Our Town Inspires
Three Busy Writers
You like to read
, of course. Ever wonder what life is like on the other side of
the words---the writer's side? Interestingly, Therese Borchard,
Cheryl Klam and Marcia Talley are not only successful writers---they
are Annapolitans who use the town for writer ruminations and maybe
even as scenes in their work.
walk the streets downtown in search of plot and contemplate their
stories in familiar coffee shops. They are wives, mothers and
published authors. How did they make it happen?
"By knocking on a lot of doors," says Borchard. Then, after a
pause, she adds jokingly, "and sometimes nearly breaking in."
She is a best- selling author and nationally syndicated columnist
for Catholic News Service with a slew of books under her belt,
including Winging it, I Like Being Catholic and I
Like Being Married. The latter two are co-authored with her
friend and mentor, Michael Leach.
Borchard describes herself as a disciplined person. "I will set
goals, and when I set goals I take my deadline just as seriously
as I would if a publisher had set it."
On the same note, Klam, a romance and women's literature novelist,
is regimented. "I make myself write 30 pages per week---for me,
that takes about 15 hours." Some of her titles, written under
the pen name Margaret Allison, are Indiscretion, Promise Me
and The Last Curve. When complimented on her productivity,
she smiles and says, "Writer's block is a luxury that I cannot
Talley laughs when she says, "I am not as regular as I think I
should be. There are just too many important things to do---like
making coffee, sitting around reading the paper and working crossword
puzzles---but I guess there is always a balance." There must be
a balance as her mystery novels are award-winning and include
Sing It to Her Bones, Unbreathed Memories and Romantic
What brings them all to Annapolis? Borchard and her husband migrated
five years ago on a mission to escape the harsh winters in Minneapolis.
"We circled a couple of cities on the map and instead of moving
to where our jobs took us, we moved and then looked for jobs."
Similarly, Klam and her husband came to Annapolis more than 10
years ago. "We were house-sitting for someone in Washington, D.C.,
who also owned a summer home in Bay Ridge, which is where we ended
up spending most of our time. After that, we talked them into
renting their Annapolis home to us until we bought one of our
own. So, basically, we came and never left." She continues, "After
settling in, my brother came to visit and he stayed. Then, my
mother came to visit, called a real estate agent that very weekend
and now she lives here too."
Talley has been here since 1971. "I have sort of grown up with
the city." Talley's love for Annapolis is apparent and provides
the setting for most of her books. Her fictitious characters wander
its streets making visits to such familiar places as Galway Bay,
Nancy Hammond Studios and McGarvey's. "It really gives the book
a local flavor," she explains, "not to mention that there are
so many places here that I just love and want others to know about.
One of my characters spends almost as much money in Aurora Gallery
as I do."
Talley is also a breast cancer survivor and writes that experience
into one of her characters. Though these books are not autobiographical,
she says, "All of my characters have bits and pieces of people
I know." She remains active in supporting breast cancer research,
and a percentage of profits from Naked Came the Phoenix
and its sequel is being donated to support the cause.
Borchard also speaks of hardship and obstacles that shaped her
life-the trials of her parents' divorce, her battle with depression
and alcoholism, as well as the death of her father, all of which
occured before she was 25. "It bothers me that society shuns talking
openly about these issues that are common and very real---we need
to talk about it." It was these issues that forced Borchard to
grow up quickly and explore herself. "I did a lot of soul-searching
in college---I think getting to know yourself is so important."
When asked about her husband, whom she describes as her "best
friend," she says, "He helped me so much with the loss of my father,
and we knew that if we could get through that together, we could
survive anything." Now, she and her husband Eric, a local architect,
celebrate their new addition, year-old son David.
This undercurrent of supportive husbands, family and friends seems
to flow throughout the lives of all three women. Klam, whose husband
is an advertising copywriter, "truly understands the importance
of deadlines---and my mother helps a lot." With her 2- and 3-
year-old daughters often just on the other side of her office
door, Klam says, "I put on my Walkman and listen to music without
lyrics while I strike the keys on my keyboard like a piano."
Talley says she enjoys the stimulation of a writers group as well
as a husband "who often gives me ideas for my books." As director
of the music department at the Naval Academy, John Barry Talley
should be most instrumental (no pun intended) in helping with
her newest project, a novel created around an organist, Navy football
players and the much rivaled Army-Navy football game.
And that is not the only splash of our city in the writings of
these authors. Klam's The Last Curve takes place in Annapolis,
and the setting for her upcoming novel is a fictitious town on
the Eastern Shore. Borchard will include quotes from local mothers
in her next one entitled I Like Being a Mom, as she did
with its predecessors.
When asked about their favorite things in Annapolis, they could
not say enough---the scenery, activity and its people were threads
of commonality. Borchard enjoys running on the picturesque grounds
of the Naval Academy. "And we live on the best block in the world---it's
like 'Pleasantville.'" She also enjoys the convenience of the
city. "We walk everywhere. My husband's office is just a block
away. Between the two of us, we rarely ever use the car."
Talley enjoys a sleuth-like day when "there is a misty rain, not
enough to drench you but the moisture is there. I walk around
the harbor, get a cup of coffee and look at the water. It makes
Klam "loves the historical aspect of the area and the fact that
everything is basically right outside my door---it's like being
on vacation." She goes on to say, "The people who live here have
kind of made a decision that their style of living is more important
than what they do."
What was life like for them before becoming published? Klam attended
the University of Michigan on a theatre arts scholarship. "I wanted
to be an actress. After school, I was in a lot of really bad 'B'
movies and that was that." She began writing and eventually embarked
on a career at National Geographic where she created titles and
summaries that appeared on video boxes. "But I was always going
in early or staying late to work on my own projects," she recalls.
Talley, a now-retired librarian who earned her master's in literary
science, says her appreciation for mystery novels began early.
"My mother was a mystery fan. She read six or seven mysteries
per week when she was pregnant with me and I think I just absorbed
it. My biggest regret is that she died before I was published,
but I have faith that she knows." After a decision that ended
her commute to work in D.C., she accepted a similar position at
the Naval Academy where she wrote, Sing It to Her Bones. "I would
go to Dahlgren Hall and sit for a couple of hours after work.
They were playing ice hockey and there was this noise that was
like white noise to me, and I would just write."
Borchard says that a priest was her "entry into the publishing
world. While I was in college, I had the good fortune of volunteering
with a priest who was the director of a publishing company. He
took me under his wing, showed me the printing press and gave
me a lot of feedback on my work." After earning her master's in
theology, she thought she would teach religion in college but
took a different road. "I am more of a motivator. Writing in autobiographical
form is where I get my energy. Hopefully you can help other people
by putting thoughts down on paper and kind of breathing out loud."
And there you have it. Three women who undoubtedly have what it
takes. So, the next time you are downtown sipping coffee, grabbing
a bite to eat or just enjoying the water, take a look around,
breath in that creative Bay air and say, write on!