Our Town Inspires
Three Busy Writers
By Cindy Edwards
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.
They 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 afford."
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 Times.
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 me happy."
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!
© 2002 Inside Annapolis Magazine