Writing: Early On

Writing: Early On
Shelter of Leaves
by Lenore H. Gay
Released August 9th, 2016
Format: Article
Pages: 348
ISBN: 9781631521010
Published by She Writes Press
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Lenore Gay is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a Masters in Sociology, as well as in Rehabilitation Counseling. She has worked in several agencies, psychiatric hospitals and for ten years she maintained a private practice. She was on the faculty of the Rehabilitation Counseling Department of Virginia Commonwealth University. The Virginia Center of the Creative Arts (VCCA) has awarded her two writing fellowships. Her poems and short stories have appeared in several journals. Her essay “Mistresses of Magic” was published in the anthology IN PRAISE OF OUR TEACHERS (Beacon Press). “The Hobo” won first place in Style Weekly’s annual fiction contest. She is a volunteer reader at Blackbird, An Online Journal for Literature & The Arts.

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Writing: Early On

My father, a jovial, patient man, made paintings, mostly watercolors and pen and ink drawings. He wrestled big logs into his studio and carved them into abstract pieces. The smell of wax drifted from his studio when he polished the wood, to “bring out the grain.” He told me that by high school he’d figured writing and painting were both harsh mistresses; if he wanted a family, he had to choose. He chose painting and earned an MFA in painting.

At age sixty he enrolled in a poetry class at the local university, VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) and took poetry classes for twelve years. His legacy was 1,000 poems. He’d edit a poem, and keep five or six versions. I watched his mind at work by following the trail of edits.

Wide, tall bookcases stood on either side of our living room fireplace. An early reader, I pulled books off the shelves and attempted to read them. I stumbled through my parents’ books: Gulliver’s Travels, Arabian Nights, Kidnapped, David Copperfield, Treasure Island, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and Rebecca.

Mother, a voracious reader, taught me to write my name when I turned four. We visited the big downtown library where I acquired my first library card. My joys were roller skating on city sidewalks and reading. When I turned five, my father and I began visiting museums and art galleries. To my questions about why an artist painted a strange body or a sky with three suns he’d answer “what do you think?” When I asked what to write about, he’d say, “use your imagination.”

“I watched his mind at work by following the trail of edits.”

Later, fascinated with Japanese painting, my father wrote haiku, a seventeen syllable Japanese form of poetry. He gave me books on haiku. He and I critiqued each other’s attempts. I wrote haiku through high school, along with mostly limp poems. In college I composed an epic poem for a final paper in Art History class. I figured it was an A or an F. The professor gave me an A.

Philosophy and psychology were my college majors; in graduate school I earned a master’s in sociology, later a master’s in rehabilitation counseling. Through the grad school years, counseling career and parenting, I had little time to write. But stories were always with me, floating through my mind, collecting.

When my daughter turned thirteen, I enrolled in a fiction writing class. From that time on I’ve been writing. At first I wrote short stories, until one of them inspired my first adventure with a novel.


  • Diana Y. Paul, author of Things Unsaid: A Novel Posted October 29, 2016 1:22 pm

    LOVE the connection between painting and writing!

    • Lenore Gay Posted November 11, 2016 2:44 am

      Thank you for your comment. My father’s influence was so important. Life-long.

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