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High Country Writer Nora Percival Turns 100, Discusses Writing, Raising Children and Living through History

by Emma Speckman

Oct. 14, 2014. High Country writer Nora Percival turns 100 today and celebrates 12 years of writing and publishing professionally. Though she wanted to be an author when she was younger, and went to college at Barnard in New York City to study English, a series of life experiences pushed her back. She finally began publishing her works in 2002, when she was 88 years old.

These life experiences read like a history lesson and include the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression and World War II.

Her first memoir, Weather of the Heart: A Child’s Journey Out of Revolutionary Russia, chronicles her departure from Russia as a child and her first few years in America.

“The times I lived through when I first grew up were such critical times that changed everybody’s lives so much,” she said. “The Great Depression and World War II…as a young adult I lived through those years and so they were worth writing about because what happened to me happened to so many women during the war years.”

Since 2002 Percival has published three memoirs, one novel and a book of letters that her father sent her mother during their courtship in Russia.

“When I was in high school—a senior—they canceled the senior prom because it was the Depression and so many people didn’t have enough money to feed their families,” she said. “If you have a prom you know you have to buy an evening dress and the boy has to rent a tuxedo. We were living in New York City so nobody had a car. And you couldn’t go on the subway in evening clothes.”

In her early twenties Percival took on a job counseling women working in factories during World War II. Later in life she worked for Random House and the American Management Association. Writing has always been a part of her life, and her education and life experiences work together to produce brilliant, interesting works.

She credited her second memoir, Silver Pages on the Lawn, to both herself and her first husband, Herman Gund because the book was comprised largely of their correspondences. Percival and Gund were married only briefly—Herman died of leukemia in 1939 while Percival was pregnant with their son.

“When I was married to Herman I knew that I was, without any question, the most important thing in his life—that whatever happened, I could trust him.”

Percival later remarried and had four daughters, who live in scattered areas across the United States.

“The second time it was a conscious decision between raising my child by myself and not having more children or getting married again,” Percival said. “I hated being an only child I always did and I wouldn’t let my child be an only child if I could help it, so I married again. He was one of the most pleasant people and a very attractive man.”

Percival lives in Vilas currently. Two of her daughters and a couple grandchildren live in the High Country area as well, and visit her often.

She is an active member of High Country Writers, an organization that seeks to promote and motivate local authors. Her memoir Weather of the Heart was the first book published by Ingalls Publishing Group (formerly High Country Publishers, Ltd.)

Though she doesn’t write full-length books anymore, Percival still maintains her blog Late Bloomer and reads constantly, she said.

The process behind her most recent book, a romance called Pell-Mell about ill-matched lovers that she published in 2009, exemplified the discipline she brought to her writing well into her nineties.

Pell-Mell was written as an entry for National Novel Writing Month, a nationwide contest that challenges authors to write a 150-page novel over the course of one month.

“I figured out that if I wrote six days a week, for four weeks, seven pages a day I would get 150 pages,” she said. “It was they best discipline for writing I’ve ever had because I did not go to sleep until my seven pages were done.”

Excerpts of Nora Percival’s books can be found at her website, http://www.norapercival.com.

Photos by Emma Speckman