Author Bobbi Sommer comes of age in her 70’s with The Fig Rejection

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bobbi Sommer has rediscovered herself through writing and published her first novel The Fig Rejection which she started in her sixties and published after ten years of sitting on the shelf. After hearing rave reviews from local readers, I managed to get in contact with Bobbi and visit with her over lunch. The conversation
When did this book actually start for you?
I would say probably eleven years ago. I never intended to write a book, it just happened. Then it sat on the shelf for ten years with nothing going on.
But something happened eleven years ago that allowed you the time to write?
Yes, I was just coming out of a divorce and was probably by myself for the first time ever. Caroline ONeill is a wonderful woman who taught at the United Nations at the literary department for years. At the time she taught at the college here, small classes that were college courses. She was a friend of a neighbor of mine. I lived over on Pine Crest. I got invited to New Years Eve dinner at my neighbors house. I ended up being there for supper and thats where I met Caroline ONeill. Im a shy person and I was trying to make conversation with Caroline. I see you have these creative writing courses, I said, I would love to take something like that, but I cant spell. She said, You dont need to spell. She described the course to me and I decided to do that. I took nearly everything she taught at the college, a lot of English, but I didnt take her speech class because I didnt want to public speak.
I just started writing stuff, mainly family because thats what I knew about. It never started out to be a book. It just took over and turned into the book. Truly, like Corrie Woods said, it wrote itself.
Its wonderful when it happens that way.
I really had a marvelous time and just loved the writing. I would sit down and write for four or five hours on the computer and then when I got through I would look at it and see what I had written. I didnt know what I had written, it was just there. Some of it is autobiographical with one person, the others are totally fiction. Its hard for me to say, I decided to write a book.
Its more like the book decided it was coming out of you.
Thats right, it really did. In the meantime I had taken a number of courses, but nothing to do with writing a book. As a matter of fact, I think I was totally out of Carolines classes before I started writing the book. It was a very enjoyable experience. I thought, Im not ever going to do anything with this, and I just tucked it away.
It was put on the shelf. When did it come back off the shelf again?
It came back off the shelf again when I met Charlie and one day I said something about the book. He wanted to read it, he did, and he liked it. Then he thought I ought to do something with it. I said, Nah, Im not going to go through that. Im too old. Then a few years later he said, Im going to get the stuff and get that book copyrighted. He did that. Then Corrie said, I think you should self publish it. She had done a lot of research for her book. Shes just a brilliant girl anyway. She knew where to go and how to do it and she just did it for me. I just sat back and watched her go for it. That part was easy.
Its nice to have someone else say, This is worth my time to make sure other people can share this.
It is, shes good at that. I think someday shell end up doing a lot more for people that way.
The book cover says you were originally from Florida, but then moved to Tryon. When did you move to Tryon?
The first time I came to Tryon I stayed seventeen years. Then I got together with Charlie. Charlie and I used to go to school together, and he looked me up. Thats how we got together. I went back to Florida for seven years with him. I came back here in 2005.
The time goes so fast, and before you know it decades go by. When I came here it was an entirely different life and that life is gone now. I was getting out of that life when I started writing. I think that was the catalyst really that got me going. I could put down all the stuff and read it. I never journaled or anything, but it was the same idea in a more structured form turning it in and getting grades.
When you talk about life change, how would you describe your life before Tryon?

Bobbi Sommer living at the beach (photo submitted)

Before I came to Tryon and started writing I worked in a law office. I was the office manager for my husbands law office in Stuart, Florida. Then we decided we wanted to move. He was getting close to retirement age. We decided wed like to move up here. Jay Lichty, my son, helped us find the town. Then my husband George said, Well you go ahead and go settle in up there and Ill continue to work. It was very profitable right then. He was very successful and he ended up staying.
You ended up here, by yourself for the first time while he was still finishing the work down there.
He would come back and forth.
I spent a couple of weeks at a time in a law office that was not the easiest work environment.
I dont think I really would have picked it. My first job was with a friend of mine who needed someone and I needed to go to work and do something. I went in his office and it just mushroomed from there.
Is that how you met your husband?
Yeah, actually it is. He came there to study in the law library and ended up being a partner and one thing led to another and we got together. Its hard work and it is hard working for your husband especially.
Coming up here you escaped the stress of the work environment and finally had space and time to yourself.
Total freedom.
Was that frightening at first?
No, it really wasnt. Its such a little town, and Jay had already moved here, so that was a connection. Everybody was so nice. Jays ex-wife Colleen Wilson who is now married to the huntsman for the Green Creek Hounds was into the horses. I was into horses too back in Florida I had a whole lot of horses. We had someone that trained them and showed them for us.
What breed?
We had a mixture. We had Appaloosa and Quarter Horse hunter jumpers. I had a real good girl showing those for me. We went out to Oklahoma City to the big show out there. He was very good that horse, he was wonderful. I never rode to that level. I started too late.
You did ride?
I didnt jump. Trail rides.
You left the farm behind, but came up here and connected with the equine folks?
I met some very nice people, still good friends with all of them. I had this freedom all of the sudden. It didnt do much for the marriage though. Thats why when I was writing to the book and taking the college courses I was at an entirely different stage in my life. I had grown up. I had some time to figure out who I was and what I wanted with my relationships and stuff. I wanted to change a lot of the stuff about my life. In that book youll see. Theres some of that in that book too.
It says on the back of the book, Is it ever too late to come of age? How long from the time you started writing the book at four hours a day to when you finished and set it on the shelf?
I guess maybe about a year. I did a lot of rewriting and editing which I love. If I had my life to live over thats probably what I would have liked to have done, although they would have to get me to learn how to spell.
They have spell check for that now.
There were times when I would read something and Id go back and say, No, thats not where I wanted to go. But, oddly enough the characters just do what they want to do. Sometimes unbeknownst to you, you just dont know what theyre going to do. Thats exactly how most of that book is, it was just a kind of serendipity some of it. Like the title of it, The Fig Rejection. Caroline ONeill the teacher lives two houses up from here. She invited us over to pick figs with the same friend who had us over to supper that night. A big tree, trees that you can walk under, you dont think about fig trees being so big.
Ive seen a couple in this area that big.
Theyre really wonderful. Somebody said something about one little fig that they picked, Oh, Im going to have to reject you. When they said that, I thought, What a great name for a title of a book. I wasnt doing anything like that at the time, but I remembered that I thought it was a clever name, so when I wrote the book the beginning has the fig tree.
I noticed it started out with that.
It was really interesting because after I started rereading it when I was going to get it published I noticed that with those three women and the man theres all kinds of rejection. I never thought of it like that, the title had nothing to do with that, but these people suffered or doled out a lot of rejection in their lives. I thought how apropos that it ended up having rejection in the title.
The conversation with Bobbi Sommer will continue in Fridays edition of the Tryon Daily Bulletin.

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