Growing up on East Long Island, two of Rita Boehm’s friends lived nearby on a little dude ranch with two horses. “I was about seven or eight and I fell in love with the horses. I wanted to be the little girl who says, ‘Look, I have a pony.’” she says. She bought her first horse when she was 26 and has been a horse owner ever since. Today the Village of Charlotte resident rides five days a week in Ocala. Rita and her 17-year-old warmblood thoroughbred, Kosi, train and compete in dressage.
“I’ve also done trail riding and jumping in the past.” In dressage the horse and rider must work as one to learn and complete a series of predetermined movements. They are currently at level two and Rita hopes to garner additional points in the future. She is also secretary of STRIDE Dressage Riding and Driving Club in Ocala.
Growing up in a single parent family – her mother was a mechanical assembler for a Long Island defense contractor – Rita knew what her future would be.
“I wanted to be a writer and was the editor of our small high school newspaper.”
She didn’t know it would take longer than expected to reach the goal.
“I got sidetracked,” she laughs.
After college Rita decided that she wanted a job – and a horse – and ended up in contract management for a series of defense contractors.
“It was a time when the defense industry was leaving Long Island,” she says. “I worked for a couple of companies that eventually closed.”
In 1994 Rita and her husband, Bob, a middle school social studies teacher, moved to Boulder, CO which was becoming a defense industry hub. They moved again in 2000 – back east to Maryland – and retired in 2014. Meanwhile, Rita began pursuing her writing. “It was an opportunity to reawaken the creative muse left slumbering for too many years while poring over legal documents.”
“I began hanging around in writer’s online chat rooms. I got great support and assistance listening to them and heard about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.” The Award, discontinued in 2015, offered a $15,000 advance for the first prize winners and a $50,000 advance for the grand Prize winner. The possibility spurred Rita and she entered a novel in 2013. “That first novel was tons of work,” she admits. While she didn’t win, the effort was an incentive to continue writing. She self-published her first novel, Second Chances, in 2014 and Cassie’s Journey two years later. This novel involves a woman who, escaping from her insane husband, finds peace in the mountains and horses, two of Rita’s favorite subjects. All of her books, in paperback and Kindle editions, are available on Amazon.
The characters in Rita’s books drive the story and she allows them freedom. “One of the minor characters in one book took over and became a main character,” she says. “It wasn’t something I planned.”
Rita and Bob moved to The Villages in 2016. Bob launched into his passions – classic cars and golf. Rita rides Kosi in the mornings and writes in the afternoon. She usually tries to write about 500 words a day.
“Sometimes I get 1,200 words and I’m really excited. Other times I just reread what I’ve written over the past few days and edit.”
Beyond Second Chances, the sequel to her previous novel, came out in 2016. Her latest offering, Missing on Maple Street, about a ten-year-old girl who goes missing while in the care of an elderly neighbor, was released this month. It is just in time for the 2018 Central Florida Book & Author Expo sponsored by the Writer’s League of The Villages (WLOV) at the Eisenhower Recreation Center on Saturday, Jan. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
As the new WLOV president Rita says that her main goal is, “To help writers succeed. That’s where the Book Expo plays such an important role. It’s a showcase where 80 writers will be on display this year with their books. And there are some very good reads available by local authors.” Last year over 3,000 people visited the Book Expo and even more are expected this year.
Rita also wants to increase WLOV membership. Founded in 2011 by a group of Villages authors, the organization embraces a broad range of writers. “We’re an umbrella group,” Rita explains. “Our members include writers from many genres and specialties. We’re not a critique group. We stress topics like marketing, networking and publishing so that writers can learn more about their craft. Any Villager is welcome to attend a meeting to see if it’s right for them.” WLOV meets at 8:30 am on the first Wednesday of the month at Laurel Manor Recreation Center.
The Florida Writers Association is also one of Rita’s favorite organizations and she has been a finalist for their Royal Palm Literary Awards. “Not only do the FWA contests offer a chance for the award, authors also receive rubrics, feedback and evaluation from the judges that can help improve their writing in the future.”
Most writers have a favorite author and Rita is no exception. “I like Louise Penny, a Canadian crime fiction writer. Her main character is Chief Inspector Gamache of the Quebec Police and most of her books are set in the town of Three Pines in Quebec.”
With Missing on Maple Street just out, Rita cuddles her cat, Cody and says that she’s “On vacation now.” But you can tell that she’s already thinking about her next novel.
John W Prince is a writer and Villages resident. Learn more at www.GoMyStory.com.