Newark writer publishes first novel at age 91
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.
Margaret Nogan, 91, wrote her first book “Stranger in My World” based on her of travel and life.