Ask the ladies at Table 12 in the Meadow Lakes Retirement Community and they will tell you there’s still a lot of life to live after reaching a certain age.
Gibson Memorial Library celebrates National Library Week by inviting guests to sit down to “Tea Time with Joy” 2 p.m. Thursday at the library.
Joy is Joy Johnson, author of the “BOOB Girls” book series. BOOB stands for Burned Out Old Broads and features a group of older women who go on Nancy Drew-style sleuthing adventures.
Johnson was born and raised in Creston and cut her writing teeth working in the advertising department of the Creston News Advertiser in 1955-56. It was while she was working for the News Advertiser that the writing bug bit her, and she’s written several books on bereavement.
In 1957, she moved with her husband and finally settled in Omaha where, in 1977, they co-founded Centering Corporation, North America’s oldest and largest bereavement center and a children’s bereavement center called Ted E. Bear Hollow.
Johnson wrote and released her first BOOB Girls book, “The BOOB Girls: Burned Out Old Broads at Table 12,” in 2009, and the latest installment of the BOOB Girls adventures, “BOOB Girls: Gospel Bird,” is set to release later this spring.
“I retired from Centering, and I always wanted to know how a novel came together, so I sat down with my laptop and wrote the first, and I thought at the time the only, BOOB Girl book,” Johnson said. “Last year, it was made into a musical that premiered in Omaha to five standing ovations. It’s very much a play for small community theaters. It’s not a Broadway-bound play. It’s just a local, fun, delightful play, and I just finished book 10.”
The series follows four older ladies – a feisty Sand Hills rancher, a socialite, a professor and a sweet Catholic girl, and later in the series the feisty rancher is replaced by a retired homicide detective.
“One lady pointed out that women are all four [of the women],” Johnson said. “If someone had told me, ‘You have to write a novel where there are four women who are all women,’ I would have said, ‘I can’t do that.’ I had no idea how to do that. But we are all four, so, characterwise, we have the dignity of Hadley Joy Morris-Whitfield, the socialite. We have the smarts and feistiness of Maggie Patten, the wisdom of the homicide detective, the innocence of the sweet Catholic girl and the intelligence of the professor. So, we’re all four.”
Drawing from life, Johnson puts her next book, “The BOOB Girls: Gospel Bird,” in Alaska following a trip she and her husband took on the AlCan Highway up to Alaska, and she has another book planned called “The Gun Found at Mark’s,” which she explained is based on her favorite restaurant in Omaha called Mark’s Bistro, and “the girls” are going to delve into the history of Wild West Omaha to try and discover the origins of a gun that was found buried beneath an old crabapple tree at Mark’s Bistro.
She said her books are a sort of soap box for her and she thinks it is absolutely essential that older women know that they are beautiful.
“Older women are beautiful,” she said. “In every book at some point, it’s usually Mary Rose McGill, the sweet Catholic girl, who says, ‘Just look at us. Just look at us. We are beautiful. Our faces are sculpted and chiseled by joy and sorrow and tears and laughter. Our hair is blown thin by winds of experience. There is so much wisdom and knowledge in our heads that our heads can’t hold it all. It has to trickle down through the rest of our bodies, and that’s why we get thicker as we age.’ The whole series has got women’s friendship. Mary Rose McGill came into the books dowdy and 60 pounds overweight, and through the friendship of women who saw her as could be and related to her as she could be, she became who she could be. She lost weight. She died her hair blond. She got red rimmed glasses, and she’s very vocal and tough now. So the whole thing is about the friendship of women.”
She said she’s looking forward to returning to the library that changed her life, and she’s a huge advocate for small-town libraries.
“I remember when I was in fifth grade sitting on the porch swing at my house on Oak Street reading ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ because I didn’t have any and I didn’t know how because I was overweight and very plain, and I was always tall for my age and awkward and I was homely as a mud fence, and I didn’t have any friends,” she said, “and I remember what I wore when I walked the four blocks to Gibson Memorial Library and checked out every book they had on beauty. There was no such thing, back then, as a book on fitness. Every book was on beauty. My whole life changed because of the library – because it had the resources available to make me who I could be when I was looking for it.
“Small town libraries have become the heart of the community. They have after-school programs. They have computers. They’ve kept up. They’re cutting edge. When you have young people, young families that move into town, one thing they check is the library system. You can find everything at the library. Creston deserves the best possible library it can have, and I get to come back and say ‘thank you’ to this library that helped make me who I became.”
For more information about this event or other happenings at Gibson Memorial Library, call Sue Teutsch at 782-2277.