Woman releases first novel despite physical challenges

By Alyssa Donovan

October 28, 2013 Updated Oct 28, 2013 at 10:10 AM CDT

BARTONVILLE, Ill. -- A local woman has just released her first novel at 71 years old. If you think that is impressive, you should see how she wrote it.

Leona Pence began writing after her husband died in 2006. It was a hobby, to keep her from replaying the loss over and over again in her head.

"I started writing and plot twists would come in my dreams I didn't even have to think of things to write and then I started sending them to people in my family, some friends, and they got hooked on the story,” Leona said.

Leona has a bit of a plot twist of her own, her entire first book which was released on Friday, was typed with the end of a pencil.

Leona has Muscular Dystrophy and it has affected her hands and legs. She is also partially deaf.

"I was born with it. I remember when I was younger I had to wear high top shoes way before they were in style, I had to wear boy shoes,” Leona said.

But she has never let it hold her back. When it comes to writing, Leona feels her publisher said it best.

"She said what does age or disability have to do with writing a book, it's about imagination,” Leona said.

The e-book entitled "Hemphill Towers" is a compilation of three novels, with everything from romance in Italy to action and thrills with the Russian mafia.

“The computer has just opened up a whole new world for her that I wish a lot more people her age would get into,” said Barbara Bray, Leona’s daughter.

Leona learned more about fictional writing through free online classes she took, a program called F2K.

She is now a teacher and mentor to other writers in the program.

"I don't think she realizes how many people in her position would just give up,” Barbara said.

“It doesn't hold us down you know. You were born with this what can you do. I'm just like an ordinary person and I'm just enjoying my life the best I can,” Leona said.

Leona has already started writing her next book and hopes to write at least two more.

"Just to see your name in a bookstore like Amazon and Barnes and Noble it's just, it's just amazing,” she said.

The book "Hemphill Towers" is available at amazon.com.

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