Belmont Patch's feature, "Meet Your Neighbors," is just that – discovering more about fellow residents or people who work in town and make this community a nice place to live.
Chris Conroy of Belmont
Former accountant, current poet/writer
One of the people Chris Conroy respects tremendously is a woman named Emma, a baby boomer who “has an undaunted spirit and is always willing to face new experiences with her best foot forward.”
Whether it’s going to a single’s dance or having a guest to dinner whose table manners do not sit very well with her mother, Emma has a personality and way of dealing with situations that delights Chris.
“I often wish I could be more like her,” said the lifelong Belmont resident.
“She’s an old-fashioned gal who has her idea of the perfect man and will not settle for anything less. She never gives up hope and I admire her.”
Chris has certainly known this undeterred woman for long enough – six years to be exact. She’s the heroine of her first book, “Emma’s Memoirs,” illustrated by her brother, Bob Conroy, and published last summer.
This adult book is a pleasant mix of three elements: narrative through which Emma speaks directly to the reader, comical poetry through which she tells her stories, and illustrations that depict her and other characters in various situations.
Chris said Emma’s character and stories are loosely based on her own life either with a snippet of a conversation or an experience she had but the book is basically fictional.
She believes it appeals to adults of all ages and particularly baby boomers who might recognize the feelings Emma has pertaining to dating (and others’ trying to fix her up) or her attempts to dance despite having “two left feet,” among other topics.
“Come join Emma in her cozy living room,” Chris wrote in a marketing paragraph for the book. “Her stories, written in poetic form, all have a humorous twist in them. “It is no wonder they are all illustrated with cartoon-type drawings.
A loving family works together
It took about six years to complete the book because Chris and Bob were both working full-time during its creation.
Chris was delighted with the illustrations her brother provided to accompany “Emma’s Memoirs” and that they collaborated so well together.
The two discussed what was going on in Emma’s world but worked separately on their respective parts of the book. The siblings gave each other free reign for the most part with Chris only making small suggestions about Bob’s drawings every once in a while.
In many ways, she said, the publication of “Emma’s Memoirs” speaks to the emotional gifts they and their brother, Richard, received from their parents, beginning in their early childhood and continuing through their adulthood.
The book’s dedication illuminates the love the author and illustrator had for their parents.
“To Mom and Dad, who live on in our hearts:” it starts.
“Your zest for life and your sense of humor
Greatly inspired us two baby boomers.
Your spirit played a very large part
In Emma’s Memoirs, a book for light hearts.”
Chris said her mother was a professional artist and that talent inspired Bob who has been drawing his entire life. In addition, she said Richard has also been artistic through model shipbuilding and carpentry.
As for her, Chris vividly remembers her father always loved poetry and recited it to his children when they were young.
“I think poetry is the most powerful and beautiful way to express emotions,” she said. “I can’t think of a better (medium) to describe feelings.”
And her mother, who died last year, was very helpful to Chris while she was writing her first book.
“She didn’t live to see it published but was able to read the manuscript and made suggestions,” Chris said. “I ran my poems by her and she was encouraging but could be a real critic, asking questions about specific phrases and words.”
Chris always knew where she stood with her mother.
“She was very honest about giving her opinion and when she really laughed, I knew she loved what she was reading.”
From one kind of book to another
Until a year ago, Chris worked in the accounting field – something she did for 27 years.
After studying languages and graduating from Boston College, she taught French for a while and then worked at the Belmont Public Library in the circulation department for six years.
Chris loved that job and almost went back to school to earn a degree in library science.
But she was concerned about practicality and, with her father working as a lawyer and CPA and needing some help, she ultimately went to Bentley College to study accounting.
Although she liked the people she worked with, Chris always felt a “creative urge” that was not being satisfied in accounting work.
“I had been drawn to writing ever since college where I wrote a few short stories but never tried to publish them,” she said.
It was actually after her father died in 1994 that Chris returned to writing.
She wrote a poem about her father and read it during his graveside service.
“After that, I couldn’t stop writing poetry,” she said.
So, in 2010, she decided to leave the world of accountancy and devote herself full-time to writing.
The life of a writer
“I’m very serious about it,” Chris said while describing her new career.
Right now, she’s living on her savings but would like to pursue an “Emma” series if this first book does well.
The idea for the memoir developed gradually in the years after her father died during which Chris was extremely sad.
She thought it might be a good idea to pursue laughter as a healing process and began writing a few comical poems.
“And I wanted to write stories that were personal and that other people could identify with,” she said in reference to the book being loosely based on some of her own life experiences as a baby boomer including such a terror of being at a dance as a young teenager.
Now that she has the first book written, Chris has already begun working on material for her second.
“I find the life of a writer is fascinating,” she said. “And I love all the aspects it involves.”
She works at it every day. Sometimes, Chris cannot stop writing and other times she has to struggle for every single word.
But she perseveres and finds the work a labor of love.
In addition to the writing, Chris had to learn the business aspects of publication and copyright issues.
One of the most difficult parts of her life as a writer is marketing.
“It’s hard because there are so many books out there,” she said.
But in many ways, her choice to become a full-time writer has brought Chris’s life so far into a full circle.
“I was fascinated by the study of language and accounting,” she said. “And now I am able to use all of my skills. Nothing has been wasted in my schooling or past career.”
For additional information on “Emma’s Memoirs,” visit Amazon.com