August 5, 2012

Writers Die With Pen In Hand…



Neither Illness Nor Age Deters Writers

     As many of you know, I’m working on writing a novel. At least, I’m trying to work on writing it. Its first draft is about twenty-five percent completed. Unfortunately the novel is steeped in history, which makes it necessary to keep facts straight and thus requires a concentrated effort to write.

It seems every time I return to its writing life interferes. Major life events that cause serious break times in the writing. And I often wonder if it will ever be completed, if I will grow too old to finish it…after all, I’m in the spring season of my life.

Reading about writers Addison Coffman, Ed Hayes, Jim Coleman, Evelyn Bitner Pearson, Claude Stanley Choules inspires me when these wonderings appear.

What things did these writers have in common?

First: Age

Each writer died after living a long life:

  • Addison Coffin, mid-80s,
  • Ed Hayes, age 86;
  • Jim Coleman, age 89; 
  • Evelyn Bitner Pearson, age 101, and
  • Claude Stanley Choules, age 110 .

Second: Their passion for writing

     Addison Coffman: For sometime past many of my companions of  early life have solicited me to write a history of my life, and my knowledge of and connection with the Underground Railroad, as I am now the last survivor of those who entered the service of that mysterious institution in or previous to 1835.

     The thought of appearing as an author or writer had not entered my mind at this period of life; I had not kept a diary, or even notes of the passing events, always depending on memory for reminiscences of the past. My memory has become a wonder to many people, and it is the impression it has made that prompts the request of many for me to write a biography.

Hayes wrote the syndicated Heydays column for the Orlando Sentinel for nearly a quarter-century…No matter what, he would sit at his computer and write that column,” said his wife of 28 years, Betty Ann Weber.

When he was 62, after he retired from his position as writer and editor at the Orlando Sentinel, he took over the established *Heydays column and never stopped working.

Coleman began journalistic career in 1931. For more than seventy years this revered and legendary sports columnist regaled Canadian readers of the Vancouver Province, Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Bulletin, The Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail and the chain of Southam Newspapers…he was chronicled events with marvellous humour, wit and insight… whose tales of larcenous characters and backstretch skullduggery had entertained newspaper readers… A dapper gentleman, he wrote his columns while chomping on a cigar, refused to retire from his job at the Vancouver Province. He worked to the end…he authoredthree books: A Hoofprint On My Heart, Long Ride On A Hobby Horse and Hockey Is Our Game

Evelyn Bitner’s maxim,We give where we live, led her to become a writer and published author who devoted her talents to chronicle the history and culture of Pittsburgh and its environs… she gave readers insight into life in Pittsburgh from 1910, the year she was born, until the present, especially when it pertained to her family, her experiences and her struggles, said her daughter, Cynthia Pearson Turich of Squirrel Hill.

Choules’ children urged him to take a creative writing course when he was inhis 80s, after which he decided to record his memoirs for his family. The memoirs formed the basis of his autobiography, which was published in 2009. In 1918 he witnessed the surrender of the German Imperial Navy. Choules from Perth, Australia, was noted for his wry sense of humor and humble nature. He became the last surviving male World War I veteran when American Frank Buckles died at 110 in February, 2011. Choules died the following May.
A writer’s passion persists ’til death

Coffin in his mid-eighties, wrote the Life and Travels of Addison Coffin, written by himself. The copyright was done by The Girls’ Aid Committee of North Carolina Yearly Meeting of Friends, 1897.

Hayes’ last column, written about a stroke he suffered, was written less than two weeks before his death.

Coleman worked to the end. In their last conversation Coleman asked his son to bring a typewriter to the hospital so he could keep writing. His last column appeared the day he died.

Evelyn Bitner’s book, ‘A Chronicle of a Pittsburgh Family,’ was published in 1999, when she was at the ripe old age of 90. (9 star)

Choules’ autobiography, The Last of the Last, released in 2009, made him the world’s oldest first-time published author at the age of 108.

Some writing tips and suggestions

Hayes offered some tips and suggestions for aspiring writers that I would like to share. “Do the best you can, and the right stuff either comes pouring out of the bag or it doesn’t,” he said. “Just look around, read. Think. Watch TV. Eavesdrop. If one of my stories is successful, it must have touched a few hearts. The ending is as vital in my work as the opener. The closer doesn’t need to be a boffo punch line. Something clever without being cutesy will do niftily. And never open a column with the word ‘the.'”

Hayes believed that a successful story reveals facts with fresh words. “Be nosy. Confident. Browse your dictionary and thesaurus for words you’ve not used for awhile. I like alliteration, but not if overdone…Hardly anything tickles me more than sitting down with a worthwhile idea, and begin the intrigue of juggling words so they all come out right, meaningfully, amusingly, warmly — and fit into the allotted space. When ultimately satisfied with a story, I glance up and over to the image of St. Jude who hangs on my wall and acknowledge him with a little nod.”



A Popular Author’s Love Affair With the Word ‘AND’: Part A


Eavesdropping—the good and the bad of it

Journalism Rules and Professionalism: I had neither!


THE WRITING LIFE: There’s a World Out There?



Addison Coffman

Ed Hayes

Jim Coleman

Evelyn Bitner Pearson,


Claude Stanley Choules,0,6601941.story


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