Writers don’t usually get recognition beginning at age 80. And often they don’t write steamy sagas at that age either. Yet Roberta George, a Valdosta, Georgia author, has been nominated for a Townsend Prize, so says a review of her novel, The Day’s Heat, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Incidentally, I have not read Ms. George’s novel.
The Scandalous Plot and the Reaction
An unhappy Lebanese housewife and mother has a torrid affair with a young Catholic priest. An early review from a friend declared: “Roberta, I love your book, but you’re going to hell.” The local parish priest warned, “Don’t publish the book.”
Her readers in Valdosta, generally a very conservative community, are aghast at her material.
Truth in Fiction
When the young priest at her Catholic church has a tooth knocked out, Lee’s quick thinking saves the incisor, and leads to a clerical transgression. This all happens in a fictional South Georgia town named Strickland.
Roberts George did, in fact, save the tooth of a Catholic priest in Valdosta. But, she said, “I have to keep reminding people that the priest in this story is not the old priest that was there at the time. He did have his tooth knocked out by a basketball, and I had just read in a ladies magazine about putting a tooth back in a child’s mouth.”
However, this Valdosta divine was in his late 60s and lived with his parents. The young, hunky priest from The Day’s Heat is lifted from a teenage fantasy when the young Roberta Haas attended an all-girls Catholic school in Houston, under the priestly guidance of “a beautiful young man with curly back hair and a Van Dyke beard… (All) of our girls were mooning over him,” she said, which caused him to “run for his life.”
The Author’s Confession
Only in the novel does hanky-panky take place, with some alluring and graphic descriptions. “That’s the wonderful thing about fiction. You can take those romantic impulses that are never realized and go to bed with them.”
- Mother of 9 children
- Earned her B.A. in English at age 40, followed by a master’s degree
- Persevered through rejections of her novel here in the States. Then her book won a writing competition in England and was published by the British press, Impress Books. Subsequently, the American audience took note, and Roberta’s book won the Georgia Author of the Year award for literary fiction.
- Began a small literary magazine, Snake Nation Review. She also instigated the South Georgia Book Festival.
- Teaches yoga and writing classes in Valdosta, Georgia.
- Husband Noel George died in 2017. Now her companions are 3 dogs and a cat led by cockapoo Silver.
“Revise and edit your work [again and again].”
“Never give up. You don’t ever give up. You keep trying!”
My “Love Letters” Revelations, as promised in last week’s post:
I was teaching at Lancaster Mennonite School, and Cliff was beginning a graduate program at Bob Jones University. We had known each other less than a month in these airmail excerpts.
M. January 5, 1966
When I saw the SC postmark, I rushed right away to the Ladies Room, knowing that the math teacher would misjudge my un-teacherly giggles and coos. By the way, your arrows, dots, and dashes are good eye exercises, Cliffy . . . .
C. January 4, 1966
My dear Fraulein (Throwback to our seeing The Sound of Music)
You are sooo sweet. How about a big kiss from you! What I need is more Christmas vacations like the one you provided for me!! . . . [signed] Your lovable Cliff
M. January 14, 1966
My dear Deany Beany, Jelly Beaming,
I just got your dear sweet letter. the words, and the sketch (or was it a cartoon?) Isn’t it strange how our ideas cross? . . . one day I use red ink and the next day you send one in red. Hey! That makes it a red-letter day for both of us! Love to my Cleefee, Marian
C. January 4, 1966
I am missing you. I hope you write as often as I do . . . I have a couple of big rehearsals tonight [Dr. Pinch in Much Ado About Nothing] . . . Let’s say we have fallen in love and got married, then a few of these problems creep in . . . like baptism, hair cutting, prayer veiling . . . . . . With love, “Cliff,” Friedrich/Roger/Van Cliburn Symbols for Kisses and hugs
Thanks for sharing Roberta’s story, Marian. I love her words of wisdom and confession!
As a huge fan of The Sound of Music, I loved Cliffy’s opening ‘My dear Fraulein!’ Definitely some swoonworthy letters!
Jill, it’s nice to see you again so early Wednesday.
You have made a lively writing career of faith-inspired romances. Yes, our letters are swoon-worthy. These letters are a reminder that falling in love makes one light-headed and silly. As you can tell, we saw The Sound of Music together, one of the first movies I felt permitted to see. If wasn’t the last, of course.
