Eighty-four-year-old Gail Martin sits at her computer, surrounded by books, notes and short stories, typing one of her many stories she has to tell.
She began writing at an early age and Martin recently saw a dream come true with the publication of her first book.
“I’ve wrote all my life,” she said. “I started out with Big Chief tablets in grade school.”
But no one ever saw those writings; she didn’t think anyone would be interested in her stories.
“I wrote for myself,” she said.
Those stories have included memories of living in oil field camp housing, wearing dresses made from feed sack material in the 1930s, trips to town in the family’s Model A, raising her pet badger and fishing on the Cottonwood River.
Martin, of El Dorado, began recording those memories several years ago and continues to record them for her family and friends.
The first story she sold was to Kansas Magazine and was about her mother who wrote in the 1920s.
“I didn’t know Mother also wrote for herself,” she said, explaining they didn’t find her mother’s writings until after she passed away.
Martin continued her writings when her children were little, often doing it when they were “supposed to be taking a nap.”
She also had a number of articles published in Kanhistique, a publication out of Ellsworth, in the 1980s and 1990s.
“The first thing I saw published with my name as a byline was in a history of Greenwood County book in 1986,” she recalled, pulling out a copy of the book and flipping to her story.
After that, she wrote a story for a history book on Wilson County, which is where her mother was born.
Martin also found out about an online site called Our Echo, where writers can archive their stories.
“I was real enthused about putting my stories on Our Echo,” she said. “I write for the comments.”
People who read the stories on Our Echo can comment on them on the site.
“I went for so many years thinking who would want to read what I wrote and to think they do just blows my mind away,” she said.
She got involved in the site, reading all of the posts made to the site and commenting on as many as she could. The Web master noticed her and asked her to be his assistant. She now selects and updates the editor’s pick stories and updates other portions of the site.
Martin also has entered several stories in the Butler County History Center writing competition, winning several honorable mentions, as well as placing with some of her stories.
Page 2 of 2 - She also has written each year for the Kansas Authors Club yearbook, joining the organization in 1990.
Other articles have been published in The Golden Years and Schooner magazines.
After a while she began scanning photos and putting them with her stories.
“That was a breakthrough,” she said.
She has gotten so into she is on her second scanner, wearing out the first one already.
Along with the photos, she took several of her short stories about her life growing up and with the help of one of her daughters, Virginia Allain, it was put together into her book, “My Flint Hills Childhood,” and is available on the print-on-demand Web site, Blurb.com.
“Mom’s been great about dredging up the old family photos and e-mailing them to me in New Hampshire for the book,” Allain said.
At first Allain thought the book would merely become a treasured family keepsake.
“As I arranged the stories and photos, I realized that my mother’s memories of the 1930s were both an endearing and valuable snapshot of early days in Kansas,” she said.
Martin has different versions of the book from paperback to hardback in her writing room.
“I just am mind boggled that it happened,” she said. “I never dreamed of writing a book.”
“I keep thinking, what if Mother knew what I know now,” she said, gesturing toward her computer.
And she has put it to good use, wearing out three word processors before she got her computer.
“I think I’m just the means of the writer and the Good Lord tells me to do it,” she said.
What pleases her is in addition to her writing, her mother also wrote, as well as two of her daughters and a sister.
In addition to her writing, she also served as the Kansas Authors Club archivist in 1995 through 2005.
Her next project, which is already underway, is a book for her husband, Clyde, about his life growing up and his family’s history stretching back to Kansas pioneer days. She has several of the short stories written that will comprise the book and is collecting photos to include in it.
Supplementing Martin’s memories for this second book are essays contributed by two of Martin’s daughters, Cynthia Ross of Towanda and Allain.
After that, one of her daughters wants her to write a book about her and her husband’s life.
In an article written about her, the writer summed it up by saying she didn’t see Martin retiring any time soon.
“I guess I can’t disappoint her,” Martin said with a smile.