Glenda Bailey-Mershon

Before I was about 40, I did not take myself seriously as a writer.Writing was something I did, from the slips of paper crammed into shoeboxes under my bed in childhood, to the notes scribbled on the backs of notepads during my time as a university administrator, to the countless memos and reports I wrote as a leader in the Illinois National Organization for Women.

It was true that I had published an occasional poem and an article or two and even, once, a short story. But that was not central to my intent to make a difference in the world, in which I had pulled myself up by some well-worn bootstraps, and so felt compelled to reach down and bring a few folks along with me.  Education was my ticket out of the Southern Appalachian mill towns where I was raised, and I tried to extend that ticket for others. I succeeded. I began a peer tutorial center, wrote grants to provide access to degree programs, and counseled students from all over the world in a doctoral program.

Then something happened that would point me to a new definition of success.

When I was thirty-three, an accident on the way to work had sandwiched me between a van and another car. At first, I managed to keep going in my routine, despite my injuries, working on my doctorate in the evening, as an administrator by day, taking care of my two boys, being an equal partner with my husband to keep all cars on track while I plowed down Illinois’ highways in the quest to pass the ERA and find better funding for women’s needs. I even made time to swim laps almost daily. But, one day, when I was 39, I stepped out of a university building to return to my office, and was struck in the middle of the quadrangle by a sudden paralysis in my left leg.

That inability to move one part of my anatomy would soon become a continuing battle with pain, numbness, and fatigue. The damaged nerve roots in my spine had issued a warning. A year later, I was retired on disability from my university job and had been forced to drop out of my degree program while I pursued almost daily therapy. And, then, the unimaginable: while returning home on the day I was released from therapy, a car from nowhere plowed into my rear bumper and––again––sent me to the emergency room. I wondered through a semi-conscious state, “Why do people keep hitting me?”

Now I know the answer. It was so that I would rediscover the joy I had felt as a seven-year-old, when, asked by the principal to help her put together a bulletin board on reading, I looked up at the cork surface and imagined these words sailing there:

There is no frigate like a book

to take us lands away

nor any coursers like a page

of prancing poetry.

It was a quote from Emily Dickinson’s poem, of course, but to me it was the sum total of why I read: to travel, to explore, to think deeply about the state of being alive. But, as an adult woman, I saw few books that really spoke to me or encompassed my experience of being born into poverty in a mixed-ethnic family. So I did not read as widely as a writer, much less a semi-conscious human being, should.

Of course, being forced to retire from full-time work did not stop me. It did send me in new directions. With some friends, I helped Linda Mowry and other women found a feminist book store, Prairie Moon, which survived for a miraculous five years in the midst of the big-box takeover of book selling. On my own, I imagined into being the Jane’s Stories anthologies by women writers, which are still going strong. In 2012, we will publish our fourth collection. The nonprofit that grew from that first anthology, which was published by my own small press, Wild Dove, is the evergreen  Jane’s Stories Press Foundation.

I have published by now quite a few more poems, a few short stories, nonfiction articles, and book reviews, and am now finishing my first novel, entitled Eve’s Garden.

With this blog, I telegraph my latest intention: to tout stories by and about women that display a larger picture of what it means to be human and female. To delight in the diversity of the human species and survey both the thrills and dangers of our common fate.

My six words of advice to a new writer: Get better and wiser every day.

This is your life, this lust for books and experience. Drink deeply, and I hope you will return here often for inspiration. And that you will find it, here or elsewhere.


  • ReadersHeaven  On September 21, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Hi, nice to meet you !

  • Cristina Deptula  On November 28, 2012 at 1:59 am

    Dear Glenda Bailey-Mershon:

    I’m Cristina Deptula with Synchronized Chaos International Magazine, and we’re working with NYC-based author and award-winning photographer Lynn Gilbert. Ms. Gilbert is known for her Children in Repose and Silk Road: Then and Now series, chronicling children in various socioeconomic neighborhoods in New York in the 1970s and the land and people of Turkey, Jordan, and other nearby countries.

    Ms. Gilbert has applied her design sense and thoughtful writing style to Particular Passions, her collection of interviews with pioneering women from the 1920s to the 1980s who have made a difference in various fields. These include household-name figures, such as Bella Abzug, Julia Child, and Grace Hopper, and also many less famous but still accomplished women.

    The book, co-written with Gaylen Moore, spotlights people who have made progress in science, art, architecture, law, sports, civil rights, fashion, etc, as well as advocating for and improving opportunities, conditions and respect for other women entering the field. Graced by Gilbert’s artistic sensibilities, the book shows each woman as authentically as possible, reflecting the diversity of backgrounds and early experiences shaping who they became.

    Lynn Gilbert intends Particular Passions to honor the strength and resourcefulness of each woman while chronicling their stories and struggles. She uses oral-history techniques designed to let the interviewees speak for themselves in their own voices, sharing how they discovered their passions, overcame obstacles, and stayed motivated to pursue their careers.

    Many readers describe this book as inspirational, especially for younger people who may not be aware of the hard work done to open opportunities to women. One woman said she would have adopted the ladies in Particular Passions as her personal role models had she come across the book earlier in life.

    We would love to have Particular Passions discussed in Women and Books – please let us know if this interests you and where to send a review copy!

    Details on Particular Passions below:

    Paperback: 340 pages
    Publisher: Clarkson Potter (December 12, 1988)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0517545942
    ISBN-13: 978-0517545942
    Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 7 x 1 inches
    Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds

    Thank you very much for your consideration!


    Cristina Deptula


    • Glenda Bailey-Mershon  On November 28, 2012 at 2:10 am

      How interesting, Cristina. I am glad that someone was able to interview Grace Hopper, in particular. I would be happy to take a look at the book. I have sent you my mailing address via email.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: