Columnist and author,
Cynthia La Ferle

 

Best Years'

Midlifer of the Week

Cynthia La Ferle

She's Sharing Her Stories

by Mike Bellah

  "At midlife, I think we decide to quit fooling around with life and to make every day count," says Detroit-area author, columnist, wife and work-from-home mom Cynthia La Ferle. "Writing is a great tool for that process."

In an online interview, I have asked La Ferle if writing is therapeutic. I want to know if she thinks writing can help all of us (even the nonprofessional writer) deal with various midlife struggles. "Life is confusing and painful at times," she tells me, "and writing can help us make sense of it. Putting things down on paper gives us a new way of looking at them, figuring them out, coming to terms."

La Ferle has been putting things down on paper for most of her 44 years. "I was an only child and writing often kept me company," she says. "I have this wonderful memory of a child-size playhouse in my old backyard; it was just roomy enough for a couple of little kids to fit inside. When I was alone, I'd write little stories for my friends to act out."

La Ferle also credits her grandfather ("the first person I knew who had a real typewriter") and her teachers for creating and sustaining her interest in her craft. "I think teachers can make or break young writers," she tells me. "I was lucky enough to have teachers who believed in the value of sharing our stories."

And sharing her stories is what La Ferle does best. After studying journalism and English Literature at Michigan State University, she worked at various times as a researcher for a major book publisher, a feature writer for a newspaper and the editor of a national travel magazine (Now La Ferle is a weekly columnist for The Daily Tribune, the daily newspaper for her hometown of Royal Oaks Michigan). In addition, La Ferle's essays have appeared in many well-known periodicals, including Writer's Digest, The Christian Science Monitor and Reader's Digest.

I ask La Ferle if she is a different writer at midlife than she was 10 years ago. She tells me that her magazine folded and her dad suffered a fatal heart attack when she was just 37. These traumas brought her a new level of awareness. "My son was in kindergarten and my dad was dying, and suddenly I realized that nothing mattered more than my family and the quality of life itself," she says. "After years of travel editing, I needed to come back home to all of them, and to myself. I think that's what midlife is--coming home to yourself."

La Ferle says that her dad's death gave her new courage to write, to put on paper not other people's stories but her own, to write with a fresh honesty and candor. "I wrote my father's eulogy in this totally new voice--my real honest-to-goodness voice," she says. "And that was the beginning of my love affair with the personal essay."

It is La Ferle's personal essays that became the basis for her columns in The Daily Tribune, and it is a collection of them, Old Houses, Good Neighbors, that drew me to her work. Besides her refreshing honesty and her subtle insight, La Ferle has the rare ability to make ordinary things extraordinary, a quality I consider both the essence of true creativity and the secret of good writing.

You can visit Cynthia La Ferle (and read some of her stories) on the World Wide Web at www.laferle.com.

 
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