By Tammy Scileppi
Rita Plush: Her name seems to evoke an image of a golden era movie star. But Ms. Plush, a published short story writer and essayist, never sought fame. When her first novel, “Lily Steps Out,” recently debuted, it seemed fame had found her.
Like most women of her generation, the author seemed happy and content with her traditional role as a devoted wife to hubby Herb and nurturing mother to their three now-grown children, while playing family mediator. It seemed a safe and comfortable cocoon — à la “Leave it to Beaver” — in many ways.
“I’ve been living in Hollis Hills for 47 years and raised my children here. I know so many people through my synagogue and the schools my children went to,” said the grandmother of four in a recent interview from her East Hampton getaway home.
In “Lily Steps Out” (Penumbra Publishing, May 2012), Mrs. Lily Gold decides it’s time to do her own thing, after 33 years of marriage. Always the dutiful wife and mother, her life has become humdrum after the kids flew the coop, leaving her an empty nester.
When Lily’s husband, Leon suffers a heart attack, she suddenly realizes how fragile life truly is.
Then, after he recovers, Lily “finds herself” through antiquing and dreams of opening her very own antique center, which doesn’t sit well with loving but needy Leon.
“One hell of a nurse… If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be here,” Leon tells her.
He’s right. She was the one last spring, while Leon was driving and suddenly gasped, grabbing at his chest. She, who leaned over his slumped body and fumbled with the swerving wheel, accelerating, slamming the brake, blaring the horn, “Let me through! Let me through!” And begging Leon, “Please don’t die,” all the way to the emergency room.
But outside of that, what has she done? Outside of all the work of wife and mother, what has she accomplished? She has a brain; why isn’t she using it?
“Like my novel, there’s a kernel of truth in all my short stories — something that actually happened at one time, or someone or something I observed and then developed into a character or an event,” said Plush.
“That’s what we writers do, we take a thing that exists or existed, and let our imaginations do the rest.”
In stark contrast to Lily Gold, Rita Plush has had more than one career — not only as a successful writer who loves her craft, but also as an interior decorator and teacher/lecturer of the decorative arts.
“As for my interior design work, I recently completed a family room in a home in Kew Gardens I’ve been working on for a few years.”
And, as coordinator of the Interior Design/Decorating Certificate Program at Queensborough Community College, Plush will be teaching the Basic Principals of Interior Design, and the Accessories segment of the Accessories & Color class this fall.
The author said she feels lucky to have had so much creative support from her Bayside Writers Group, since she started writing 20 years ago: “Writers fall in love with their words; they’re our darlings. We love them, and sometimes, like our children, we can’t see their faults. We need others to do that for us — to be objective.” They meet at the Terrace Diner in the Bay Terrace Shopping Center on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m., have dinner and start reading their work.
“Anyone serious about writing is welcome to join us,” she said.
Plush’s second novel is already in the works. Loosely titled “Feminine Products,” it follows some of the characters in “Lily.” She’s also working on a collection of short stories, many of which have been published in literary magazines.
In their spare time, “Herb and I like to go to the Kew Gardens Theatre on Lefferts Boulevard. They have all the art films we enjoy,” said Plush. “We often go to dinner across the street at a little pizza place with a restaurant in the back, Dani’s. We also like Pier 25A on Northern Boulevard for seafood, and Luigi’s on Union Turnpike in New Hyde Park for Italian.
“Life has taught me to be persistent; to keep going even when things aren’t working out. Do all you can and keep at the thing you believe in.”
“Lily Steps Out,” is available through Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook, and from Barnes & Noble online in ebook. It is also being sold at The Jewish Museum Gift Shop on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Author Talk & Book Signing
Aug. 23, 1:30 p.m.
Windsor Park Library
Bell Blvd. & Union Turnpike
Oct. 1, 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Queensborough Community College
222-05 56th Ave.
October 13, 1 p.m.
East Hampton Library
159 Main St.
March 14, 2013, 2 P.M.
Great Neck Library