After decades of writing non-fiction, Harriet Fry decided to try her hand at a short story in 2020. The project soon took on a life of its own for the 1995 alumna and grew into a novel, Rum Raisin Rendezvous, a breezy summer romance set in Miami.
The story follows Mattie Bryant, a young woman who is dissatisfied with her life and decides to make changes. She ditches her commitment-shy fiancé, who keeps finding excuses to avoid setting a wedding date, and then quits her unfulfilling teaching job to take on ownership of a popular ice cream parlor on the shore of Biscayne Bay.
Her fresh start triggers possibilities for business success and new romance, even though entanglements with her former beau and a mysterious woman with criminal tendencies keep throwing roadblocks at her. Despite these obstacles, Mattie persists. Like her shop that attracts new customers when it adds rum raisin ice cream to the menu, Mattie blossoms when she adds new flavors to her life.
“The novel is pure fiction,” says Fry. “Unlike my protagonist, I spent 14 years as a special education teacher in Philadelphia, and I loved my job.”
Now retired at 70, she explains that her impetus for trying fiction was the COVID-19 lockdown. “Watch TV all day? No, thank you. So, I came up with a light, easy-to-read, beach book idea and started writing. When I reached twelve or thirteen thousand words, I thought that I might have a book on my hands.”
Most of her writing occurred in 2020. “In the beginning, I wrote every day. As it took shape, I began to write only when I knew that I would not be interrupted. That was usually in the wee hours of the morning, between 4:00 and 7:00 a.m.”
She kept writing until she had a book-length draft. After two rewrites to refine the characters and plot, she sent a publisher a query letter, but the company declined. Her second attempt was to Blossom Spring Publishing, based in Manchester, England, and they responded positively. So, Fry went through the usual process of sending a proposal, three sample chapters, and then the entire manuscript. The novel was published in March of 2022.
Since she started freelancing in 1978, Fry has written non-fiction for a broad variety of magazines (women’s interests, arts and crafts, travel, in-flight, and trade publications). She found her niche writing human interest stories, essays, and op-ed pieces for City Paper and the South Philadelphia Review. “I ran the gamut of topics and styles,” she says.
During her writing career, she also worked as a real estate agent and teacher but confesses that “my true love is the written word.” Even during her service with the Navy (1969-72), she worked as a journalist.
Fry holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies (1995) from Neumann and a master’s degree in Education (2003) from Temple University. She served on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference for more than twenty years and was its president for a term in the early 2000s.
Rum Raisin Rendezvous is available on Amazon (Amazon.com : rum raisin rendezvous).