Author Lydia Cannon is shown with her book, “The Prayer Garden.”
They say it’s never too late to try something new. And for Lydia Cannon that philosophy couldn’t ring more true.
The Tinmouth resident decided in 2005, in her mid-60s, to begin working on a novel. After six years of cultivating ideas and story lines, she completed her first book, “The Prayer Garden,” at age 72.
The novel follows three women over the course of four generations as they each struggle to forgive those who have deceived them throughout their lives.
Before the idea took hold, Cannon had planted a perennial garden, and while admiring the blue forget-me-nots that were blooming, the story idea suddenly popped into her head.
“I wasn’t serious about it,” Cannon said. “I kept on getting all these ideas and (I would) go back and rewrite. It just seemed to flow.”
She’d never written anything more than short stories and poems before, and never on a professional level. She wrote policy and procedure documents for human resources at Rutland Regional Medical Center from 1980 until 1998, so writing a complete novel was an immense departure.
Cannon said the book’s title, “The Prayer Garden” holds no religious bearing. Cannon was aware that she may lose readers’ interest due to the title and even her children tried to convince her to change it. But, she said, “it just seemed to stay with me.”
Writing the way she liked reading, Cannon crafted a story of forgiveness and “went back in time” to pull detail and information from her own life, and the lives of others around her.
Cannon’s inspiration for the story came from her aunt, Marie Williamson, who gave birth to a child out of wedlock with a soldier that was killed in Europe during World War I. Nobody in her family, not even Cannon’s mother Dorothy, knew of the child, or of the relationship, until after the baby girl was born.
Cathy Miglorie, Cannon’s daughter, said her mother’s accomplishment was “amazing” and that her tale “brought the whole family to light” and taught them things they never new. When Cannon’s granddaughters were younger, Miglorie said, “she used to always tell them stories and we always said she should write a book.”
Beginning in 1972 and then travelling back to 1905, Cannon detailed certain events such as World War I, Great Depression and World War II, which she remembered as a child.
“I took the time and made a chronology and started it where I wanted it to end,” Cannon said. In fact, Cannon says most of the story is based off reality.
“Ninety percent is from real life experiences,” Cannon said.
Little things, such as a doctor from the ’40s Cannon remembered, the rationing during World War II , or Irving Berlin’s “I’ll Be Loving You Always” threaded through the story with other period music she remembered.
“It’s just a mixture of things, It was fun creating it,” Cannon remembers. “It was a great experience putting my ideas on paper.”
Cannon’s husband, Joe, who died three weeks after the book was published, edited the project and helped her achieve realistic military history when she needed it. Joe knew if tanks did, or did not, roll over certain French countrysides. He also informed Cannon that machine guns hadn’t come into existence during the era she was crafting.
“I had a chapter on World War I and my husband helped, because he was a West Point graduate and would clarify information.”
Cannon talked to about eight publishing agents in the “romantic suspense” genre before realizing that she would have to publish it herself.
After talking with her husband, Cannon contacted the State of Vermont, registered Tinmouth Pond Publishing for $50 and had 50 copies printed from Northshire Bookstore’s Espresso Book Machine. Overall, 112 copies sold by word of mouth.
Cannon figured if she had her own publishing company name on the book, it would have a better chance getting picked up by a company and published.
“It feels great. I feel so good that I really accomplished something,” Cannon said.
Some readers even sent unsolicited testimonials endorsing Cannon’s story.
“Lots of twists and turns to keep me reading,” JoAnn Richardson of Rutland wrote. “Thanks for writing such a piece of beauty, love and forgiveness. You have a great talent.”
“The Prayer Garden is truly one of those rare novels that you simply cannot put down,” wrote Rob Lukaskiewicz of Rutland. “The plot drew me in very early on and I kept reading in order to find out what would happen next. The author’s extraordinary use of imagery of the time period is unquestionably palpable. I anxiously await Lydia’s next novel!”
Cannon already started her next novel, “Sugar House Lane.” In a fictitious Vermont town, Mapleview, a young New Jersey woman, Tammy Madison Perry, purchases a stone cottage to aid in her husband Nicholas’ recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder after three tours in the Middle East. After Mavis Blaise, the local, tells Tammy of the house’s history, she becomes aware of unexplained and supernatural events that take place within its walls.
Cannon said she never thought much about spirits, but after her own experience some months before she decided she may as well.
When the Cannon’s moved into their home back in 2001, her husband brought a chiming clock that no one ever touched except Joe himself two times a week. After winding the clock one day long after her husbands death, Cannon found the clock moved six inches from where it had been.
“Maybe this is a sign from Joe that I should write this book on spirits,” Cannon said.
Cannon said she felt she used up all her words writing the first book and is now just starting to get material on the page for “Sugar House Lane.”
“I was waiting for these long, dark nights,” Cannon said. She hopes to finish it in a year.
“A year, that’s fairly reasonable. Archer Mayor does one every year,” she said, referring to Vermont’s well-known crime author.MORE IN Central Vermont
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