Senior storytellers find fans for mystery fiction
Eudora Nursing Center residents find success publishing serial style stories in new writer’s group
For a group of residents at the Eudora Nursing Center, the story began with an old man.
They placed him in a diner quietly waiting for an oblivious and gum-smacking waitress to take his order.
Then their protagonist, a Methodist cleric, walked in from the rain and as he engaged the waitress, their story came alive.
The old man seemed perturbed, angry--and it was the cleric's job to figure out why.
According to the story, "Something about the old man bothered him. Not necessarily in a bad way, but bothered him never the less. The old man's paper-white skin and dirty clothes contradicted the quality of the clothes he wore. They were dirty and torn, but fit him well. Also, the man had no jacket of any kind, and it had poured rain all morning."
With that air of mystery, the first part of a story entitled "Peace in a Time of Anxiety," began.
A simple scene expanded into something more, all thanks to the work of a few centuries worth of combined experience.
"I thought it would be really neat for everyone in this age group to show them what they can do," said Lena Woodward-Higgins, an activity director at the center.
Woodward-Higgins and Mallory Ross worked with a handful of the residents to create an ongoing storytelling group.
"Peace" is the first part of their initial effort, which has caught the interest of the Sixty and Better newsletter and the Douglas County Senior Services organization.
"We've actually had some comments from people who want to know when the next installment's going to be," said Jessie Anne Lusher, Executive Director of the Douglas County Senior Services organization.
Lusher will publish the stories on the organization's Web site, and the magazine will also include future installments in its pages.
"I just think the activity director there should be commended for starting this," Lusher said.
Although the residents dream up the twists and turns in the story, very few of them were writers or had much experience at all in writing.
George Mozingo spent his working years as a farmer and a railroad lineman.
He played an instrumental role in the formation of the story, said Woodward-Higgins. The title is drawn from a biblical verse.
"I just kind of went along with the bunch, and listened to what the others were saying," Mozingo said.
Mozingo helped bring out the story's religious themes, Woodward-Higgins said.
Ida Mae Collinsworth was another author on the project. She said she enjoyed the writing session the most.
"I think I like the friends mostly and all of us getting together," Collinsworth said.
The group meets for one-hour sessions to work on the story, Woodward-Higgins said.
Woodward-Higgins, who writes romance fiction, said she starts the residents off with a character, and maybe a setting then lets them go from there.
She had a specific reasoning behind her choice of the character for this story.
"I just wanted someone they could relate to, "Woodward-Higgins said. "So it just so happens it's an old man."
Once the group actually gets together the ideas start flying, Woodward-Higgins said. Then the story itself begins to evolve, as was the case for "Peace."
"It's definitely a mystery we had no idea it was going to take that turn," Woodward-Higgins said.
The first group was a success and produced the first installment of three in the "Peace" series.
They're currently editing the second installment.
Higgins-Woodward has high hopes for it. The group let out a spoiler and said there will be a shooting.
"The first one is not as good as the second one is going to be, but it's pretty good," Woodward-Higgins said.
Resident authors and editors for the story are Rose Dean, Bell Gabriel, Mabel Holberg, Verla Lewis, Dorothy Marks, Ethel McGreevy, George Mozingo, Fay Sanders, Thomas Sanders, Donna Wichman and Helen Wright.
The story can be found at www.dgcoseniorservices. Go to the leisure and learning link and click on the green dot in the right-hand corner of the page.