ROCKLAND — They told her she needed celebrities, otherwise no one would read her book. Some naysayers said fake names for her interviewees were necessary, otherwise lawsuits would follow. The subjects’ background summaries were too lengthy, according to editors. Above all, who – they asked – would be willing to share stories with a stranger in such an open, honest, and permanent way?
Still, she went for it.
In her debut publication, Women Going For It! Taking Risks After 50, 66-year-old Rockland resident Diana Coleman uses the stories of 26 real women, with real names, as a way to inspire older women “to do things they really want to do while they can,” she said.
Kenya, Costa Rica, and Canada, to name a few countries. Arizona, California, New York, to name a few states.
Eleven of the women have ties to Maine. Eight of those 11 are known to the Midcoast. The other three have resided in Berwick, South Portland, and Blue Hill.
Coleman conducted phone interviews, at all hours, with women who’d pushed past fear, shyness, financial constraints, and traumatic experiences. In turn, they shared stories of kidney donations, volunteer missions, exposing abusive upbringings, fighting to adopt children, returning to school, and many more.
For Coleman, writing Going For It! was never considered as a personal risk.
Then again, neither did Patricia Weaver, of Warren, whose nurse assistant certification after age 50 allowed her to finally enter the healthcare field she so longed to be a part of.
Neither did Betsy Cooley, who, along with her husband, disposed of their belongings and moved to a remote Costa Rican village without knowing a word of the language.
Or Felicity Bowditch, who skydived for charity.
Coleman said she’s always been fascinated with the topic of risk. What one person considers a normal aspect of life, such as public speaking, another must overcome with support and self-determination.
And so it was that Coleman’s passion grew for the stories, the discussions, and the book.
The roller derby grandmas and new entrepreneurs, however, don’t exemplify the extreme case of inaction that sets Coleman on her personal mission to inspire other women. Instead, while eating alone, years ago, in a restaurant far from home, she overheard a nearby conversation. A third, absent, woman could not bring herself to go to the well-known eating establishment she yearned to frequent: She was afraid that people would feel sorry for her because she was by herself.
Coleman said: “I’m 66 years old. I’ve been eating by myself for many, many years, and I can never remember anybody, anywhere, ever, saying, ‘oh look at that poor woman. She’s all by herself.’”
Using her background as a career counselor, Coleman incorporates into the book the lessons and advice the 26 women garnered from their risks. The appendix offers discussion questions, and an accompanying workbook is in creation.
Still, for her, the book is just the beginning.
“I’m a storyteller, not a writer,” Coleman said, while seated at a dining table half stacked with folders representing hours of background research on the topics important to each risk taker.
(In roller derby, the jammer is the point scorer, according to Coleman.)
The fun, for her, is in sharing those 26 stories and participating in discussions. She envisions weekend workshops where women explore their inner hurdles. She’s interested in hearing men’s, and younger women’s, perspectives of what constitutes risk. A young mother might not risk motorcycle riding the way the empty-nester in the book did.
Coleman wants to participate in radio and television interviews, to be a TED Talk speaker, to present at different group meetings.
Because, according to her, women deserve the chance to do what they’ve always wanted.
Said Denise Davenport, of Rhode Island, whose hot dog restaurant didn’t work: “I tried, I failed, and I moved on. I’m at peace with it. I knew it was risky, and if I hadn’t tried, I most certainly would have regretted it.”
Coleman will present a book talk at First Universalist Church-Tonians Meeting, Rockland, Wednesday, Nov. 14, Noon – 2 p.m.
She will also be at Camden Public Library, Thursday, Dec. 6, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Copies of Women Going For It! Taking Risks After 50 can be purchased from Hello, Hello Books, in Rockland, A Little Something, in Berwick, Sherman Maine Coast Book Shops, and Amazon.com.
For more information, visit https://womengoingforit.com/
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org