Farmer and author Dori Sanders reflected on the transitory nature of life and fame at the 10th annual YWCA Leader luncheon last Friday.
The South Carolina peach-grower spoke to a capacity crowd at the Little America Grand Ballroom. Sanders said she sometimes lets her two novels and one cookbook go to her head.When that happens, she rereads her fan letters. The ones from children are especially humbling.
Sanders let her drawl run deep, causing her Utah audience to laugh, as she read, "Dear Miss Sanders, My teacher made me write this letter to you but I don't have nothing to say so Bye."
Award recipients also talked about humility and honor, as they accepted Women of Achievement awards from Susan Sheehan, director of the Salt Lake YWCA.
Third District Court Judge Leslie Lewis won the award for government, for a career that has included 10 years as a prosecutor of child abuse cases. During her last year as a prosecutor, she handled five child homicides. She began and ended the year in the morgue, both times to see the beaten body of an 18-month-old. After that, she went back into private law. She later became a judge.
Lewis said this YWCA award came at the exact time when her spirit needed to be renewed. She pledged it would make her try harder to help people in pain.
Sally Smith won the award for business. Her bookstore, A Woman's Place, recently closed, explained Sheehan. But for 11 years it was a gathering place.
Smith said she'd been in awe of the Women of Achievement awards and said that getting one made "a happy ending for A Woman's Place."
Colleen Casto, producer for KUED, won the award for arts and communication. When she began her work on an award-winning domestic violence piece, Casto had no idea that her own birth mother had been stabbed to death. Or that her mother's husband was the one wield-ing the knife.
In accepting her award, Casto spoke of her years as a single mother/college student. She said she always told her children that there is a way out of poverty and education is the key.
Psychologist Agnes Plenk, founder of The Children's Center, got the award for science/-tech-no-lo-gy. Contrary to what colleagues told her 30 years ago, there are actually some emotionally disturbed children in Utah. "A large number," Plenk said. And they are also bright and spontaneous and fun to be with. She thanked the community for helping her to help them.
Lynn Trenbeath, assistant superintendent in Davis School District, won for education. Sheehan called her "a grateful, happy breast cancer survivor," who had, like a true teacher, turned her illness into an opportunity to educate. Trenbeath accepted the award on behalf of all women in leadership.
Maria Farrington, United Way Community Building director, won an award for human services. Shee-han introduced her as a wife, mother and Big Sister to a local Hispanic girl. Farrington honored her foremothers, while accepting her award. "I am a product of their dreams," she said.
Dori Sanders' dream was always of just one thing: to get off the farm. But now that she's "60-some-odd," and still there, it seems the world has come to her. The New York Times called "Clover," her first book, "the genuine item." Her family fruit stand has been featured in Time magazine.
Sanders came up with the plot for "Clover" one day 10 years ago, while sitting on her porch and watching a funeral procession go by. She thought about how death touches us all. She was intrigued by two of the faces in the passing cars. She wrote a best-selling novel.
Afterwards, she felt famous and rich and hired someone to do her share of the work in the fields. But then she got a notice from the IRS that she would have to pay taxes on her royalties. So Sanders had to write a second novel to pay taxes on the first.
Now she's back to doing her own farming. Sanders cheerily reported to her Utah audience that her old tractor is faster than her brother's old tractor.