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Finding a Voice — and Sharing Stories

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Troy Grimes always wanted to write fiction, but his 12-hour workdays as a corrections supervisor in Louisiana prisons got in the way of his literary aspirations.

After retiring from a 30-year career overseeing prisoners, he needed a creative outlet. He saw an ad for the Creative Aging: Writer’s Workshops, aimed at writers 55 and older. They are conducted by the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and were launched in 2021 with funding from a $10,000 AARP Community Challenge grant.

“I took the leap,” says Grimes, a 58-year-old who lives in Denham Springs, just outside Baton Rouge.

He’s glad he did. He wrote a fictional short story based on his experience growing up in Scotlandville, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Baton Rouge that was dramatically changed when a new highway cut through it beginning in the late 1970s. In his story, a young boy feels guilty when his friend dies after getting hit by a car on the highway.

At the end of the fall 2023 workshop, Grimes and other participants were featured in a self-published book available on Amazon called Louisiana Short Stories: An Anthology from America’s Most Storied State. The authors also did readings from their book at libraries and other venues.

Baton Rouge author Rannah Gray leads the six-week workshops, which sometimes have a waiting list, says Pam Bordelon, director of communications at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. Grimes says he learned from Gray about creating a narrative, as well as editing techniques.

He also learned from other workshop participants, many of whom had a master’s or doctorate. After the workshop ended, they kept in touch, always recommending fiction to each other. For Grimes, it was John Steinbeck. “I ran out and read The Pearl, and of course, I had to go right back and get Cannery Row,” Grimes says.

During his corrections career, Grimes suppressed his emotions. When he put words to paper, he let them out. “It’s just therapy for me,” says Grimes, who is now writing a novel.

Denise Greenwood Loveless, 56, a sculptor from St. Gabriel, south of Baton Rouge, was thrilled to see her name in print for her short story. She learned so much about tightening scenes and storytelling that she is making the final push to finish the novel she started six or seven years ago. 

“It taught me a world about how to edit, which is exactly where I was stuck on my novel,” she says. As she says she told her husband: “I’m about to finish after all these years.”

There have been four workshops so far; another is planned for this fall. Details at

—Cristina Rouvalis

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