That adage about how it’s never too late to try something new? JoAnn Fisher is living — and writing — proof.
The Sequim resident who returned to college in her late thirties to earn a master’s and doctorate degrees is, now at age 88, a published author.
“A lot of people get to my age and retire they don’t know what to do with themselves,” Fisher said. “(But) there are some many things we can do.”
Fisher’s keen interest in children and their stories goes back decades. As the mother of two daughters and a son, she taught Sunday School for kindergartners as well as a leader for Brownie and Girl Scout groups. As a self-described “woman returning to education,” Fisher earned a master’s in marriage and family counseling and eventually a PhD in psychology, counseling until her retirement.
She and her husband Joe moved to Sequim in the mid-1990s, and after he passed away in 2006 she said she was inspired to write poems and stories for children.
For “Adventures with Angel Betsy,” Fisher drew on an even earlier experience, one that predates her own life: About 10 years prior to her birth, a sister — Emily — died. Another sister who was just 3 when Emily died talked a lot about her, Fisher said.
“I felt like I knew her growing up … I guess I decided she was my angel,” she said.
Fisher had written some stories over the years and some for her church newsletter — Sequim’s Center for Spiritual Living — but nothing like this, in book form.
She got some help from her two daughters, who came up with some drawings, and the trio combined it all into book form for a church crafts event fundraiser.
“We thought it might be worth publishing but weren’t sure how to start,” Fisher said. Enter Harris, Fisher’s friend and editor/publisher of Top Cat Publishing in Sequim.
In May, Fisher handed the small, spiral bound book with a hand-drawn angel on the front and inside poems separated with small figures representing different rhyming stories.
“I could see in my mind incredible illustrations and an image of the finished book,” Harris said. “I knew the heart-opening stories were important for children at this time, as well as adults.”
While many avenues were getting shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris said she was determined to make the book a reality. That process meant finding an illustrator, and Harris connected with Ukrainian illustrator Irina Litvin.
“She had the expertise and style to bring the story to life,” Harris said. “I did a storyboard for each of the stories and she gave birth to each page with vibrant color, detail and sweetness I couldn’t have imagined.”
“(She’s a) wonderful artist and the colors are so soft,” she said.
While each children’s book she edits is special, Harris said Fisher’s “Adventures with Angel Betsy” was particularly a treat because “this book was born during a challenging time of change and uncertainty, and perhaps that makes it even more special because the stories can give hope to children.”
Fisher hails from Kelso and met her husband-to-be, a Santa Monica, Calif. native, while they attended Oregon State University.
The pair spent years outside Washington, including a 15-year stint in the Lake Tahoe area before, they moved to Sequim in 1996.
Fisher said she was quite busy in the last years of Joe’s life as he battled health problems. After his passing, she turned to writing, and found the craft agreed with her.
Now, at the advice of a friend, Fisher has her eyes set on a angel-themed book that features a boy. She’s also planning on taking up painting.
“I’m loving being 88 loving having the time to smell the roses,” she said.
“There’s more time to reflect and try some new things.”