Book gives women comic relief

Published 1:33 pm Wednesday, December 24, 2008

For entire generations of Americans, the practice of writing letters kept them in touch with far-flung family members across the nation.

However, with the advent of e-mail and cell phones, the practice faded out, and handwritten letters are now almost relics, stuffed in drawers somewhere and forgotten.

Carolyn Wood, a Suffolk resident, understands this. That’s why she compiled a book from the letters she has written to her sister over the years.

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“Mishaps, Mayhem and Menopause: Letters to Shirley” is on sale at several locations around the city. Wood published the book recently after more than a decade of trying.

“It’s based on things that have happened in my life and that I would write my sister about,” Wood said last week.

Wood’s sister, Shirley, moved to Florida years ago for her husband to take a promotion – a move for which Carolyn has never quite forgiven her. Because it was before the days of modern communications technology, Carolyn wrote to Shirley about family, friends, mishaps of everyday life and her battle with early menopause.

Shirley saved all the letters, and they now are in book form. The book, which sells for between $10 and $15, is worth the expenditure, Carolyn’s friends have told her.

“Life is funny, if you can only sit back and laugh at yourself,” Wood said.

Through letters to Shirley, Carolyn’s many misadventures navigating life are told. Some stories are hilarious – such as accidentally going to a podiatrist for a problem with her ears – and some stories describe Carolyn’s early onset of menopause at age 38.

“Why do some women sail right through this time in their lives with little or no noticeable differences, and others of us are so different we hardly recognize ourselves?” Wood asks her sister in one of the book’s letters.

The book concludes as the last woman in the sisters’ group of friends turns 50. That’s around the time that technology took over, Wood said.

“The letters basically stopped because of e-mail and cell phones,” she said.

About 12 years ago, Wood tried to get the book published, but she was rejected.

“Publishers said letters and diaries were not selling back then,” she said.

However, Wood’s friends finally succeeded in goading her to try again. She soon discovered that her sister knew someone who had a software program that could turn a manuscript into book form. Once that was done, the book was sent to Book Masters, a publishing company that will turn a manuscript into a professionally printed and bound book.

After having several hundred copies printed, Wood’s next task was to decide where to stock them.

“I wanted them just to go into unique gift shops,” she said. The books are available in Suffolk at Jester’s Gift Shop, 110 W. Finney Ave.; A Tisket, A Tasket, 1897 Governor’s Pointe Drive; The Knot Hole Station Ltd., 3129 Kings Highway; Riddick’s Folly, 510 N. Main St.; The Christian Bookstore, 892 N. Main St.; and Suffolk Seaboard Train Station, 326 N. Main St.

The books also are available at the Virginia Sampler and Ebony Arts & Gifts stores in Chesapeake Square Mall.

The book, Wood said, will make a great gift for a woman who is ill, going through menopause or can identify with any of the themes throughout the book.