In Retirement, They Wrote the Book

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senior community retirement elder groupMost people know that moving into a retirement community brings a long list of benefits- security, a sense of community, delectable meals and frequent social activities.

However, the residents at Falcons Landing have a few extra perks-about 15 of them, actually. The community, which is open to retired career officers of all branches of the military, houses more than a dozen published authors within its ranks, several of whom have made national best-selling book lists.

So what is it like eating dinner next to Bernard “Mick” Trainor, the author of Cobra II, which was called one of the best books of 2006 by The Washington Post? Or how does it feel to pass Bebe Faas Rice, the critically-acclaimed author of 19 books for teenagers, in the hallway?

According to residents of Falcons Landing, which was established by retired U.S. Air Force officers, being surrounded by so many authors is fairly normal – and always interesting.

“Everyone here is very engaging,” said Kit Inman, author of four books of poetry, several books on spiritual growth and a historical novel titled Free Land. “Many have had several careers and been very successful, but all of them are very friendly and willing to share their talents. You can sit around with any of these prestigious people and find something in common.”

Jo Puccini, author of the personal and emotional memoir Angels in My Valley, said it helps to have other authors around the community to help her stay motivated and discuss the hurdles of getting published.

“It was right in the Falcons Landings meeting room that I opened the UPS package and passed it around to the group in here,” she said. “Authors and non-authors alike were both happy for me. It’s a palpable sense of community here.”

Bebe Faas Rice, the author for teenagers, said receiving a new book is comparable to holding a baby for the first time.

“You are just so thrilled, it’s beyond words,” said Bebe. “It’s like a child in your arms- it’s so beautiful!”

While feeling accomplished after completing a book seems to be the norm, sometimes the writing process can be used for other goals. Irene McPherson used it to lessen the grief she felt after the death of her husband, John, who was a Lieutenant General in the U.S. Air Force. Though she has always been interested in journalism and had even written for the Saturday Evening Post, she said losing him brought her desire to write to a standstill.

“After he died, I quit the book,” said Irene. “In the last year or two, my son needled me about the book, and I’m glad he did otherwise I never would have gotten it started again.”

She finished Four Decades of Courage, which chronicles the development of air power and the 7th Bombardment Group, in early 2006.

Harlan Cleveland, who said he came in the “back door” of Falcons Landing, was impressed with the inclusive nature of the community.

“The thing that struck me was that I was a civilian with no military experience, but we felt so comfortable and welcome here that my wife and I signed up during our first visit,” said Harlan, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO who has authored 12 books on leadership and international affairs. He was admitted to Falcons Landing before the community became exclusive to retired military officers in 1998.

Many of the community’s authors have defied traditional stereotypes about retirement as a time for rest, and have published books well into their golden years. Falcons Landing’s own Jack Scharfen recently compiled 24 resident profiles for his book, On Falcons’ Wings: An Intrepid Generation. The book was published in conjunction with the community’s 10th anniversary and features stories of American women and men living in the community, including two former prisoners of war, a New York Times military correspondent and a retired Foreign Service officer who has appeared in 24 movies.

“It was a good feeling to be finished with the book,” said Jack. “It took a lot of time, but I won’t call it work because it was always a pleasure.”

Almost all of the community’s authors said that they felt the same way when they first received their book-filled with pride and sometimes a bit relieved too.

“It took a big chunk of time out of my life,” said John Pustay, author of two books about counterinsurgency warfare in developing areas. “But it’s very gratifying when you get it between two covers.”

Mick Trainor, whose best-selling title, Cobra II, tells the inside story of the invasion and operation of Iraq in 2003, agreed.

“It’s all-consuming, and you are completely involved in the subject 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Mick, a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General who has also published a book about the Gulf War, titled The Generals’ War.

As glamorous as it may be to say that they share the same community with many renowned authors, most residents said they live a simple and fulfilling life alongside friendly residents who care about each other.

Residents Frances “Bud” and Nancy Rundell, who respectively authored Still Loyal Be and Iran, Front Row Balcony, said Falcons Landing is much more than the country club landscapes, lively social calendar and mouth-watering food.

“It’s people who have a shared culture, and shared life experiences,” said Bud. “It’s difficult to articulate, but it’s something that you can just feel when you are here. It’s a bond.”

His wife Nancy gave credit to the community’s founders, who relentlessly searched the Northern Virginia area for the perfect place to build a retired Air Force community. The eventual location chosen was in Potomac Falls, Va., which tends to blend the best of rural and cosmopolitan living.

The Falcons Landing residents know a good location when they see one, as many of the authors have traveled to exotic countries during their careers. Such an author is Edwin Adams, author of Petty Destiny, a work of fiction set during the overthrow of Egypt’s King Farouk in the 1950s. He said he drew inspiration from the 30 years he spent in the Foreign Service.

“During my career I spent time mostly in Europe and North Africa, where I became acquainted with Egypt,” Edwin said. “I used that real life experience in my novel.”

So what is one to do once they’ve already finished several books, completing the marketing requirements and traveled the country on book tours? They write more books, of course!

“I’ve got two more books that I can’t wait to write,” said Kit, with a smile. “I’m 88 years old. Wish me luck!”

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