Five cold snowy days in winter allowed an 83-year-old woman an opportunity to reflect on her life and write it down. Mary Carol Herwood, Ph.D., used those days, snowbound in her Hamburg home, to write her second book, "Psalms of an 83-year-old Woman."
Inspiration came during a retreat with the Mercy Associates. Speaker Barbara Shanahan encouraged Herwood to buy a copy of the "Revised Grail Psalms," an updated English translation of the biblical Book of Psalms. The reading motivated the former Buffalo schoolteacher to write her own psalms.
"The idea just popped into my head on those cold days in March," she said. "My whole life, I think, is in those 150 psalms. They're just praise to God and thanksgiving for events in my life or world events, universal events. It just wrote itself."
By reading the book, one learns that Herwood has had to learn to cook after her husband passed away 30 years ago, has a love for all people and animals, and enjoys the art of reading. Her faith, of course, shines through, even when she writes about driving her car. She asks God to protect her on the road so she doesn't lose her license and her independence through driving.
The book is self-published through AuthorHouse, a vanity press that set up accounts on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. AuthorHouse also created a website dedicated to Herwood herself that includes a bio and ordering information.
"I was more than thrilled with the job they did on the book. They did a spectacular job," said Herwood.
Father Gary Kibler, her pastor at St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Hamburg, allowed her to do a book signing after the book was printed.
This is the second book for Herwood, an avid reader and writer. In 1999, she wrote, "All the Old Familiar Places - Memories of South Buffalo."
"I grew up in South Buffalo. I sent out a survey to the graduates of South Park, Mount Mercy, Timon and people that I knew. I forget how many I sent out - several hundred. I got back 140 responses from people telling me about their recollections of growing up in South Buffalo in the '30s and '40s, which is when I grew up," she said.
She has also written 950 articles for Yahoo Voices.
"When I sat down to write the psalms, the experience of writing those 950 articles, coming up with the way to do it and the method that I used and all, was very helpful to me. I was quite surprised at how those psalms came right out. It was so easy for me to write them because of my experience. I would say to anybody who wanted to be a writer, the secret is to write. Those 950 articles helped me to be a writer," she said.
The writing gene runs in her family. Her cousin and godfather, Jack O'Brian, served as a cub reporter for Buffalo's Courier-Express before becoming a drama critic in the Big Apple for the New York Journal American.
"It's something that I've always had some facility with," she said of her writing talent. "Term papers never gave me a problem. I always enjoyed writing. I was a business major, but I always thought in past years that I should have been an English major because that's where my real strengths were."