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