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|Blossoming poet published for first time at age 96|
After reading her older sister's poems, 96-year-old Helen Brodnax decided she would take up a pen and start writing her own.
Her friends, Bill and Willie Lovett of West Monroe, were so impressed, they decided to send a few of Brodnax's poems and stories off for publication in magazines.
They recently surprised Brodnax with the November issue of Good Old Days magazine, which published her short story, "Farm Fever," in its entirety.
Good Old Days is a magazine that focuses on stories from the past such as the early 1900s, Brodnax said.
"It was Willie and Bill's idea and they gathered up some of my writings and sent them in," Brodnax said. "I had no idea what they were doing until after they had done it.
"And then, it didn't matter. I had no idea, and I thought it was kind of ridiculous because it never occurred to me this would happen. I just wrote them for fun, but I got a big check for $20. I was shocked, but of course, I was delighted.
"When I got my check, and Bill and Willie came by, I said, 'As my literary agents, what is your commission?' Bill looked at the check for $20 and he immediately said $19.95. Willie said she would settle for a hug.
"So I paid Willie and fired Bill. I'm not cashing that check. I'm going to frame it.
"I have a niece in California who had two romance books published, and when she heard about this, she notified me that $20 was a lot of money that some authors never got even though they wrote all their lives."
Brodnax lives at The Arbor House in West Monroe. She met the Lovetts and became friends with them through their Bible class at the home.
"She is just so brilliant, and everyone loves her here," said Willie Lovett. "When I saw this magazine I immediately thought about Mrs. Brodnax because her poems are just great. They tell such a great story. She is such a doll."
Brodnax decided to write her poems and short stories after corresponding with her 101-year-old sister, Margaret Hawley, who lives in New Mexico with her daughter.
"We started writing back and forth … just little incidents about when we were growing up, and we put them in rhyme," Brodnax said. "It got to be a lot of fun. We were both well up into our 90s when we started doing that."
Brodnax's sister is legally blind, so they no longer write to each other, but they talk on the telephone at least one hour every Monday night.
Brodnax taught school in Arkansas for 31 years before retiring and moving to West Monroe to live near family.
Some of her stories involve her years as a school teacher, such as the time a little white dog became part of her second-grade class one year. Other stories and poems involve her childhood.
"I might send in the one about the little dog," Brodnax said. "I like it. It's one of my favorites."
Of all of her writings, Brodnax prefers her poems because she enjoys making rhymes.
"Most of them are about little instances that happened back when I was a child," she said.
Brodnax was born in 1912. She was in first grade when World War I ended.
"I distinctly remember we were all brought out in the hall, and the announcement was made that the war had ended," Brodnax recalled. "To us little 6-year-olds, it really didn't mean much difference."
She attended college during the Great Depression and went through an entire year on the $300 loaned to her from her local bank.
"That sounds fantastic now, doesn't it," she said.
Brodnax says she has not "written anything of any importance" lately, but she's planning on continuing her new hobby. She might even send some more poems and stories off to magazines in hopes of getting them published.
"I'm not really writing anything at the moment, but you never know when something will pop up, though," she said.