Retirees-turned-writers share passion for imagination

  • “Charlie Makes a Donut”

  • “The Undocumented Alien”

  • WEISBLAT Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I’m always fascinated by what makes people express themselves through fiction. I recently spoke with two local authors who began writing only in their retirement years. Their books are different, but their passion for the world of the imagination is similar.

Dolly Letourneau of Gill was inspired to write a children’s book by her work as a local librarian in Turners Falls and Montague. “There were a lot of children coming and going,” she told me recently. “(This book) was kind of in the back of my mind.”

Her interest in children’s literature also stems from her time serving as a foster mother. She and her husband most recently spent a year and a half taking care of a little boy who has now been adopted.

The plot of Letourneau’s self-published book, “Charlie Makes a Donut,” had been milling around in her mind even longer than that. When her husband was a teenager, she explained, he worked briefly at a doughnut shop in Springfield.

A major fan of jelly doughnuts, Paul Letourneau decided to see how much jelly he could pump into a doughnut. He filled it … and filled it … and filled it. The resulting jelly debacle helped put an end to his career as a doughnut maker, his wife noted.

In her book, a 10-year-old boy named Charlie is invited to help a local doughnut maker at work. Charlie overfills a doughnut — and precipitates an explosion of jelly.

Letourneau wrote her charming story in 2010. Last year she connected, through a friend, with Mihaela Dodan, an artist, teacher and mother who lives in Washington state. An experienced illustrator, Dodan helped the new writer lay the book out and find a printer.

Letourneau believes that her story should appeal to children between the ages of 5 and 10. She told me that she thinks Charlie can teach young readers humorously.

“Charlie is curious, and he wants to try something on his own ... He isn’t really following directions,” she observed. “There are a few little subtle lessons in the book regarding his determination, his curiosity and his sense of entrepreneurship.”

Brian Sharry of Greenfield writes as B. Robert Sharry. His new novel, “The Undocumented Alien,” is his third book. Sharry told me in a recent interview that this new fantasy work is quite different from his previous fiction.

The book’s title plays with the two meanings of the word “alien.” It tells the parallel story of Elena, a pregnant Mexican teenager hoping to raise her baby in a better place, and CoWoP, a being from another part of the universe whose spirit temporarily needs a human host and lands inside Elena.

CoWoP is immature and resents being posted to Earth, which his more technologically advanced civilization views as primitive. He and Elena end up helping each other and also learning from each other.

I asked Sharry how he happened to come up with the idea for “The Undocumented Alien.” He explained that he spends a lot of time in Mexico — particularly when cold weather arrives in New England — and has followed the recent national debate about immigration.

“When I heard all the things that are being said about Mexicans, it occurred to me that 150 years ago, they were saying exactly the same thing about the Irish and other immigrants,” he noted.

What does he want readers to take away from his tale? “I hope that people will think about those who are trying to come to our country for a better life as people,” he told me. “People all over the world are the same.

“Even people outside this world. Technology changes rapidly, but what we would call human nature doesn’t change so quickly. So this very advanced civilization (in the story) has many of the same problems that we have. They just have much more advanced technology.”

“And I want people to read the book and think, ‘That’s a good story,’” he added.

“Charlie Makes a Donut” is available at the World Eye Bookshop as well as on Amazon.com. “The Undocumented Alien” is available as a book and an e-book from Amazon. Signed copies may be ordered from the author, who may be contacted at 413-441-7989.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.