After graduating with a MS in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Michigan, Barbara Stark-Nemon spent the next three decades of her life working with children, mostly with deaf children, teaching English, doing speech and language therapy, being a teacher consultant and supervising graduate students in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, in local hospitals and universities.
A more rewarding and satisfying way to spend 30 years would be difficult to find. Her dedication to her work opened up a whole new world for kids and gave them a better chance to dream, reach for the stars and believe in themselves.
Stark-Nemon, 68, took these lessons to heart. She was building confidence in young kids and at the same time growing confident in chasing her own dreams and following her own path to happiness – because isn’t that what life is all about.
Writing, specifically novels, was something she has had on the back burner for a long time, simmering and then burning to the point where it was too hot to ignore.
“I most enjoy becoming totally immersed in a narrative and bringing the characters alive who will live out the story,” says Stark-Nemon, who attended Berkley High School and has lived in Ann Arbor for 50 years. “I’m also fascinated with the process I engage in with my writing group – working out problems with my manuscript and with theirs. I also love doing book research.”
And a big influence on her writing was the work she did with children dealing with communication problems.
“To find ways to get stories to them, and to assist them in bringing their narratives to others, cemented my understanding of how important our stories are to everyone,” she says. “I see my current career writing novels as an extension of my life-long interest in communication and storytelling.”
Stark-Nemon’s grandfather was another big influence in her journey to writing novels. He was an attorney and a master storyteller who literally trained his grandkids to notice the great stories around us.
“He then loved it when we’d tell these stories to him,” she says. “He wanted us to tell them well.”
His stories about his childhood and young life in Germany, particularly the story of his sister, became the basis of Stark-Nemon’s first novel, “Even in Darkness.”
Spanning a century and three continents, “Even in Darkness” tells the story of Klare Kohler, whose origins in a prosperous German-Jewish family hardly anticipate the end of her long life in a loving relationship with a German priest half her age. Based on a true story, “Even in Darkness” highlights Klare’s reinvention as she faces the destruction of life as she knew it, and traces her path to survival, wisdom, and most unexpectedly, love.
Writing the first novel was, of course, rewarding and satisfying, but also an incredible challenge to put together – which only made it that much more rewarding and satisfying.
“The biggest challenge in writing ‘Even in Darkness’ involved the 15 years of research that included voice, video and written interviews of many of the real people who were part of the story,” said Stark-Nemon, who traveled to Germany, Belgium, England, Israel and the Czech Republic for her research and translated more than 100 letters from German to English.
“Another challenge was to stay true to the legacy I wished to honor of my relatives’ lives, while writing an engaging novel. While this is a work of fiction, many of the elements of the plot really happened.”
Stark-Nemon’s second novel, “Hard Cider,” will be out Sept. 18 and also is published by She Writes Press. “I like to say that ‘Hard Cider’ is a ‘what if’ book,” she says. “What if some of the circumstances that relate to my own life experience had turned out very differently?”
“Hard Cider,” a novel of contemporary fiction, tells the story of Abbie Rose Stone. Believing she has successfully navigated the shoals of her complicated family, Abbie begins to nurture her long held dream of starting a hard apple cider business along the Michigan lake and dunes that she loves.
“I guess I wasn’t done with the concept that a strong multidimensional woman must overcome unexpected circumstances with dignity and self-determination – a prominent theme in my first novel,” she says. “What might that look like for a woman of a certain age in our current society? I wanted Abbie to have an encore career, and be challenged to stay the course when a stranger’s long-held secret tests Abbie’s resilience, and redefines her family forever.”
Hard Cider is set both in Ann Arbor and in Northport, Mich.
“I would like readers to come away from Hard Cider with a sense that dreams can come true at many times in a person’s life, even in the face of unexpected events, and adversity,” she says. “I also hope readers recognize that we make family many different ways over the course of our lives, and that while our pasts influence us, we have the choice to stay open to possibilities.”
Writing novels has opened up Stark-Nemon’s world to “possibilities” and launched her on a second career, almost as rewarding as her first one.
“I’ve often said how grateful I am to have had such a satisfying career as a speech therapist working with children that allowed me to help them communicate, and allowed me to feel like I made an important contribution in my work,” she says. “To have that same feeling again as an author, of passion and connection and reward through my work — in this case with readers who’ve appreciated my books, and through book awards and other recognition — has been beyond satisfying.”
Visit her online at http://www.barbarastarknemon.com/
She Writes Press is an independent publishing company founded to serve members of SheWrites.com, the largest global community of women writers online, and women writers everywhere who wish to maintain greater ownership and control of their projects while still getting the highest quality editorial help possible for their work. In 2014, SheWrites.com and She Writes Press became part of SparkPoint Studio, LLC.