Caroline Bock & Jona Colson
co-presidents, WWPH


Shenandoah Sowash’s work has appeared in GargoyleThe CollagistThe Laurel Review, Smartish PaceVinyl Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Workshop, the Summer Literary Seminars, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Kimmel Nelson Harding Center for the Arts, and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. 

©Shenandoah Sowash, 2024

Laura Sturza is a writer/teacher living in Rockville, Maryland. Her work is published in The Washington Post, Shondaland, The Boston Globe, AARP’s The Girlfriend, The LA Times, Lunch Ticket, and Hippocampus, among others. Laura is completing the memoir, Better Late: My Midlife First-Time Marriage. She was a nonfiction editor on the just-released book, Transformation: A Women Who Submit AnthologyShe teaches memoir writing to older adults and is inspired by their bravery and talent. laurasturza.com

A Rock Star of My Own

Back when I fell hard for David Cassidy, I was sure I was destined to have musicians for boyfriends. They had the moves, the hair, the sexy voices. I wanted all of it. After I outgrew the Partridge Family, I developed a penchant for edgy guys with killer lyrics. At fifteen, David Bowie’s 1976 tour was my first concert at the Capital Centre.

            None of my early rock star fantasies panned out. I now know why. I was too young to realize I was living vicariously through famous, showy men because I was desperate to express my own power and creativity. I had to wait until middle age before realizing my romantic and artistic dreams.

            At forty-nine, I met the first musician who was a viable partner. Tom wasn’t a professional musician or singer, but a soft-spoken keyboardist. He had spent his twenties as a long-haired, nature-loving musician, then became a steadfast city employee who made music on the side.

            The night after our first lunch date, he left a voicemail saying what a great time he’d had, then added, “I’ll play you one of my tunes.” It was a joyful, lighthearted piano melody. I went to bed thinking about him.

            So, of course, I married him. Actually, it wasn’t that quick. As a later-in-life, first-time bride, I dragged my feet for four years before we walked the processional at our wedding—to one of Tom’s songs. He asked musician friends he’s known since high school to record it with him at a professional studio. It was their wedding gift to us.     

            I imagined Tom and I would be more than romantic partners. We would also help one another fulfill creative dreams we’d had for decades. And we would do so as we reveled in our Golden Years, which Bowie had primed me to welcome in his song of the same name.

            After Tom retired, he spent most of his time composing and playing music. I have been a writer for years.  As a fellow artist, I wanted to collaborate with Tom. We thought his music would be the perfect soundtrack for dance and film.   

            I figured out how to make YouTube videos featuring Tom’s music. Several featured dancers. While we enjoyed sharing them with friends, Tom wanted to try something more professional. We decided to make a dance video with his music and thought it would be an easy project to pull off. We were wrong. Turns out, getting choreographers involved in a production with an unknown sixty-something musician was tough.

            I used every angle, proving my dance cred by telling them I used to work for the well-respected choreographer, Liz Lerman, who first made her name in the D.C. area.  We went to lots of performances and talked with dancers afterward. Several were interested, but their schedules were overbooked, and each time, the plans fell through. We spent two years trying to make it happen and nearly quit.

            That’s when I found Maryland choreographer Tulani Janae, who creates vibrant dances that buzz with energy. She signed on for the project. Tulani and her dancers rehearsed, then entered the studio and brought the music into their bodies. It was everything Tom and I had imagined.

            While our videographer filmed them, the look on my husband’s face showed total joy. At seventy, he was seeing his creative dreams realized. After the piece was filmed, I talked with the dancers.

            “Tell us what it’s like for you to help an artist fulfill their dream,” I said. I was so overwhelmed by how beautifully they had performed to Tom’s song that I started to cry while asking my question.

            Dancer Ishanathan Guteng’s style is buoyant and lyrical. He was visibly moved by what the group’s work meant to us. “It’s just really an honor to get to do that for somebody,” he said.

             These young artists embodied our hopes for the project and fulfilled another mission Tom and I shared. We weren’t only out to showcase Tom’s music. We wanted to give the dancers a venue for their artistry to shine. Tom paid them for their work, which they, sadly, told us doesn’t always happen in their profession. We have become huge fans of these dancers.

