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.
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