By Lenora Livingston
When my publisher told me I had to have a pen name because my novel Where’s Stephanie? is based on a true story, I had a problem. I was named by my mother who died when I was a little girl. My name was like a gift from her. I was and am proud of it. I didn’t see why I needed to change it. After all, my favorite author, Pat Conroy, based a lot of his writings from real life events and he used his real name. My publisher didn’t give me a choice.
The only name I considered for a pen name was Lenora Livingston. It would be my way of honoring the special person she was. Lenora was a beautiful, pleasantly plump, farmer’s wife, with blonde hair, twinkling blue eyes and a heart as good as pure as gold. She had one child, a son who was around the same age as my little brothers.
In the late 1940s, Lenora was a member of the church that my father had recently joined, with his brood of motherless children. Lenora invited us all to lunch after church one Sunday and it was the first mother’s warmth I had felt in years. She fed us spare ribs from one half of a hog her husband had butchered and homemade sauerkraut which she cooked together in a pressure cooker. She also fed us homemade biscuits and sweet tea. After we devoured the food like a pack of wild animals until it was all gone, she went in the kitchen and cooked more ribs from the other half of the hog, with even more sauerkraut. She aimed to please.
That was the beginning of my lifelong relationship with Lenora. She lived a little more than a mile from me. I’d hop on my bicycle and ride to her house, always showing up unexpectedly. She always welcomed me with a hug and never once was she too busy to sit down and talk with me, always offering me her freshly baked cookies and a glass of chilled milk that came from her milk cow.
When I grew up, married and moved away, I’d drive and bring my children to see her. She always welcomed us with a big hug, a glass of freshly chilled milk, and homemade cookies. She was my role model, my mentor, and an angel on earth to me. She never told me that she loved me, but she always made me feel loved. In 1986, her nephew called to tell me she died and she wanted me to be treated like a member of her family, riding and sitting with them at her funeral.
I thank God for putting Lenora in my life and for inspiring me to use her name as my pen name.
Lenora Livingston’s first published writing was a poem at age 17. Since then, as a freelance writer, she has written one history book and numerous articles for various publications. Her novel Where’s Stephanie? was written straight from her heart. Writing and gardening are her therapy.