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Wilcox aspires to be published author

At 91, writing is routine for River Heights apartment dweller Evelyn Wilcox. She's often up in the middle of the night to pen a story. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Out of the artist's

imagination, as out of

nature's inexhaustible well, pours one thing after

another. The artist

composes, writes or paints just as she dreams,

seizing whatever swims close to her net.

John Gardner

Literary critic, writer

At 91, Evelyn Wilcox's imagination holds a veritable sea of ideas.

"I get up in the middle of the night and scribble in my notebook," the River Heights apartment dweller said. A cup of coffee, a piece of toast and another chapter unfolds.

"Stories begin here," she explains, pointing at her nicely coiffed head.

"I write all the time. I write it on paper, perfect it in my mind, then repeat it," to her transcriber, at $50 to $100 a story.

"It's an expensive hobby," she admits.

At 24, she wrote a few stories for Reader's Digest, based on facts. After a 60-year hiatus, she picked up the pen again.

"Now it's fiction," but interlaced with actual experiences. Many of her stories are based on memories from childhood. "I have a photographic memory."

Wilcox, who grew up in Osage, said she was diagnosed with polio at the age of 6, recovering at the Gillette Children's Hospital in St. Paul. She returned to the hospital at 17 having suffered an injury.

After marriage, she and husband Lawrence ran a resort on Kabetogama Lake in Voyageurs National Park. Three Green Bay Packers arrived at the resort, she recalled. "And members of the Mafia, which we didn't know about 'til after they were gone."

When Lawrence became disabled, and could no longer tend the resort, the couple moved to Florida, where they'd been spending winters.

Now, legally blind, she has no television but listens to the radio on a regular basis, "to keep up on the latest news" and gain ideas.

If she chooses to write about something that's unfamiliar - chess, for example - she picks up the phone.

"I'm on a new story," she said.

"Patrick O'Hara and his daughter, Kathleen, stood on the sidewalk, staring at a pile of ashes," she recites. "Everything's gone."

The building held Patrick's newspaper office, an apartment and Kathleen's barbershop. "Gone."

Patrick took Kathleen's hand, held it to his check and told her, "Well, sis, the only way is up. We'll brush ourselves off and start over again... We're going south, Melrose, Missouri. My bones can't take this cold weather anymore..."

"I'm working on finding Kathleen a boyfriend," she confides of the plot unfolding.

Wilcox sends her stories off to friends and family across the U.S.

"When are you sending more?" daughter Cheri Wilcox in Georgia asks when there's a lull.

"She takes them to work," the author states proudly.

"Now I'm looking for a publisher," Wilcox said. "In my heart, I've always thought I was an unusual person. I decided I better put some of these experiences on paper.

"Before I die, I want two or three published."