Have you ever dreamed of writing a novel, then having it become a best seller and maybe even a blockbuster movie? Well, that was my husband Ned’s expectation since I spent my career as a writer and editor for popular newsstand magazines. When you retire, you could have more time, and you may want to fill that time with useful and meaningful things.
Writing memoirs is a popular pastime for seniors. Many retirees want to document their experiences (while they can still remember them). However, we decided to add a twist to this idea; we wrote a fictionalized memoir.
Ned had such confidence in my writing skills that he had been nudging me for years to write the Great American Novel so he could retire early.
On the other hand, I had zero confidence in my ability to write fiction. Give me something to research or someone to interview any day.
But, writing dialog and creating something out of my imagination? The very thought of it terrified me.
Ned ultimately decided to write the novel on his own. He wrote the first two chapters and abruptly handed it off to me. He told me he was tired and, since I had helped him with the outline and the character development, it was my turn. He left me no room to wiggle out. Later he acknowledged he had feigned writer’s block to get me to write.
Nevertheless, last year, my husband and I co-wrote Einstein Meadows: The Unspoken Perils & Thrills of Living in a Retirement Community. We consider it a fanciful and humorous look at retirement communities. It tells the tale of a daring group of seniors who throw caution to the wind and embrace ganjapreneurship.
Although this book was our first foray into fiction, we discovered we had a real talent for it; and we both thoroughly enjoyed the process. We didn’t start out with any particular format or genre in mind, and the result is unique. We simply had a story to tell and wrote it.
What makes our book unique:
- We wrote it like a memoir in the first person and Ned and I are both characters in the novel. Ned also narrates the story providing background or gossip about the story-line. Because we blur the line between fact and fiction, many people believe every word. When asked if a particular event really happened, we always nod and say, “of course.”
- Ned got frustrated reading novels for school because he couldn’t easily keep track of who was speaking. That is why we wrote Einstein Meadows like a play, with the name of the speaker highlighted in bold. He figured seniors don’t have the patience to figure out who is talking anyway. This format also makes the book great fun to read aloud and accessible to bilingual readers. We spend the winters in a neighborhood that is predominantly native Spanish speaking people, where our book has become a big hit.
- We sprinkled Dear Reader boxes throughout and we included a Yiddish Dictionary in the back to define the Yiddish terms that we use.
- Perhaps the most unusual feature is the Residents’ Reactions, in which the characters get to sound off in voice about the book after reading the pre-publication manuscript.
The finished product is so original that a producer offered us an option on a movie/TV series only three weeks after we published the book. Although we couldn’t agree on financial terms with the producer, we did write the pilot for a TV series. Now we’re looking for a producer. Anyone have a referral?
Einstein Meadows teetered on the cliff of bankruptcy soon after Ned and Nancy moved in. Faced with a major loss of services, the idealistic New Yorkers attempted to convince their neighbors of the wisdom of applying for a medical marijuana dispensary license. After many hilarious debates and endless committee meetings, the couple ultimately convinces their neighbors to grow and sell medicinal marijuana.
Today, less than three years later, this southwestern enclave enjoys 100 percent occupancy, no Homeowners Association dues, and a waiting list for new residents. Plus, everyone became multimillionaires. Amazing!! The enlightened Einstonians ride around town in a Woodstock bus, create a circus troupe and get naked, but not before they shoot it out with banditos who try to steal their crop. How did this happen?
Of course, this is a fictional tale. We wrote about what could have occurred – not what actually transpired. In reality, the idea never got any traction – largely because of the source: newbie New Yorkers from the low rent district (that would be Ned and I). We lived in a townhome while most of the residents lived in villas. The idea of a marijuana dispensary was too much of a stretch for our neighbors (people who were a generation older than we were and who truly believed the movie “Reefer Madness”). It was mind-boggling that such brainy people with backgrounds in academia could be so limited in their thinking. It just shows that having a Ph.D. after your name is not a guarantee of commonsense. However, we made it happen in the book.