ElderLawAnswers member attorney Kimberly C. Harris has won the State Bar of Georgia's annual fiction writing contest. What makes the accomplishment all the more remarkable is that this was the LaGrange, Georgia, attorney's first foray into fiction writing. And she entered the competition on a dare.
To create the story, which was published in the June 2015 issue of the bar association's journal, Harris drew on her 26 years of practice in elder law.
Titled “A Window by the River,” the story explores the interior thoughts of a former elder law attorney who, the reader soon realizes, has slipped into at least the early stages of dementia. Now living in an assisted living community, the protagonist relives through flashbacks earlier events that are quite real to her as she experiences them.
“What drew me to that story line is because that's what I deal with five days a week — families in this crisis,” Harris told the LaGrange Daily News. “[I see] children who are in their 60s dealing with parents in their 80s who say their parents are having some issues and they're not sure what to do.
“Or, an 80-year-old who comes in and says they've just come from their doctor and been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and I need to make some plans while I'm still capable.
“For people who've just received the diagnosis, the thing that they have to understand is to plan while they have capacity and they can put their thoughts, wishes and desires on paper, and also they have to allow people in their lives in take over. They have to give up control … that's a difficult thing.”
Before submitting her story, Harris had written legal articles and travel pieces for magazines like Georgia Backroads and Texas Monthly over the years, but had never attempted a short story or other work of fiction.
“A colleague said to me, ‘Are you afraid you'll win or afraid you won't win?',” Harris told ElderLawAnswers. “I laughed and said, ‘Well I'm not afraid of winning. In fact, if I did, I'd buy dinner at the most expensive restaurant of your choice in Atlanta.' He said he thought chances were good he'd get a free dinner, so he dared me to submit it.”
She said the aftermath of winning has been fun, “except that it cost me big bucks for that meal.”
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