By Martie Thompson
Mims (Marguerite) Cushing has always loved reading and she said that in turn made her interested in writing. From early days in New York when her mother would translate books from French to read to her (“Madeline” was a childhood favorite) to her present interest in biographies and non-fiction, Cushing is always reading something. And beginning in grade school, she started writing — first short stories that had “great endings” compliments of her mother (also named Marguerite), and later magazine articles, book reviews and books. “I just don’t know what I would do if I didn’t write,” she said.
Cushing earned bachelor’s degrees in French and Art History from Skidmore College and over her professional career has taught creative writing and won awards from the Florida Writers Association. Cushing has two grown children, a son who has written numerous articles for trade journals in the financial sector, and a daughter who is an English teacher. She also has three granddaughters, all of whom enjoy reading and writing … a trait passed down from Cushing’s mother to now include four generations of readers/writers.
Q: How did you come to live in Ponte Vedra Beach?
A: Actually, my husband wanted to move here to be closer to his family. I was dragged kicking and screaming at the time, about 30 years ago, but now I am very happy to live here. I was doing a lot of writing in the northeast and had great contacts with magazines in Connecticut and New York. I was getting brave about pitching article ideas and had interviewed people like Martha Stewart and Luther Simjian, who invented the ATM. I just had a really fun life, meeting people and researching topics for articles.
Q: I’m sure you have funny stories to tell. Can you share one?
A: I worked in marketing at the Convent of Sacred Heart. We were having a fundraiser at the convent and Kathie Lee Gifford and her much older husband, Frank Gifford attended. I was supposed to be taking photographs of the event and my camera wasn’t working. They were so polite about the delay, but at one point, Frank said, “I’m getting old here!”
Q: What books have you written?
A: The first one was a fundraiser that I, as a member of a neuropathy support group, wrote to donate funds to the Neuropathy Association. It was a self-published book that was actually a collection of stories, “If You’re Having a Crummy Day … Brush Off the Crumbs!” and we made our goal of $10,000 for a donation. Then, in 2009, Demos Health Publishing offered me a book deal. They liked one of the stories from my first book and so I expanded on it and it became “You Can Cope with Peripheral Neuropathy: 365 Tips for Living a Full Life.” I still receive royalties from this book. Finally, my three grandchildren requested that I write a children’s book… and so I wrote “Sleepover Surprise.” I’ll do anything for my grandkids!
Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
A: My tip for aspiring local writers would be to join the Florida Writers Association (FWA). You will learn a lot — and some things will be discouraging and some will be encouraging. Ten years ago, I read this somewhere, I cut it out and have never forgotten it: “Someone once said you can greatly prolong your life if you do not seek publication. The internet told me nearly 200,000 books are published each year, and of those, 70 percent sell fewer than 500 copies! Take a walk instead. You will greatly increase your longevity. But write because you love the creativity, the fun of it.”
Q: What is your favorite book to read?
A: It’s probably whatever book I’m reading at the moment. I enjoyed “The Library Book,” about the Los Angeles library; “Where the Crawdads Sing,” Ruth Reichl’s new memoir, “Save Me the Plums,” and a funny book by Bill Geist called “Land of the Ozarks.”
Photo courtesy Mims Cushing