Local 78-year-old publishes first novel
Anne McGregor isn't your typical first-time novelist. For one thing, she's 78-years-old. For another, people who've self-published their first books don't usually hold book signings at a Joseph Beth Booksellers, as McGregor did last week in Lexington. On the other hand, few people of any age seem as determined as McGregor. "I went over and asked to speak to the (Joseph Beth) marketing manager ... and I told him I had written a book and chose a date and he was wonderful. They advertised in their newsletter and made a big banner for me," McGregor said. "If they let me, I'd live there. Just give me a cup of coffee and a pot." McGregor said she ordered 220 copies of "Memoir of a Butterfly." "My purpose is not to make money. My purpose is to get people to read this book, because it's relevant to today ..." she said. For inspiration and details, McGregor leaned on the life story of Mamie Quan, a friend since fourth grade. "She married a doctor and moved to San Salvador, and she lived there about 22 years. When she came back, we renewed our friendship ... and she started telling me stories about these friends she had (who) were in the American society, and they did charity work and so forth," McGregor said. "And I was so intrigued by these stories that I started taping her ... and then I started mixing them together, and I said, 'This is a story that needs to be told.'" Based on those stories, McGregor wrote a fictional account over several years about a nurse from New York who marries a doctor from El Salvador and moves there in the turbulent 1960s. "She didn't know the language or the culture or any of the people. She knew nobody but him. So the story is the culture clash ... El Salvador was definitely not as liberated as the United States," McGregor said. "It's an interesting story, and of course, I threw in a lot from my own experience, because I lived in California ... when the hippies were there, so I added all of that and made a story." She said she's been writing articles, diaries and short stories all of her life, but admitted writing a 312-page novel, then self-publishing through Create Space on Amazon, was a much bigger challenge. Asked how she rated her writing ability, McGregor replied, "Well, I think I'm outstanding, but then I'm slightly prejudiced, okay? And I'm also shy and modest," she said with a chuckle. After living in Lexington most of their lives, McGregor and Malcolm, her husband of 60 years whom she calls "fabulous," moved to Woodford County in December of 2015. One reason was to be nearer to daughters Anne Dora Hart and Helen Graham, grandson Chris Hart, and four grandchildren who live here. Another was the small-town life that McGregor saw played out on the U.S. 60 Bypass one day soon after moving, when four lanes of traffic stopped to allow a mother duck and her ducklings to cross the road. "And I thought, 'Okay, this is where I need to be,'" McGregor said. Between visits with her children and grandchildren, she's already used her laptop computer to write the first third of her next novel, a tale about Kentucky pioneers set in the 1780s. "It's a funny thing. Your characters will start talking for you. I've read that other people say that, but you're writing and you're thinking and you're writing and you're living and they start talking for you and it's amazing," McGregor said. In the meantime, she's selling "Memoir of a Butterfly" through Amazon.com and Kindle and speaking to book clubs around the region. "Why not? I'm 78-years-old," said McGregor of her late-life writing. "I'm not getting any younger," she said, laughing again.