think that writing might be something I should pursue.
Describe your writing process.
I don’t have a routine for my writing. I was never able to type and compose…..all of my poetry was written and edited on a scratch pad. Editing, of course, is never completed but, at some point, each poem was typed and considered done. Now, I have an iPad, and the ease of making changes means that I use it to compose and edit. What I write now are stories from my life. I have a list of story titles, and when I choose one to write, I have mulled the story for many days before I sit down to the iPad.
What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?
Both my mother and my mother-in-law lived into their nineties, and both spent their last three years in nursing homes. Now, I’m elderly myself; and, while I am fortunate to be as physically able as I am, I am very conscious of the indignities suffered by those who are unable to do for themselves. DIGNITY was written in memory of my mother who insisted, all her life, that she, and all others, be treated with dignity.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m working on two stories. The start of MA CUTTS PLACE is in the iPad but still needs much work. It will tell the story of how a college community came together at the end of WWII to house and feed all the G.I.s who overwhelmed the DeKalb campus in 1946. I’m mulling KEEPING UP WITH THE TIMES which, I hope, will make the reader laugh at the most embarrassing moment of my life.
What was the last great thing you read by another author?
I am someone who reads the thoughts of newspaper columnists every day, regardless of their political bent. There is currently more unity and depth of thought than I have ever seen before. The seriousness with which columnists are approaching their jobs reflects the danger befalling the nation, and the result is some great writing and reading.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?
If I could invite anyone, living or dead, to my party, it would be Abraham Lincoln and only six others. Why so few?…….Because, I like dinner parties at which only one person speaks at a time. Lincoln, one of the greatest writers of all times, was also a great reader of the world’s greatest thinkers. Lincoln would be a provocative conversationalist, a story teller, a wry wit and, I believe, a good listener (although I cannot imagine myself having anything to say in the presence of Abraham Lincoln).