SENIORS DISPLAY THE WRITE STUFF COUNCIL ON AGING HONORS AUTHORS

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DRACUT — Years of memories filled the pages of poems and essays submitted for the Dracut Council on Aging’s fifth annual Legacies contest. Some authors drew from personal tragedies, while others reflected on fond childhood memories or life’s lessons.

“The stories are wonderful; we have such a good time reading them. There is just so much talent out there,” said Joyce Shadan, executive director of the Council on Aging.

Area seniors were invited this year to submit original written material in four categories: Spiritual Experiences, Life’s Challenges, For My Great-Grandchildren and Tell A Funny or Sentimental Story.

The contest began in February and lasted for six weeks. Winners were chosen from 12 entries this year. Three winners were honored during a luncheon held on April 13.

“We usually have at least 30 entries, but participation was a little off this year,” said Shadan.

In the past, a fifth category, Veterans Memoirs, was offered, but since there was only one entry for that category this year, Shadan decided to omit it from the competition.

While the skill level of participants varied from a published author to an avid journal writer, the creativity and color of the material was enjoyed by all.

It was Annette Elie’s first time entering the competition. She’s been keeping a journal since the ’80s and loves to write. When her husband died six years ago due to heart complications, she was left wondering if he could still see and interact with her through what she refers to as “little miracles or signs.”

She won this year in the category of Spiritual Experience for her essay, Extraordinary Coincidences/Miracles, from the Loss of a Loved One, in which she details several occasions where she and her family have experienced a “sign” from her husband since he passed away.

“I really believe in signs, you just have to look for them,” said Elie.

An excerpt from Eli’s essay:

“I had asked my husband one night to send me a sign to know he’s OK. The next day, I had been doing a lot of housework and after dusting my last piece of furniture and my hutch, I decided that I would clean the six little drawers on it. When I emptied one of them, I saw a yellow “while you were out” note. I decided to put everything back in the drawer; I was tired and didn’t want to do it after all. Something made me go back into the drawer to look at that note more closely. My husband had written, “I love you, from Normand,” on it. It had our anniversary date of 1985 on the back. I can’t express enough the joy I experienced! I was elated!”

Alma Reeves, 72, started writing when she bought a computer four years ago and hasn’t stop since. She entered four essays this year and took first place in two categories; Sentimental Experience and Story for Great- Grandchildren.

Her ancestors first settled in Dracut in 1630. She remembers hearing funny stories when she was a child about her grandfather, father and uncles, and often draws inspiration for her writing from her deep Dracut roots and fond family memories.

“My father and uncles would get to laughing about something one of them had done while they were growing up, and I’ve always remembered those stories,” said Reeves.

Excerpt from Reeve’s poem, Walking on 113:

“A ribbon of black macadam

Stretching from school to home

Often I walked its serpentine course

Breathing in sweet smells of spring

Fields of furrows, fresh turned after winter snows stretch along the road’s edge.”

Mary Lou Healy is 80. She has freelanced for the Boston Herald and several magazines and had her first novel, The Gingerbread Man, published this year.

“I’ve been writing for 40 years, but this was the first book I’ve had published,” she said. Healy won in the category of Tell a Funny Story for her essay, The Blame Game.

Excerpts from Healy’s essay:

“Whenever I’m tempted to make an off-the-cuff judgment, especially when it comes to assigning blame, or recognizing a “fault” in someone else, I remember a funny story I once heard. It seems an elderly gentleman was worried about his wife. He’d long suspected that she was loosing her hearing. Concerned, he asked his doctor what he should do to determine if that were the case. Armed with his doctor’s advice, he put her to the test while she was busy in the kitchen. Going to the room farthest from the kitchen, he called out to her. “What’s for dinner, dear?” He waited but there was no reply. Moving to an area closer to where she was, he called again. “What’s for dinner dear?” She continued to peel potatoes and without turning said, “For the third time, steak, potatoes and salad!””

Every submission will be included in this year’s published anthology, which includes both essays and poems.

Have a story idea? Contact Heidi Smith at 978-970-4653 or e-mail at hsmith@thevalleydispatch.com.