The wonderful older women I’ve been fortunate enough to interview for this WOW Factor blog since last May when the blog was born continue to amaze me with their impressive achievements. Here, in brief, are some of the interviewees’ recent achievements and activities, so you can be amazed too:
Phyllis Hotch, 86, (see WOW Interview post of 6/17/14) won first place in the Poetry Book category last week at the 2014 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards for her poetry collection 3 A.M., published last year by 3: A Taos Press. Phyllis was one of 83 winners in 51 categories in this year’s contest. In her fine Introduction to the collection, author Marjorie Agosin calls 3 A.M. “a book that celebrates the sacredness of being alive, of reflecting about solitude and beauty, landscape and renewal.” In it, Agosin says, “the poet invites us to accompany her on a most dangerous journey, the one of life itself and its infinite and finite possibilities.”
When I saw Phyllis at another event several days after the book awards banquet, she told me she was still “floating on air” from winning this prize.
Sibyl Saam’s long-awaited novel, Be My Enemy, was recently released and has been enthusiastically received. In her WOW Factor interview (posted 7/7/14), Sibyl, 86, told me she started writing her novel when she was in her mid-sixties, when the materials she was using in her first art, painting, began giving her severe migraines. After having overcome various obstacles and dealt with some setbacks along the way, she said, “I’ve finally reached the point where I’ve finished it, and I feel good about it. I really sweated over this book, and now it’s done!” And published.
Sallie Bingham’s newest book, The Blue Box: Three Lives in Letters, published this fall by Sarabande Books, is a treasure in every respect. It’s the true story of a real box, in cornflower blue, found in Sallie’s mother’s closet after her death. In the box, to Sallie’s surprise, were the preserved letters and essays of her maternal foremothers – her great-grandmother, after whom Sallie was named; her grandmother Helena; and her mother Mary. All three women – highly intelligent, well educated, and advantaged – bequeathed to Sallie a passion for writing. As Sallie says in her Afterword, “these women used writing as a way to temper their experiences of the world, and perhaps even to influence it, when such influence was not otherwise permitted.”
I interviewed Sallie, 77, last summer, before The Blue Box was published. We also talked about the book she is now working on, which will be her fourteenth: a biography of the American philanthropist Doris Duke, due to be published by Farrar Strauss in early 2016. (For more, see 7/24/14 WOW post and go to: www.salliebingham.com.)
UCLA Professor Emerita Joyce Appleby, 85, author of nine nonfiction books, whom I interviewed in August (see 8/18/14 post), has been busy lately completing a family history for her children and grandchildren. She also wrote an Opinion piece for the New York Times earlier this month, which prompted a lively national debate. In “Invitation to a Dialogue: Choosing When to Die,” Joyce boldly posits, “Perhaps the moment is right for broaching the idea of what we might call prophylactic suicide: the decision of an elderly person to pre-empt the grim reaper and avoid the disabilities of extended life.” (For her whole Letter to the Editor, go to: www.nytimes.com/2014/11/12/opinion/invitation-to-a-dialog.)
At 90, Grace Fichtelberg, my first WOW Factor interviewee (see 5/6/14 post), proves it’s never too late to learn. This semester at UNM-Taos she’s been taking a creative writing class with my colleague Steve Fox, who says this about Grace: “Everyone in the class, from 17 to 60 years old, loves and respects Grace. She has written powerful memoir pieces as well as short stories and is constantly engaged with everyone. She is truly amazing!”
Delma Barron (see 8/8/14 post) drove up from El Paso, Texas, to Taos, New Mexico, to celebrate her 78th birthday as well as Thanksgiving with her daughter Linda last week. I was lucky enough to be invited to their large and happy feast. Here’s proof of that :
Deepest thanks to all these inspiring women,
and Happy Holidays to everyone!