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Latest Thoughts on all things Agatha

16 April 2024

Shake Hands with Two Wonderful Women and Learn their Fascinating Stories

Author Observations

Shake Hands with Two Wonderful Women and Learn their Fascinating Stories

I recently took part in the Local Author Fest at the Wheaton Public Library. One of the best parts of local author fairs is seeing old friends and I was super excited that one of my old friends, someone I hadn’t seen for a long time, was going to be in attendance.

Let me first give you the back story on how we met. Way back in 2006, I published my first book, Ruth by Lake and Prairie. It’s a “Little House on the Prairie” sort of story that tells about the founding of Naperville, Illinois, the town we lived in for 30+ years and where we raised our children. KDP didn’t exist yet and Amazon had just acquired CreateSpace, making the writing/publishing/marketing community feel like the wild, wild west.

Because Ruth needed to be available during celebrations for the 175th anniversary of Naperville’s founding, I went the self-publishing route. But like the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories, I figured Ruth could also find a larger audience, so I dove headfirst into wider promotion.

Self-publishing was still called “vanity press” back then and I was learning that self-pubbed writers were really looked down upon by traditionally published authors. This was the undercurrent when a friend took me to a social event of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I was so nervous, but two lovely women welcomed us and talked to us like we were established authors rather than greener-than-green newbies. Those two ladies were Darwin Walton and Glennette Tilley Turner.

I was to run into Darwin and Glennette many times in the following years at various writing-related events, particularly as we were regulars at a writers’ marketing group founded by Juli Schatz. Darwin was exploring how to re-launch her out-of-print books and Glennette was writing new ones, although both were technically retired. For a while, our meetings were even held in the boardroom at Darwin’s retirement community.

In 2016, when the window opened for travel to Cuba, Glennette and her husband jumped at it, although it messed up her plans to attend a SCBWI conference. She gave me her spot instead with the request that I take good notes to share later.

You can see how friendly and generous Darwin and Glennette are. What you haven’t seen yet is how talented they are as well. They both raised families, had teaching careers, and published books, but their stories go far beyond.

In her early days, Darwin was a jazz singer who hobnobbed with Duke Ellington. She married Claude Walton, an All-American athlete who just missed competing with Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics due to a broken ankle, and together they raised a family in a Lombard housing cooperative with a unique history.

Glennette is the leading authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, and she has been published, interviewed, and cited in just about every book, film, and documentary on the Civil War. Last summer, she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society,  and just this year she was featured on NBC Chicago during Black History Month.

When I saw that Glennette was going to be at the Wheaton Author Fest, I made sure to stop by her table. She was sitting with her husband, Albert, and they were all giggly telling me how they had just celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary on April 1, April Fool’s Day. Her newest book is due to be published later this year, around her 92nd birthday.

Darwin’s husband was a decade older than her and, unfortunately, he passed in 2014 at the age of 101. Now 97, Darwin is still leading a writing group at her retirement community. Both women also have spectacular fashion sense and look fabulous!

Glennette and Darwin are my author role models, although I doubt I can successfully duplicate their fashion pizzaz. Instead, I try to be kind to newbie writers, just as they were both so kind to the newbie me.

The Wheaton Author Fest was a successful event for me. I sold some books and made some good contacts. But the best parts were being able to talk with Glennette again and reminisce a bit for this post. I just wish I’d thought of taking a proper photo! (I pulled this poor image of Glennette, on the left with the white hair and face mask, from the background of an overview photo I took.)


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This website is the home of the Agatha Christie database as annotated by Kate Gingold, hence the name Agatha Annotated.

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Annotator Kate Gingold

Kate Gingold

... has been a huge fan of the works of Agatha Christie her entire adult life. Christie's vivid descriptions of picturesque English life in the early-to-mid twentieth century fascinated Kate, but many of the people and places were unfamiliar to her. A writer herself, as well as a researcher and historian with several local history books to her credit, Kate began a list of these strange words and set out to define them. Now, Christie fans like you and all those who come after will be able to fully enjoy the richness of Agatha Christie novels with their own copy of Agatha Annotated.

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