by Marjorie Turner
I had spent seven years as a single mother, raising my two children alone. Earning money with my writing was not on my radar. Writing was hard; I was terrible at grammar, and was sure whatever I wrote would sound stiff and uninteresting. My housecleaning business was thriving, and I had gained the skills to become a professional storyteller, traveling to schools, libraries, and area festivals, sharing stories, and getting paid to do it. Yes, life had started getting easier after divorce.
But everything came to a halt when I landed in the hospital at age 37 and was told I had a massive brain tumor that had to be removed—now! The surgery saved my life, but left my right side paralyzed. My new life had begun.
For many years I was unable to drive because of recurrent seizures from the surgery. My balance was compromised, making it impossible to return to the work I had been doing. But I was blessed with generous neighbors who made sure to include our family in all sorts of fun adventures; tea parties, birthday celebrations, sessions making gingerbread houses, dyeing Easter eggs, and more. In those years of near isolation, I turned to writing—remember when getting emails was exciting? These brief neighborhood parties offered grist for my writing mill. My neighbors, friends, and family looked forward to reading my email reports of our neighborhood adventures.
When I shared these little stories with our local newspaper editor, she invited me to write some articles for the paper—my first paid writing gig. Twenty-some years later, I still have a solid relationship with this editor. We have since undertaken multiple writing and book projects together.
Numerous editors have had me write profiles for their publications. Phone interviews, writing from home, and sending off finished pieces by email works best for me and my limited energy levels. The better I got at writing these profiles, the more I wanted to do.
A chance encounter pointed me to the field of Personal History, helping individuals and families record their stories and turn them into self-published books. The learning curve for this field was steep, but loads of information is available on line. I joined a professional organization, and took on the challenge of learning about self-publishing, as well as marketing my personal history business.
My website was up (a whole other project!) and I posted on the blog some newspaper articles I’d written about local places to walk. People started finding these articles, and it finally hit me—here was a need I knew how to fill. With experience creating self-published books, I just needed to find more local trails.
Lots of folks write books on local hiking areas—but most of these writers can walk wherever they want. I used to be like that—I could walk anywhere, and not worry about falling. I swam, biked, water skied, paddled canoes, and sailed. I also participated in contra dancing. I had loved being outdoors, and was as active as I could manage. But now all I could do was easy walks. This became the title of my first and subsequent walking books.
Along the way I have acquired new friends who have not only wanted to help, but have become enthusiastic supporters of my “Easy Walks” project. The book series now stands at three, and the fourth book, “How to Find Easy Walks Wherever You Go” is slated for publication for spring, 2020. This project has opened many new doors, helping me establish relationships with L.L Bean, the Massachusetts Walking tour, The Blackstone Heritage Corridor, area chambers of commerce, multiple public libraries, senior centers, and more.
But life is not all about work. While dancing is challenging to me, I found Contra dancing to be a style of dance that has been well-suited for my abilities. Similar to square dancing, using many of the same moves, Contra (derived from the word, opposed) dancing has partners (men or women) who stand in lines, facing one’s partner. Rather than circle around a square as in square dancing, Contra dancing carries dancers up or down the line as they dance with partners and neighbors. Many contra dances offer lots of upper body support, which has been helpful with my weak right leg. Dancing was something I had loved to do when I was more mobile. One night a handsome man asked me to dance. It turned out that he was the best dancer on the floor, and we have been dancing together ever since. We married, and now do more bicycling than dancing, exploring area railtrails together on our adaptive tandem bike.
Learning to ask for help has been an essential life lesson I have acquired (but still have to practice). I have learned, for sure, that everyone, at some time in our lives, needs help. When it is in our power to lend a hand, giving back also brings great joy. May you put down the scorecard, and be ready to lend a hand, knowing that each of us has something to give, and all of us need something sometime. It’s called life. Happy trails!
Bio: Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition; More Easy Walks in Massachusetts; and Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, a personal historian since 2011, has conducted numerous interviews for the Library of Congress Veterans Oral History project, and has served in multiple capacities with professional organizations for Personal Historians. www.MarjorieTurner.com