TRAVERSE CITY — Barb Smith’s quirky humor can light up a dinner table.
The retired writer and secretary eats three meals a day in the dining hall at Holiday Retirement’s Glen Eagle residence, where she has lived for the last 10 years. She floats from table to table, swapping stories and turning strangers into friends.
“My sense of humor sometimes comes out during a meal and we all laugh,” she said.
Smith, 93, lets her love of laughter and storytelling shine through her writing. The Traverse City resident pens short stories, limericks and other poetry, and she’ll see her latest work published in a compilation of children’s stories this winter.
She submitted her poem, “Mortimer Bean’s Crazy Machine,” to a national story drive launched by Holiday Retirement and was among five authors selected to be published from 57 applicants.
“It’s a funny poem, one I had written that I thought youngsters would appreciate and should make them laugh a little,” she said. “That’s what we need.”
Smith’s story follows a man named Mortimer and his latest invention. The tale is loosely inspired by her late husband, Ray Smith, who worked for Ford Motor Company.
Smith wants the rhyme to make children laugh, but she hopes they’ll learn from it, too.
“Yes it’s silly, because children love being silly. But they need to know that what makes the world go ‘round is inventions,” she said.
Smith has been inventing stories since she learned how to write and shared them mostly with her family. She couldn’t write as many down while she was working, but that didn’t stop her from weaving stories with her three daughters.
“I had twins. You know how busy a mother can be with twins. I used to talk to them in rhyme,” she laughed.
Smith also made a point to read to her children when they were young before she tucked them in at night. She worries the ubiquity of cellphones, tablets and other gadgets has since taken away from nurturing family time, and she doesn’t want the bedtime story tradition to go the way of the dodo.
“Books are still mighty important to children,” Smith said. “Children like to laugh, and they remember. They remember things from stories that mothers and fathers read to them.”
“Bedtime Stories: Original Tales Shared from One Generation to the Next,” is set to be released this winter. All proceeds from book sales will benefit the National Center for Families Learning, a charity aimed at improving family literacy.