            Now we have our first dance/music video featuring Tom’s song, Groove We Must. We’re excited about future collaborations. Even now, I’m tapping away at my computer while he is in the next room, banging out a new song on his synth.

            As I think back on my early music crushes, I realize I was attracted to the power of their artistry, their unabashed sensuality, and their fame. But those men were safe fantasies because I wasn’t ready for a relationship between equal partners. Happily, I waited to marry an accessible man who, it turned out, also had musical chops. We support one another in realizing our creative dreams. While I help Tom produce his projects, he is often the first reader of my stories and is in the front row, cheering on my writing students at the live storytelling shows I run.

            We savor one another’s successes, but we’re also there for the challenges, like the repeated delays we had with finding a choreographer. And Tom’s love sustains me during the sometimes-grueling process of writing my first book—a memoir about getting married after fifty for the first time.

                It has been forty-five years since I was a groupie, waiting outside of D.C. area concerts with my best friend from high school. All these years later, I married a man who is inspired by artists like Sting and Bruce Springsteen, musicians who create extraordinary work in their seventies.

            Like Tom, I am passionate about many other recording artists. But I’m the biggest fangirl for my low-key, live-in rock star.

©Laura Sturza 2024


Announcing our 2024 manuscript winners…look for their books to be published in October 2024…

Our 2023 Award-Winning Books continue to garner attention and acclaim. They are available everywhere books are! Support your local independent bookstore and your WWPH by ordering them from www.bookshop.org. And our classic ebooks are now on sale!

A Special Shout-out to The INNER LOOP for promoting BAD QUESTIONS in their March Author’s Corner. As part of that promotion, you can now find signed author’s copies at Kramer’s in Washington DC. In addition, Len will be a featured reader at the next Inner Loop reading on Tuesday, March 19th at 7:30 p at Shaw’s Tavern in DC. Free. Open. Literary fun. RSVP here. Lastly, kudos to Bad Questions for being honored as a Foreword Indie Finalist!

DC Trending called this novel set in the early 1970s in Montgomery County, “immersive.” And here’s more, “While there are numerous touching and unexpectedly humorous moments in Bad Questions, what really stands out is the novel’s structure. Kruger writes an effective prologue and epilogue, introducing us to an older, wiser Billy, a Billy who has been molded by the profound questions he once posed and has evolved into a scientist who now makes a living by asking interesting questions. Outside of these introductory and concluding sections, Kruger steers clear of retrospective narration, effectively removing the influence of hindsight on the majority of Billy’s narrative, enabling Bad Questions to be a truly immersive journey.” Read the entire review here (and buy a copy today!).

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC … hosts an author talk with Bernardine “Dine” Watson in recognition of Women’s History MonthThursday, March 28th from 7-9 pm. From their website:

“This powerful story offers insight into her journey with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare, incurable, kidney disease that primarily affects Black people. Don’t miss this opportunity to engage in important conversations about health, self-advocacy, and the experiences of Black women. Learn more about the book and the author below and register to let us know you are coming.

This program is brought to you by the DC Public Library Foundation and the Anacostia Community Museum. Free copies of Transplant: A Memoir to attendees in need courtesy of the DC Public Library Foundation.A profound thank you, to the DC Public Library Foundation, from all of us at the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. FREE and OPEN to all. More information and registration here.

2023 NonFiction Award Winner-Transplant: A Memoir by Bernardine Watson

A Free PRIDE Poetry Workshop is offered with the National Arts Club in D.C. on Thursday, March 21st at 6:30 pm with poet Ishanee Chandee. RSVP here. And a heads up: WWPH Writes will hold our third annual PRIDE Poetry and Prose Contest again this year. Submissions will open in May and publication in June. Cash prizes! This year we are encouraging LGBTQ+ allies as well as writers to submit. Keep reading WWPH Writes for details.

SUBMIT to WWPH Writes. We are reading now for our summer issues. We are eager for new voices! We are an inclusive, writer-driven community and want to see your poetry and prose (1,000 words or less). Free to submit. Send us your work via our Submittable link here. And for those asking about our annual TINY POEMS special summer issues–yes, they are returning in August! Insider news: we will be seeking tiny odes! Keep reading WWPH Writes for details.

Don’t miss our Busboys & Poets (Takoma location) reading on Sunday, April 7 at 6 pm…