Anne Macdonald has traveled the country. She has been an active participant in the women's rights movements. She helped establish the acceptance of women in managerial positions in libraries. She worked on the McCarthy campaign. She protested the Vietnam War. She became a mother. Now she is taking on her next endeavor – writing.
Macdonald showcased some of her work recently at the Bas Bleu Theatre Company, 401 Pine St. The theater presented "Poetry and Prose" Tuesday night with readings from Colorado's Poet Laureate, Mary Crow, and Macdonald.
At 7 p.m. Macdonald took the stage, which was decorated for the presentation of the play "Shadowlands" with large white panels and oversized paintings of colorful crayons on the black scuffed floor.
The blue lighting cast a luminous spotlight on Macdonald as she began to read, "Grandpa's Little Habit." The story, published in the Denver publication "Dry Spells," was about a man who raised a family, lost his wife and was now looking up pornography for the good of the church – although trouble arises with his "little habit." The story was a humorous piece about "intergenerational loss," Macdonald said.
"That really comes from younger people. When these people get elderly they start treating their parents like children, when they really are not ready to be treated like children," Macdonald said. "In this case – the family is visiting him and they find out that he's been looking at porn on the Internet."
Her second story, "Lefty's Electric Chair," was published in the most recent edition of Matter, a local literary publication.
"Lefty's Electric Chair" revolves around a Vietnam veteran nicknamed "Lefty" after losing his arm in a battle.
Lefty, whose real name is Chuck Tomlinson, was at one moment "the poster boy" for Vietnam's rehabilitated veterans. His image appeared on the cover of Life and Time Magazine. However, Lefty was diagnosed with cancer and decided he would rather be electrocuted by lightning than die in hospice care. The story is a retrospective look at Lefty's life and creates an intriguing idea about the meaning of life and death.
Macdonald feels much of her inspiration comes from her past, a lot of which was spent in California where she became very politically active in her community during tumultuous times.
She was born in Los Angeles into a strong, politically active Irish-Catholic family of six brothers and sisters, which helped propel her to be politically knowledgeable and active.
Macdonald eventually took on her own political roles while attending the University of California, Berkeley and involving herself with several movements including the McCarthy campaign.
"There was a really radical magazine called 'Ramparts.' (My friend) was the editor of Ramparts and we were all sort of involved that way," Macdonald said.
Anne believed involvement in these politically liberal groups would help change society. Her experiences have influenced her writing today.
"You sort of do what has to be done and if you look back it's sort of a huge movement but there were pockets of things here and there going on," Macdonald said.
As a woman growing up in the shadow of the Vietnam War and on the cusp of the anti-war protests as well as the women's movement, her politically strong background led her to spend the majority of her time working for these rights.
"You really feel like you are making a change and you really believe the world can change," she said.
While trying to enter the master's degree program for history, she faced gender discrimination when one of her history professors refused to recommend her for the program.
"I was often the only (woman) in history classes," she said. Macdonald's teacher merely told her that "women should not be in the history program."
Macdonald used this to propel a new venture in her life.
"It makes you kind of determined because even when I was a librarian all of the directors were men. I always felt obligated to get into the management of libraries because I thought women should be there too," Macdonald said. "It was our obligation to do that, it started way back."
Macdonald also met her husband Bruce at Berkeley and her experiences with him, a Vietnam veteran, also influences her work.
"I remember thinking 'lucky woman who sends him off every day,'" Macdonald said. However, after finding out he wasn't married she "asked him out three times."
"I was determined to get him to go out with me, and eventually he relented," she joked.
After about a year of dating, the two married in 1968 and moved to Seattle.
"We crossed paths a lot in life, in the same place at the same time, but we had never met. We always felt that that was kind of fateful," she said.
In Seattle, the two enjoyed the lifestyles of what was then known as, "YP's" or young professionals. Even the local paper was fascinated with the YP's and Macdonald recalls several articles written about the group.
"We were both young professionals," she said. "They used to have groups of us in the newspapers about the young professionals because we all had professional jobs, no kids and a lot of money."
Dining at the finest restaurants every night, going to the theatre and shopping at Pikes Place Market was a lifestyle that still brings a smile to her face, but couldn't last forever.
"We wanted to have a family eventually," she explained.
After the births of her children, she became a stay-at-home mom. She finds that ironic, considering her history of fighting for women to get into professional positions rather than play the role of stay-at-home moms.
"Before I had kids I used to look out at women who were housewives taking their kids out and I'd think 'Thank God I have a job, thank God I am a career woman,'" Macdonald said. "Then when I was home I would see all the career women going off to work and I'd think 'Thank God I'm home – this is the best secret in the world.'"
These days she diligently works as a librarian helping students while continuing to further her writing career.
"I'm trying to build up that part of my life, so I'm looking for an agent," Macdonald said.
Her book, "A Short Time in Luxembourg," has been somewhat successful but a string of bad luck, including the death of her editor and the bankruptcy of the publishing company, caused her to sell the book herself.
"I just keep sending it out to agents, meanwhile I'm writing other things," she said. "I don't put my whole life into one book anymore."
Although this experience is trying for Macdonald, she manages to move forward and publish other short stories.
"For some reason, now everything is sort of – when I send it out – it gets published," Macdonald said. "It seems like I've figured out how to do it or the craft has finally come to me."
One of Macdonald's current projects includes her next fiction book. The plot is based off a rock band helping a woman become president of the United States.
She hopes to focus on her writing career and let life take her where she needs to be until the next big project catches her attention.
"I always had what I considered a charmed life," Macdonald said. "I just sort of go along with life."