Local authors night

What: Central Oregon authors Milree Latimer, Mark Corbet, Fredrick J. Gientke, Jana Zvibleman, Kate Ayers and Sharon Duerst present their latest work.

When: 6:30 p.m. April 27 Where: Roundabout Books, 900 NW Mt. Washington Drive, Suite 110, Bend

Cost: free

Contact: roundaboutbookshop.com or 541-306-6564

Milree Latimer always loved to write, but with a busy and fulfilling career in Ontario, Canada, as a teacher, school administrator and college professor, she never considered pursuing writing. Yet at the age of 78, the Redmond resident has published her first novel.

“Those We Left Behind,” is an emotional drama about college professor Dr. Casey MacMillan, who teaches about love and loss, but whose personal relationships are stunted. After a romance develops between her good friend Galean and a woman from her past, Casey is hurt and humiliated. She flees to Ireland to re-examine her life and must decide whether to risk pain in order to love and be loved.

Latimer will discuss her book at the fourth local authors night on April 27 at Roundabout Books in Bend. Fellow authors Mark Corbet, Fredrick J. Gientke, Jana Zvibleman, Sharon Duerst and Kate Ayers will also present their latest work at the event.

“I had written in high school and throughout my life, but never ever thought that I’d be a writer,” Latimer said. “I needed to take care of myself and needed a roof over my head and was doing something else I loved, but I had always integrated my writing into my other work.”

After Latimer’s retirement as an educator in Ontario and in the aftermath of her first husband’s death in 2007, the seeds of a second career as a writer were planted. She began writing down stories and memories of her late husband as part of her grieving process.

Latimer’s neighbor and friend, Lawrence Hill (author of the award-winning novel “Someone Knows My Name”), encouraged her to expand her stories into a memoir and mentored her throughout that process.

In 2009, Latimer went on a trip with her niece to Ireland and attended a creative writing workshop led by Irene Graham. After returning home, Latimer stayed in touch with Graham. She also continued to collaborate with Hill to finalize her memoir, “Will You Be Sitting Beside Me?” Despite feeling nervous and self-conscious about publishing such personal work, it was self-published in 2012 in a small print run of a few hundred copies and the entire process inspired Latimer.

“That’s when I realized I really wanted to write and had always wanted to,” she said.

The final impetus for Latimer to write a novel came when she reconnected with an old family friend from Central Oregon who she hadn’t seen for many years. The two married in June 2012 and now make their home just northwest of Redmond.

“I gave my memoir to Jerry to read, and he really encouraged me to keep writing, so I talked to Irene (Graham) and started working on my novel in earnest,” Latimer said.

As a college professor, and after she retired, Latimer had led classes and discussion groups focused on self-reflection. She found that the subject of loss, how we deny it and how we integrate it into our lives, frequently came up. She decided to make that the theme of her novel.

“There was something within me that found that whole issue of love and loss and the human condition fascinating,” Latimer said. “In denying loss, we deny ourselves love.”

The character, Casey, was inspired by a memory Latimer had of a walk she took along the West Coast of Ireland during her 2009 trip. She noticed a woman ahead standing motionless on the shore, seemingly lost in thought and gazing out over the ocean. Latimer turned around and walked away because she didn’t want to interrupt, but that image stayed with her and became the genesis of Casey.

Latimer shared her outlines and drafts with her writing coach, Graham, who served as an adviser and editor, providing feedback from Ireland via Skype and email. Latimer went to the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference in summer 2017 and pitched her manuscript to various publishers. Despite some interest and requests for the manuscript from several publishers, she ended up receiving what she described as “generous rejections.”

“Even if you get a publishing deal, it can take years with a traditional publisher to get a book on the shelves,” she said. “I wasn’t sure at my age if I had that much time to wait.”

A fellow author, Kristina Bak of Bend, suggested Latimer consider self-publishing and recommended Luminare Press in Eugene. After visiting the company, Latimer opted to go that route and has been very pleased with the outcome.

“They do everything — cover art, copy-editing, formatting and more” Latimer explained. She paid $3,300 for their services and the Luminare staff also provided recommendations for marketing. General editing and dual distribution via CreateSpace and IngramSpark were an additional cost.

Latimer has fully embraced this new chapter in her life and career, and is at work on her next novel. It is about a young girl sent from Ireland to Canada just prior to World War I as part of the home child migration scheme.

“I have a bit of a traveler, wanderer and adventurer in me that I’m giving full reign in my life now,” Latimer said.

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