East Ridge Residents Collaborate on a Romantic Suspense Story During COVID-19

left to right: Margaret Cross, Linda Sankpill and Connie Scheel
A group of East Ridge residents discovered their creative talents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The result, “A Tale from The Ridge,” is a romantic suspense story written in a round-robin format where residents, families, and staff were invited to write a few lines or paragraphs.

Resident Linda Sankpill, the Town Hall Chair and a professional romance mystery writer, started the group off with a few characters and a setting that loosely resembled East Ridge.

“I wanted a way to engage residents during the most isolated time of the pandemic,” she said.

Remembering a technique from a creative writing class in college, Sankpill initiated the first page to kick
off the project.

“I wanted to leave it open so residents could take it in any direction they wished,” she explained. “It could be aliens from Mars, ghosts or whatever and it was wide open to go wherever their imagination would take it.”

The result surprised her: from peacock blood on a gun and a hero dog to a wide range of colorful characters.

Challenged that they couldn’t brainstorm together, Sankpill just asked them to provide a paragraph or two. There were a few weeks when the writers were getting bogged down with their character’s backgrounds, but Linda kept them on track. The collaboration took about three months.

Contributor Connie Scheel, who frequently writes for the community’s newsletter, found “the writing process a hoot.” Several of the book’s characters were developed by Connie as well as the back story for
the protagonist.

“I’d start thinking about a character and then let my thoughts marinate for a day or so before putting it on paper,” she said.

Scheel found the back story drew on her imagination rather than life experiences. An admitted city girl who is used to the convenience of grocery stores, she created a character that had lived in a commune and raised goats. Though she’s read every Dick Francis mystery and a lot of science fiction, she never aspired to write fiction but enjoyed the process.

Margaret Cross, an avid reader, has enjoyed writing poetry for many years and also contributed to the book. When the East Ridge dining room was closed and meals were being delivered to each residence, she found enjoyment in the writing assignments.

“You never knew what or who was going to be introduced,” she said. “When someone wrote about a bloody gun, the group was unhappy about the firearm. It was changed to a prop gun to suit them.”

Sankpill kept the plot from wandering and motivated the writers. Cross enjoyed reviewing the manuscript for grammatical errors along with Sankpill.

Along with Cross and Scheel, other contributors were Carol Boersma, Virginia Duggan, Sylvia Foy, Paula Kearns and Nan Spiegel.

When the book was completed, several residents expressed how much they missed the writing project. Sankpill was inspired to start a weekly writing class for short story writing and has shared the stories with residents through her newsletter. The class has morphed into a monthly writing club because the dining room is now open and residents have resumed some socially distanced activities.

The book, a labor of love, needed a title and Linda also turned to her neighbors. Resident Jim Fendell won the title contest. Sankpill used the internet to find an artist for the cover artwork and a local printer, Minuteman Press, in the Cutler Bay area.

Sankpill is often asked if there will be a sequel but she thinks not. In the meantime, she has copies available for interested readers. If you would like to obtain a copy of “A Tale from The Ridge, please call (305) 256-3564.

East Ridge at Cutler Bay is Miami-Dade County’s only true life care retirement community. The not-for-profit community draws from the neighborhood charm of suburban Cutler Bay and the vibrancy of Miami in a lush tropical setting of 76 acres, located at 19301 S.W. 87th Avenue. The community offers a continuum of care, including independent and assisted living apartment homes in a neighborhood setting, respite and skilled nursing care, and rehabilitation services available within Three Palms Health Center. To learn more about East Ridge, please visit www.EastRidgeAtCutlerBay.com.

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