Author Q&A: A story of a life really lived

At 88 years old, local poet and author Normajean MacLeod is living each day to its fullest.

“Carpe diem,” she said.

This year, she released her memoirs about a life devoted to creativity and changing the world.

With the help of local author Fagan O’Kane Baldwin, MacLeod was able to finish the work in a little over a year.

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“It has been a labor of love, a journey through times gone by and experiences of a woman who displayed courage and determination throughout her long life,” Baldwin wrote in the book’s foreword.

“There are lessons learned from Neen’s (Normajean’s) story. I have embraced them, and I hope the reader will too.”

Normajean’s late husband, John, called her “Neen,” which resulted in Baldwin using the same term of endearment for Normajean, too, she wrote.

Baldwin had recently finished and published her own memoir, “Please Stop the Carnvial” when she answered a classified ad from the couple, looking for help in managing their email and social media accounts.

During that time, Normajean was focused on caring for John’s medical needs, but she and Baldwin managed to find time to talk about her past.

Baldwin offered to write Normajean’s story since she didn’t have time to do it herself.

“Our book is about a writer — how life has contributed to a curious, creative mind with a will to nurture the passions of poetry and prose and to share the love of words with others,” MacLeod said.

Q: What inspired you to write it?

A: My stories must have been interesting and unusual. … I did the storytelling, provided the pictures, my poems, papers and records. Fagan did the sifting, organization and writing. Together, over a year, we wrote “The Other Normajean” (Fagan’s title) or “All By Myself, But Never Alone” (Normajean’s title).

Q: Have you written any other books?

A: I have published books, papers and articles, most of them listed on my resume, included in the addendum section of the book. I’ve also written poetry books, “Womanclature: The Queen Bee Syndrome” and “Poetica Erotica.”

Q: What are your connections to Brown County?

A: My parents, Norman Vincent and Mable Gertrude Ulery, came to Brown County from Los Angeles in 1947. Sight unseen, they had purchased four acres on North Jackson Branch Road. While my father gravitated to the artisans living in Nashville at that time, my mother took good care of us. They cleared the land and built the “Red Shed” with their own hands. My father was employed by “Jack” Rogers to design and paint most of the signs in Nashville and all the printed, illustrative material for the Rogers Organization. My late husband, John, and I acquired the property in 2000.

Q: What’s your writing ritual? In what environment do you work best?

A: As most writers would prefer: quiet and alone. Writing my memoir with Fagan was interesting for both of us, because we certainly did not write “alone” or quietly. There was laughter and tears; short and long stories about who, what, when and how; lots of clarifications and revelations; and it all came together in what we hope is a good tale, well told.

Q: What’s the last book you read? Do you have a favorite?

A: The last book I read was Fagan’s “Please Stop the Carnival.” I am currently re-reading Thomas Merton’s “The Seven Story Mountain” after 40 or more years and Gerald Durrell’s “My Family and Other Animals.” My favorite books are “The Alexandria Quartet” by Lawrence Durrell.

Q: Where can people buy this book, and for how much?

A: The book is available on Amazon or by calling Normajean at 812-988-4792.

Q: Do you have any booksignings or related events planned?

A: We are currently considering speaking engagements and would be delighted to hear any suggestions and interest.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.