Just as the membership has done for 105 years straight, the ladies assembled Tuesday for the monthly meeting of the Book Lovers’ Club, located on the south side of Indianapolis. This month they met at the West Newton Friends Meeting.
I had recently been invited to speak by a newer member of this literary club, Valley Mills Friends Meeting Pastor Marilee Gabriel. (If you are thinking that is a tranquil-sounding name, I agree.)
Here’s how it went. Marilee is from California by way of Minnesota. She isn’t up on Hoosier women writers, this year’s club theme. So she called Earlham College and talked to someone who is, and that someone recommended me. How cool is that?
I don’t know either of them, but was more than delighted to rearrange my schedule and point the HHR toward Indy. Come to find out, West Newton Friends is the church where author Brent Bill is pastor. Bill is a former Henry County resident and close friend of my former boss, Bill Brooks. He used to appear almost daily in the newsroom to see Bill.
Why yes, it's a small world.
Once I met Marilee and got my book things set up in the fellowship hall, we were instructed to enjoy the day’s refreshments. You’ve got to love a place where they offer dessert first.
Next up were introductions and the reading of the club Collect from the program book.
They had me give my program before they saw to philanthropic and other club matters. Marilee thought the group would enjoy hearing about how and why I became a writer for a newspaper as well as of a couple of novels.
So I gave the group the 20-minute version (Brian says no one wants to hear anyone talk more than 20 minutes and I tend to agree). I told them about community journalism and how at 50, about the time the empty nest loomed large, and other midlife questions and issues emerged having to do with colonoscopies, retirement planning and nursing home insurance, I took it all out on my computer by inventing Samantha Jarrett and giving her a lot of issues to deal with, then sending her off to her hometown where I gave her even more.
I spoke of deeper themes in both of my books than what's happening on the surface, themes such as how God doesn't want us to get stuck at any particular age or stage or even at some "sweet spot" where we're all settled in. However, He promises to go with us through everything if we only invite Him to do so.
I told them about the second book's theme of blooming where we are planted, and having to decide where that planting will take place. In the second book, all the characters have to figure out where it is they belong and what they'll let God do with their lives.
We talked about aging and how the two sons in the first book represented the different viewpoints about how to approach age. One was all about change and challenge and taking chances. The other thought his mom should live in a safe senior condo and not have to fool with risk and upkeep of an old house and just enjoy life -- but it wasn't the life she wanted.
That all let to a discussion of bed and breakfasts and then, what was really fun, was that we had another guest! One of the ladies had invited Tom Gaunt. He and his wife own and operate Mansion on the Mile B & B in Lockerbie Square.
Well into their 60s, they are just getting started, and opened the B & B last summer. They have guests from all over the world stay with them and offer elegant Victorian breakfasts. A guest from China proclaimed their breakfasts "the best in the world."
I'm a bit awestruck with this couple's accomplishments, not the least of which is either adopting or fostering over 100 kids. Now with the nest empty, they plan to devote their time to the beautiful inn (they also have day jobs, mind you)!
According to a brochure from Tom, the inn is also known as the Historic Tate Mansion due to a couple of notorious residents! Warren Tate, in fact, is known for the murder inside the Marion County Courthouse over a dispute over the property where the inn sits today.
The lady who became his wife, Helen Daily, was arrested for running a house of "ill repute."
Neither were, however, convicted. The property was featured on the HGTV show, "If Walls Could Talk."
Tom bought both my books and plans to place them at the inn for guests to enjoy. And now, both of us are a part of the official minutes of this lovely little literary club, 105 years young and going strong.
Thank you Marilee and ladies for a delightful stop on this writing journey! And thank you, Tom, for the information about your beautiful B & B and your inspiring life stories.
For more about Mansion on The Mile B & B, visit www.mansiononthemile.com. The home is at 228 N. East St. Indy. Phone: 317-434-0000. The couple has also converted an old Sinclair Filling Station into a guest house, available for rental as well, next door.