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The Write Stuff: An Interview With Marcus and Geraldine Polk

Geraldine and Marcus Polk

Geraldine and Marcus Polk give from the heart.

For most of us, the thought of retirement conjures up images of relaxing poolside in the Florida sunshine, endless holes of golf and lazy backyard barbecues. Talk to Florida State alumni Marcus and Geraldine Polk, however, and a completely different picture comes into focus.

When they aren't busy writing the great American novel and traveling coast to coast to appear at book signings, the couple finds time to serve as officers of their local Seminole club chapter, attend FSU athletic events and even hand-deliver scholarship checks to deserving FSU students.

Lifelong educators and passionate supporters of all things Florida State, the Polks are redefining what it means to be retired and what it means to be a Seminole. We sat down with Marcus, Class of 1977, and Geri, Class of 1971, at a favorite restaurant in their prized community of The Villages, Fla., to discuss Marcus' first novel, The Adventures of Karny Wilson: Flight for Freedom, and to cover their current passion projects and the importance of giving back.

Marcus, congratulations on an incredible accomplishment. What led you to write your first book?

Marcus: I've had an inward push to write all my life. I was involved in producing and performing in theater once upon a time, and when the creative spark came back, I focused on writing. With Karny Wilson, I wanted to inspire people of all age groups. The story is about a young man who runs away from home in search of his father and the adventures and challenges he faces along the way. It's about hope, friendship and upholding morality, no matter what.

Here's another question for you: How much of Karny Wilson is based on personal experience?

Marcus: Some of it certainly is. The fictitious town in Tennessee, Karny's adventures and other scenes in the book are comparisons to some of my youth. But other than that, like most writers, much of what is written is inspiration. The truth is that most authors don't know where this inspiration comes from. Pieces of real life come together with imagination to form the result.

What did you find most difficult about writing the book?

Marcus: It took five years to finish it, so finding the time was a challenge. Writing is one thing, but publishing is something else entirely. We self-published, and this process can be quite difficult, at best.

Geri: The technical aspects, margins, font style and spacing, must be exact. We're proud it's available for digital download from major book companies. We also have a teacher's study guide. It was quite a learning process!

You've been traveling a lot to promote the novel. What has that experience been like?

Marcus: It's incredible how accommodating the bookstore managers have been. We've been all over, out West and throughout Florida. It's been amazing.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Marcus: Read the classics and contemporary authors, know how to put a sentence together and develop a command of the language. Then, just go for it.

What current projects are you working on?

Marcus: Book two, available in the spring! This book was the first of four or five in The Adventures of Karny Wilson series.

Geri: We've done extensive research for the series in Sarasota and Gibsonton, Fla., where circus and carnival workers winter. Much of the first two books are centered in this atmosphere.

You both have been incredibly supportive of Florida State University. Why do you give back so generously, not just financially, but with time as well?

Marcus: I was 30 years old when I got into FSU. The professors recognized that I was older and not a typical student. They reached out to me and made me feel at home. Outside of family, there's nothing I care about more than Florida State University.

Geri: We want to give back to education because education has been our life.

What advice would you give to others who are considering giving to FSU?

Geri: What better place than this wonderful institution that teaches and prepares our young people? It's special when we see graduates bring their educations back to their communities.

Marcus: FSU is a place of passion and meaning. It deserves our best efforts.

Learn How You Can Help
If you would like to give back to FSU with a planned gift, contact The Office of Gift Planning at (850) 644-0753 or giftplanning@foundation.fsu.edu. We would be happy to help you find the gift that's right for you, at no obligation.

 

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Florida State University a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to Florida State University [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to the FSU Foundation or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate, or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the gift tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the FSU Foundation as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the FSU Foundation as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and the FSU Foundation where you agree to make a gift to the FSU Foundation and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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