I was 84, between jobs, a decade ago. Full of vim and vigor, I’d just returned from the ends of the earth, sailing around the Horn, contemplating a second career.
As a late bloomer, having achieved my first dream of becoming a full-blown scientist deeply involved in discovering the molecular genetic basis of how a mushroom manages to have over 20,000 sexes, I decided to pursue another dream—become a writer of creative nonfiction. I had officially retired as a University Research Professor in 1994, almost died of intestinal rupture ten years later, then worked another four years at the bench, before being bid farewell by my Department in a celebratory roast at the Faculty Club which included a compelling message delivered by a jazz quartet singing, “How can we miss you if you won’t go away!”.
That message resonated. I was ready to be missed in active research. Heck, by now I had something to write about other than ‘just the facts, mam’ as I had been doing in some fifty scientific papers over six decades at the bench (time out for motherhood).
I wanted to tell the world how science is done while juggling a love life, marriage, and parenthood in a world dominated by male professionals. Thus, a memoir was born.
Oh, I had so much to say. And so much to learn!
It all started, one day in May 2009. I joined the League of Vermont Writers where I met a talented free-lance editor, Linda Bland, of Cahoots Writing. After her talk, I asked if she would look at my roughly drafted memoir, then called, Fungal Fervor. She agreed and put me on the right track by urging more focus on my life’s story, not my husband’s, and teaching me some tricks of the trade, like foreshadowing, backstory, arcing, and all that. A bevy of friends suggest change of title to Love, Sex and Mushrooms: Adventures of a Woman in Science. And so it was.
The memoir came to fruition, first, as a self-published version, embarrassingly un-copy edited (‘We consumed canap/es, not canopies’.) It then, got published with a sobering change of title to, A Woman of Science: An Extraordinary Journey of Love, Discovery, and the Sex Life of Mushrooms. Finally, after copyright buy-back, a third edition, was recently published with the earlier title reestablished.
It has all been so much fun, I did another, An American Harvest: How One Family Moved from Dirt-Poor Farming to a Better Life in the Early 1900’s. This one is focused on my husband and his family.
Now, in search of who I am, and how I got to be here, I’m halfway through a biography about my mom, Nell, who saved all her writings, including love letters from numerous suiters at a time when women couldn’t achieve most professions or even vote. It’s tentatively titled, Intrepid Nell: How She Emerged from the Victorian Age
I can’t ski, bicycle, sail my own boat anymore, but I can yet walk, think, sleep and see, and hopefully live long enough to finish this third book in my second career as Creative Nonfiction author.
Dr. Cardy Raper received a Masters in Science degree from The University of Chicago and a PhD from Harvard University. She has been extensively published in national and international scientific journals and was named a University of Vermont Research Associate Professor Emerita in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. She was recently honored by being elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Cardy is author of a personal memoir, Love, Sex & Mushrooms, and An American Harvest both published by Green Writers Press.
Cardy encourages you to look into the The Lake Champlain Committee (LCC). Working for clean, accessible water through science-based advocacy, education and collaborative action. The Lake Champlain Committee (LCC), has a 55-year history as the region's only bi-state citizens' organization dedicated to lake health and accessibility. Learn more by visiting www.lakechamplaincommittee.org.