Newark writer pub­lishes first novel at age 91

Newark Post - - LOCAL NEWS - By KATIE TABELING kta­bel­ing@ches­pub.com

Mar­garet No­gan has filled sev­eral roles in her life: small-town girl, Women’s Army Corps mem­ber, world trav­eler, wife, mother, real es­tate agent, ama­teur poet and grand­mother.

She’s writ­ing a new chap­ter of her story at 91 years old, start­ing with the pub­li­ca­tion of her first novel, ro­mance-thriller “Stranger in My World.”

The novel fol­lows New York City re­porter Linda O’Con­nor, who is drawn to aloof jazz singer Rick Mor­row. When tragedy strikes, the two are forced to rely on each other for sur­vival and slowly fall in love, only to be con­fronted by ghosts from Rick’s past. Set in the 1970s, the story is also a throw­back to the “good old days” of life in the Big Ap­ple.

No­gan, who lives at the Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­ity on Salem Church Road, wrote the man­u­script about 40 years ago. The process of writ­ing easy, she said, as the idea wouldn’t let her go un­til the story was done. Pub­lish­ing it was an­other mat­ter.

“Even if I was in bed, I’d get out and write a lit­tle on a piece of pa­per. Chap­ter by chap­ter, I’d kept go­ing,” she said. “Pub­lish­ers in New York City loved it, but they asked for money. We were rais­ing a fam­ily, and we couldn’t af­ford it at the time.”

En­ter Lynne Keat­ing, No­gan’s friend and neigh­bor at Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor, who has ex­pe­ri­ence with Ama­zon Pub­lish­ing. The pa­per of the man­u­script, which was typed with a type­writer, had aged yel­low by that point.

“It wasn’t proof­read, so we went through it to­gether. I typed it up as a Word doc­u­ment … af­ter she went over it with her daugh­ters and lawyers, she sent it off,” Keat­ing said. “I love to write, and there’s noth­ing harder than hav­ing some­thing in­side you and you can’t get it out. It was such a joy to do.”

When “Stranger in My World” was pub­lished last month, the en­tire Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor com­mu­nity ral­lied around No­gan. Dozens of copies were sold to res­i­dents, and the new au­thor will be fea­tured in the Lit­tle Sis­ter’s news­let­ter, which reaches 12,000 peo­ple.

Vol­un­teer staff also passed out fly­ers ad­ver­tis­ing a book sign­ing on April 2. No­gan sold $300 in books that day, ac­cord­ing to Deb­bie Stren­gari, de­vel­op­ment direc­tor of Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor.

“We had a lot of vol­un­teers come in, buy books and speak with her. Marge do­nated the pro­ceeds to us, which will go to our op­er­at­ing costs,” Stren­gari said. “We’re a com­mu­nity of tal­ent here … Marge is in­cred­i­bly ac­tive, and does it all. I’ve told her that she’s my role model.”

No­gan walks ev­ery day with­out a walker or a cane and cre­ates orig­i­nal quilts to be auc­tioned off dur­ing Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor fundrais­ers. Mir­ror­ing her novel’s lead­ing lady, No­gan grew up in a small town of Water­bury, Vt., be­fore she de­cided to set her own course.

She started to sup­port her­self at age 14 by work­ing at a ho­tel while she fin­ished high school. One day in 1951, No­gan hopped on a bus on a whim, and when it stopped out­side an army re­cruiter’s of­fice, she en­listed in the Women’s Army Corps.

“It was strange, I don’t know why I did it at the time,” No­gan said. “I wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. Ver­mont was very small, and there were no jobs, noth­ing for young peo­ple to do. I wanted to see places and peo­ple be­yond those moun­tains.”

That launched a life­time of travel, as she started with ba­sic train­ing in Alexan­dria, Va., and then moved on to Fort Mon­mouth, N.J., El Paso, Texas, and Ger­many dur­ing the Korean War. In 1953, she left her clas­si­fied work behind and ar­rived in Delaware to join her hus­band.

Around that time, No­gan started to write. She wrote sev­eral poems about cur­rent events such, as the Kennedys and the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis, some of which were pub­lished by non­prof­its. Her dream was to be­come a full-time writer, but rais­ing her two chil­dren and start­ing a sec­ond ca­reer as a real es­tate agent kept her busy.

With time on her hands, No­gan is now free to pur­sue her life­long pas­sion of writ­ing and said she’s start­ing work on a sec­ond novel, which will be set in mod­ern times. Her ad­vice to young writ­ers look­ing to be pub­lished is to write now and don’t hide their man­u­script.

“You can do it [be pub­lished] now. I felt like I waited so long … the time you have is a gift,” No­gan said.

“Stranger in My World” is avail­able for pur­chase on Ama­zon.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF LYNNE KEAT­ING

Mar­garet No­gan, 91, wrote her first book “Stranger in My World” based on her of travel and life.

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