Good morning, Marian! I hear both youth and love in those letters. What a precious gift to still have them (and each other)!
Thanks, Merril. Your tribute to Doug on his birthday (a special meal and poetry) speaks volumes of your adoration for each other. Early on, you may have observed that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!” I imagine Doug was attracted to your intellect and creativity as well.
If you recall, we met in 9th grade, so . . . 😉
Yes . . . !
Delicious Marian thank you … both posts! 🙂
Thank you, Susan. One was certainly tamer than the other – ha!
I know you meant ‘tamer’ – but I’m not so sure! Both delectably delicious 😋
I went back and made the word change. Sometimes I surprise myself with silly typos I make. Anyway, seeing my own mistakes has taught me to be more forgiving of others’ errors.
However, sometimes if there is an egregious error from a reader, I can edit comments on my end. :=)
Whew. I can feel the heat. Thanks for the peek at Roberta George’s novel and writing. It actually helps me understand a beloved niece in law’s romantic fiction that has attracted some substantial attention, and contains scenes that I’m sure she would not condone for her daughters…. fiction. I guess that’s why I haven’t attempted to publish fiction. 🙂 Great post.
I’m glad you enjoyed this, Melodie. Like you, if I ever attempt fiction, it will not contain scandalous scenes. Amish novels are said to appeal to readers who like “clean” romance. I imagine your nice-in-law’s novels would not qualify.
I believe in finding role models who bloom in old age. Always loved the Grandma Moses story. This one sounds like Grandma Jezebel, however. 🙂
Such giddy young love in your letters. And such vitality still in your real life. Love shown on you early and has brought you through to this wonderful place of reflection. You have just enough giddiness left to keep the spice in life. Whoopie!
Grandma Moses is a great example of fruitfulness in old age. Thanks for mentioning her here. She began her painting career seriously at the age of 78, my age: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandma_Moses
She reminds us that innovation and potential are not merely the province of the young. Did you know she wrote an autobiography and was awarded two honorary doctorates?
You, along with some readers here can identify with this scripture: Psalm 92:14 New International Version
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green. Don’t you love it!
What a wonderful spirit and wise advice! An inspiration to us all.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Fatima, always appreciated! 🙂
Always a pleasure.
Yay! Love letters! Wow! So sweet! Love your nicknames for each other. And yay for Roberta! Her perseverance is so encouraging. Oddly enough, a friend told me about another 80-year-old woman who published a middle grade novel recently. So encouraging too!
I promised my readers weeks ago that I would print some excerpts for my blog readers. Not having read them in decades, I had no idea they would sound so sentimental. Still, I guess you think it was worth it!
Yes, older writers inspire me. I’d say this though: Writing and publishing can be done at home in solitude behind the computer. However, marketing requires stamina, especially for authors who plan to do book signings that require travel. Thanks for your thoughts today, L. Marie!
I love Roberta’s spunk and convictions. I find that wise women have a way of saying things that stick with me more than any self-help book ever could.
I’m glad you found this author inspiring, Ally. Nothing like a real-life example. Thank you!
It is so wonderful to learn of Roberta and her writing success. It goes to show, you are never too old! Your letters to each other are adorable. Thanks for sharing.
The racy and the “adorable” in the same spot.
I took a chance with those letters – glad you enjoyed them, Darlene!
Oh my, this gives me some hope. I was a bit older than this author when I got my degrees, but I enjoyed every minute of it! And perhaps I will be older when I publish my memoir (I had some priests in my life as well, kind and compassionate people who walked with me in my deep grief). Good for you, Marian, sharing your love letters! Have to go and dig up my two year correspondence between Africa and Canada. Oh my, not sure I want to share them with the world though!
You have had some good examples in your life, Elfrieda. And I’m glad the priests in your life were kind and compassionate. Now, YOU and Hardy are good examples.
I can visualize you digging up some letters that crossed continents. When I promised my readers I would publish excerpts from our letters, I had no idea we would sound so giddy. Ha!
However, through the decades the infatuation stage has been replaced with deeper, abiding love, as in your case as well. 😀
This post is so much fun and proves that love wins – always always always. First, I am so enthralled and enthused about the romance writer. Of course the top news of that story for journalists Is the age of the woman. Won’t it be nice if ageism is erased and a writer is just a writer, not an age. Roberta George sounds like my kind of woman and my kind of writer and my kind of author! I’m going to go look for her book. She can inspire us all.
