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Judith Kaye shares life story at library

Combine a Tyrone girl with a love of keeping a diary, and you have an interesting story. Then add some common thieves, and you have the makings of a book. Mix in supportive yet critical writing workshop members and encouraging family members, and you have that book written. Now add in a friend’s 100th birthday, and you have that book, and the Tyrone girl who wrote it, at the Tyrone-Snyder Township Public Library on Saturday afternoon.
Judith Kaye spoke about her life, and what writing a book has taught her, at the library on Saturday, May 3. She told the audience that she came to Tyrone “not as a teacher, but as a 60-year old woman who took a hard look at her life.” The approximately 55 people in attendance were treated to a personal insight into the journey of writing and publishing her book, “Pieces of a Life”, and what it meant to the author. One of the things that drove her to keep the diaries in the first place was her curiosity about her own grandmothers. She often wondered what theirs lives had been like, what were their romances like, what was their spiritual life like, what was going on inside that made them tick. The lessons learned in the writing were lessons that could apply to anyone’s life.
Kaye told the audience how she received a diary at the age of 9, and started keeping a record of her life, thoughts, observations, and dreams. It was a type of therapy for her. Many years later, while on vacation, her home was broken into. The thieves, in their haste to find something of value, scattered her volumes across the bedroom floor. The police called her daughters to assess what was missing, and they found the diaries. They began to read, and became so entranced that they read all through the night. It was then that the idea of publishing the diaries was born.
The process of taking the diaries and putting them into book form was long and arduous. Mrs. Kaye and her husband moved to Naples, Florida, where she took some writing classes and joined a writers workshop. Many of the members of the workshop were retired professionals with many years of college behind them, and Kaye was not sure she belonged. The members encouraged her to stay, and provided encouragement and critique as she began the writing process. Just as the original writing of the diaries had been therapeutic, so was the rewriting.
As Kaye began to rewrite the diaries, she began to learn many things. She learned to let go of blame. She learned to give her parents the credit they deserved. She learned to forgive those who had hurt her, because she came to realize that those who hurt other are people that are hurting.
She learned to appreciate her blessings. When times were tough, she would list her blessings on one side of a sheet of paper, and list the problems on the other. The blessings always outweighed the problems. The review of her diaries also revealed the good choices she had made in role models and friends.
Mrs. Kaye also learned not to be awestruck by others. One of her favorite quotes is from Judy Garland; “Be a first rate version of yourself rather than a second rate version of someone else.”
The process of writing also made her understand that everyone needs balance in their lives. At times she would be working on her book for hours, ignoring everyone and everything else. There were times when her husband would ask her if she could come out and play. She began to realize that obsessing left her “frazzled, fatigued, and fed up.”
As she went back over her life she could see clearly how the struggles in her life had made her stronger. She also learned to visualize her dreams. She dreamed of a book with a cover much like she has. That dream kept her going. She also dreams that someday a great-great-grand daughter will find her book in the attic and wipe the dust off and start to read. In there she will read about the hopes, fears, romance, and spiritual growth of her great-great-grandmother.
Tenacity would be last point she would make. The process of writing a book is not easy, and sticking to the task was often difficult. “Tenacity more than intelligence creates success,” Kaye said. It wasn’t easy, but she followed her dreams, stuck with the process, and finished her book. She reminded the audience that it is never too late to follow your dreams. She did just that, and now knows that on her death bed she will have no regrets.
The aftermath of her book has amazed her. She has no publishing house or publicist, yet the book has sold over a thousand copies. She received a very positive review from book critic Eileen McClelland, who wrote: “… Kaye lends high drama to common experiences through her extraordinary powers of story telling and incredible memory for detail. The dialogue is more natural and convincing than that found in some works of fiction. It’s actually difficult to put down.”
People have written her to tell how her book has prompted them to forgive, to reestablish relationships, and better understand themselves and those around them. She has received over 300 letters, cards, and e-mails from people touched by her book. That has just amazed Kaye, and makes her feel good about her work.
Kaye also read a portion of her book, and talked about the Tyrone of her youth, much to the audience’s delight. The references to people and places touched a cord with much of the audience, as they smiled and chuckled at some of Mrs. Kaye’s recollections.
After her talk was over Kaye stayed in the library to chat with those in attendance and sign books. For those who did not yet have a copy, there were books available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the library.
“We were very pleased with the turnout,” said Marilyn Nearhoof, the head librarian of the Tyrone- Snyder Public Library. “It was nice to have a local author come to town and speak. She was very well received.”
Nearhoof said that the book is available in the library, and is very popular. The book can also be ordered through any of the major book sellers.