It seemed as if I would never find an editor who would publish anything I wrote. Then along came Lake Life, a publication of the Smith Mountain Eagle. Lake Life is a semi-annual glossy dedicated to promoting life at the most beautiful lake in Virginia — if not in the world. The essay is called “Settlin’ In — At Smith Mountain Lake.”
Two years ago, November 2006, my husband, Terry Naylor, and I moved into our dream house at the lake. We had prepared for the move for years. First we found the right lot in 1999. We knew we were going to build a log home, so we interviewed several builders before finding one who would build the house we wanted, not the house he wanted. Finally we broke ground in 2000. By May 2001, the house was ready, but we weren’t. After all, we had jobs and lives in northern Virginia, so this became our weekend place.
The more time we spent here, however, the more we knew we wouldn’t be satisfied being weekenders. We wanted to be year-rounders. We debated when we would move, ultimately deciding that 2006 was it.
We made our lists, checked them twice and slowly weeded things we no longer needed from our formal Colonial. After we put it on the market, Terry quit his part time job at Home Depot and returned to full-time retirement from IBM. He spent most weekends supervising constructing the garage and finishing the basement. I made weekly trips down Route 29 in a car so full I couldn’t see out of the windows. Nothing rode for free, except our cat in her “condo.”
Then one day we were ready. The movers came, the final items were donated, and we said farewell to a great group of neighbors.
We unpacked and decorated for the holidays, even lucking out and selling our house “up north” on New Year’s Eve. Suddenly we faced with the ultimate challenge for everyone who moves: making new friends.
We used my cousin Aleta as a positive example. Ten years ago she left Southern California for Alaska where she knew exactly no one. Now ten years later she can’t go anywhere in Anchorage without meeting friends. We wanted to be like her.
I read the calendar section of the Eagle religiously, looking for activities. I’m not a crafter, so all activities like quilting and pottery were out. Because I love to read, book clubs looked interesting, but not interesting enough. Besides, I am driven to write even more than to read.
One day I saw a calendar entry for Lake Writers. I’ve been writing, and not publishing, fiction for years. I’d already had a couple of bad episodes with other writers’ groups, but I picked up the phone and called Jim Morrison who encouraged me to come to a meeting. I knew I’d found a home. I liked the people, the way they interacted and their supportive criticism of people’s efforts. I was inspired to keep fingers on keyboard and crank out pages.
I soon learned that around the lake when you join one group, you’ll soon be introduced to others with overlapping members. Again, Jim Morrison suggested I call SMAC, because it was looking for a press relations director. With a professional background in marketing, among other things in my overly crowded resume, it seemed like a logical fit, except I didn’t know what SMAC was. Don Fink, another Lake Writer, explained what SMAC does and handed me a membership form.
After meeting with the president, I liked what I heard and agreed to do PR. I met a great group of dedicated and passionate people who were deeply involved in all types of arts and at least one who ties to Lake Writers. I started running into them in shops and other places. Hmm, I began to feel more like I belong here.
Terry is a motorcyclist and enjoys long distance touring. He stopped one warm winter day in early 2007 for coffee at a local gas station. When he came out, a man was parked beside him, waiting. They introduced themselves, actually discovered they knew people in common back in New York, and exchanged numbers. Daily rides grew into road trips to motorcycle races. They’ve gone to the Mid-Ohio races two years in a row and are already planning for next year’s trip.
While I was busy raising my hand to volunteer, Terry joined the board of our local owner’s association, which led to ALAC meetings, which led to him becoming very concerned about the relicensing debate. Soon he will join me on the SMAC board.
Several months later, Jim Morrison mentioned a media relations opportunity for SMLA. By now, I’d been here long enough to know what that acronym meant and what the group did. I had another conversation with another president, attended a board meeting and was hooked. This time I would be writing articles about water quality, weeds, fertilizer and sewage removal for the Eagle. I had no idea how challenging it would be to make poop, um, fertilizer, and weeds, not weed, interesting.
Now, nearing the end of two years in residence full-time, Terry and I kept our promises to meet people and get involved. I made my husband a promise: if opportunity in the form of a call or e-mail from Jim Morrison arrives, I won’t answer.
I have to credit Jim with being a catalyst for where I am today at the lake. It’s all your fault, Jim. Thanks.