And thank you for being brave enough to post some of your love letters between you and Cliff. They are sweet and sensual in that bloom of early love. I have kept some of the love letters between my guy and me also. They are tucked in a file and I giggle when I think of our kids finding them sometime after we are gone from this world. 😍
Ah, I hadn’t thought about the Atlanta paper highlighting her age as a negative thing. I believe they thought of the piece as inspirational. But, you are definitely correct in pointing out what the newspaper (which I accessed via The New York Times) used Roberta’s age as a hook for the readers, rather than her content alone. Another subtext: older women aren’t expected to still enjoy the physical side of love.
About our love letters: I promised my readers that I would publish some of our love letters before I read them. Don’t say I didn’t deliver – haha! I think we were both surprised how giddy (and smitten) we sounded. 😀
And smitten you still are! <3
Indeed! ((( )))
Alright! Way to go, all of you. <3 The letters are lovely memories and a testimony to your love and commitment. Is your nickname Marta, Marian?? Did you know that was one of Maya’s names before we adopted her.
I’m following Roberta’s advice: edit, edit, and edit some more. 🙂
Good morning, Liesbet! Yes, Marta is a pet name for me. After we saw The Sound of Music, we adopted the names “Marta” and “Freidrich” as a nod to a movie we fell in love with. “Marta” has become my Twitter handle too, which is actually unhandy as an author because readers know we as Marian, not Marta.
Yes, I picture you editing, editing, and revising too – and taking breaks with Maya aka Marta. 🙂
Wow, Marian. Love is the game.You and Cliffy are an example of everlasting love. Having been married for 55 years this coming June, I’m happy to say that even through cloudy days Bill’s and my love for each other is bright and takes us through big storms. I’m feeling so grateful for him and I think you’ve inspired me to write him a love letter today!
Oh, my, lucky Bill, who’s getting a love letter today.
The thing is: You and I both suffered in our childhoods and now we have ended up with wonderful mates. How is that? I’d say it’s providential. Here’s to many more anniversaries with your one true love.
It’s always good to hear from you, Joan. Thank you!
Good for her!
Yes, it’s never too late . . . !
Roberta George sends the message loud and clear that it’s never too late. She doesn’t give us any excuses.
Sweet love correspondence with “Cliffy.” I have a file of letters from Vic I still haven’t opened because I get a little incapacitated by all the tears. I wrote about him last night in my writing class but I’m more interested in how life unfolds now than endlessly going back. On the other hand, there’s lots of good material in those letters. I don’t think we used so many sweet nicknames, but I won’t know for sure until I read. Vic called me E or Easel or Weasel (the last endearment not because of my body type!).
Elaine, I promised my readers a peek into our letters BEFORE we read them. In the blush of first love, one doesn’t realize how giddy and silly-sounding infatuation makes us.
I wonder if the “weasel” epithet was earned because you could weasel out of stuff. Cliff has said I’m manipulative, but I think that’s his description for my good negotiation skills – haha!
Wow. So intriguing. Not sure I want to write a steamy romance novel when I’m 80, but I want to do SOMETHING outside the box. An old lady who learns and tries new things.
Your love letters are so interesting… you all were imaginative writers who weren’t shy about showing your hearts. I can see the artistic and creative minds at work. Would enjoy seeing more excerpts in your next blog post!
Well, Luci, I’m not sure I’m ready to excavate more letters just yet. The ones we read were heady enough – ha! Silly, sincere, filled with the giddiness of young love.
We figured out that we actually got to know each other more through letters than being together in real time. Over the year and a half between meeting and marriage, we were together face to face probably less than a month.
No, I will not write a steamy romance at eighty – probably against my principles. Besides, there are so many other topics a-waiting in my file.
I believe you met Ivan about a year ago. Do you plan to celebrate the “anniversary”?
It’s always good to see you here – thanks!
Wow ! Roberta gives us all hope doesn’t she Marian . How does she keep so young looking …amazing.
Well I never you saucy minx you 🤗 such delightful love letters . A match made in heaven it ‘s so clear . Thank you for sharing those special moments with us .
Ha ha! No one has EVER referred to me as a “saucy minx” before – leave it to you though. I think these are the only love letters I’ll reveal for now. Saucy, silly, and sentimental for sure. I’m glad we have them though. Thanks for your visit today, Cherry! x