Portrait of a budding novelist

Seemingly eons ago, Maureen Rumsey attended her first Sierra Writers meeting. She had no idea that the current president was about to move to Eureka. Nor did she know the search was on for someone to fill the vacancy. Afterward, Maureen drove home in a daze. When hubby asked how things went, she confessed, “I’m not sure?”

“About what?” he asked.

“I ended up president. But don’t worry. All I have to do is pick up the key during business hours at the Savings & Loan the day of the meeting.”

As things worked out, picking up the key was the least of her worries. Membership had dropped; morale was low. But Maureen refused to throw in the towel. Instead, she lured ex-board members to the Breakfast Club to plot a strategy to revitalize the membership. Under her deft guidance, for the next two years, Sierra Writers flourished.

A long-time reader of mystery novels and women’s fiction, Maureen next spread her wings and joined the Sacramento Valley Rose chapter of Romance Writers of America. A group she finds both supportive and comforting as she struggled to complete her first novel.

Next on her agenda is to seek an agent to represent her. Which according to her critique partner shouldn’t be a problem since Maureen’s work is capable of making a stone bleed.

Which begs the question: What innate traits, what ancestors, what life experiences hone and shape a gifted writer?

The early years

Maureen’s half Irish, which accounts for her fey sense of humor and her ability to deflate pretentious windbags. She’s also one quarter Cherokee and Chickasaw and one quarter American Hybrid. Thus her suspicion that far too many power brokers brandish forked tongues can be attributed to her Native American ancestry.

Maureen grew up on a seven-acre farm on the outskirts of Seattle. Cows. Pigs. Chickens. Even a horse until her skittish Mama nixed that particular pet. Three older brothers delighted in teasing their baby sister. However, she insists that the bane of her early years were clueless, nuns. In grade school, she recalls getting off the bus and entering the kitchen to be greeted by both parents. “They sat at the table looking grave. All because the nuns sent them a note that questioned why the girl with the highest IQ in the entire school wasn’t getting top grades?

“I had three wild brothers and didn’t want to give my parents any extra grief. Instead, I rebelled at school until the nuns blew my cover.

“I continued to rebel while attending Catholic High School. Assigned an essay on the topic of the annual chocolate sale, I concocted a tale ala Stephen King, destined to be read aloud before the entire class. Duly horrified, Sisters Mary Hitler and Mary DeSade hounded me until graduation.

The ensuing years

Her horror tale marked the first of a slew of short stories written whenever Maureen managed to squeeze a bit of time out of the responsibilities that go hand and hand with marriage, family, various part time jobs and care-taking of a beloved mother in her late 90’s.

She and her husband, John, share off-beat senses of humor, helpful in weathering life’s downturns. Both delight in music, all types. Whenever possible they attend live concerts of their favorite performers. They are blessed with twin daughters. Stephanie is gifted with a beautiful voice suitable for opera; Erin, although wheelchair bound, paints and sculpts.

A few years back, P, G & E accidentally burnt their house down. Some 30-odd short stories penned by Maureen were reduced to ashes. Still she continued to write all through the building of a new home, courtesy of P, G and E.

Last Spring, her short story, The Right Thing To Do, won 1st place in a national contest. If Maureen could wave a magic wand, five years hence, she’d have sold five novels, spaced a year apart. “I want to be known as a writer tuned in to real people with real problems and how they work them out and cope day to day.”

Currently, she has two novels in progress. Join me in wishing Maureen every success in becoming a published novelist.

Written by Phylis Warady