Don’t Sell Out Our Elderly!

I’ve been booking readings in senior residences for several months because one of Fling!’s main characters, Bubbles, is a feisty and fun-loving 90. I’ve hoped that Bubbles would inspire these older readers to share her zest for life and her unwillingness to “go gentle into that good night,” as Dylan Thomas insisted of his father in his poem “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” Thomas states that “Old age should burn and rave at close of day; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

But instead of me riding in on my white charger to motivate these older adults, I’m the one that is being moved by a group of seniors that are often overlooked in this culture. Though many of them move into an assisted living facility because they need extra care, some can still handle independent living quarters that often are part of this world. And it appears there are as many of these establishments as there are financial means.

As an audience, they are generally very attentive and eager to hear the stories I bring that relate to my youth, the novel and its characters, what lead to be writing it, and any tidbits I have about the writing process itself. They ask thoughtful questions about the book and about publishing. And some of them also buy Fling!

During the reading I ask them questions about why they read and their origins. After, several will stay and chat with me, wanting me to hear some of their stories as well. One woman bought two copies of the novel for her daughters. She seemed sturdy and high functioning, but she told me she had vertigo whenever she turned her head or looked down, so her own reading is limited. Yet she wasn’t complaining. It was a condition she had learned to live with.

At another venue, a 96 year-old man who looked years younger came up after the william larkinpresentation and told me he had graduated from the University of San Francisco, an institution where I have taught for 30 years, in 1943. He showed me his diploma, written completely in Latin, a language that all graduates had to learn before they could graduate. I was impressed not only by the diploma but by him and his continuing enthusiasm for life.

When I had completed a reading in Martinez, CA, an area where a lot of Italian Americans have settled, I spoke with a woman from that heritage. She told me she had worked as a secretary for 30 years at the Bank of America. At first, her boss tried to correct her grammar and spelling, but he soon learned that she knew more than he did. She had been an A+ student in high school and had mastered English. She asked him not to correct her work any longer, and he didn’t! But it was brave of her to challenge her male boss at that time, and it pleased me he had listened to her.

Each one of these individuals has a compelling story to tell. I haven’t even scratched the surface here. I just wish I had the time and means to record them all and share them with readers. Meanwhile, if you’re a writer and want a welcoming place to share your work, do consider these senior living places. You won’t be disappointed.



To Read Or Not To Read


I’ve been scheduling lots of readings at retirement communities in the Bay Area since Fling!’s two main characters are 57 and 90. For the most part, these experiences are positive and give me a chance to introduce a diverse group of people to my novel. However, I don’t think that one’s characters need to be older adults necessarily in order to attract readers in these venues.

What I’ve learned, though, is to be sure that the facility has lots of independent living units. Otherwise, if it’s an assisted living place primarily, those attending will be limited in their cognitive functions and the reading will be less successful.

Since those who have chosen a retirement community are probably less mobile than they once were, many are eager for stimulation, intellectual or otherwise. Activities directors, thereforereading, are usually eager to book authors whose books might resonate with their residents.

At the beginning of an event, I pass out postcards my publisher has created that give info about me and the book, as well as my blog address. I usually ask those attending why they read because their answers often, ironically, state the reasons why writers write. Then I ask what kinds of books attract them. Depending on the facility, the answers usually are mysteries and romances, though some also enjoy literary works.

After I’ve given an overview of my novel and its origins, I read a short passage, usually not for more than seven to ten minutes. I follow that with an opportunity for them to ask me questions. To stimulate the dialogue, I print out at least a dozen different questions that writers are asked about process, etc., and distribute them to those who are willing to read them aloud. That allows me to go into more depth and also involves those attending to interact with me.

By the end of the event, some are interested in buying a book, but even if they aren’t, it’s been an opportunity for me to spread the word about Fling! and to bring some stimulation into their lives. Both seem important outcomes.