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St. Thomas Native a Literary Hit at 74

July 24, 2007 — Local readers of AARP Magazine with long memories may have spotted a familiar face as they browsed through the July/August issue: A sidebar on p. 49 features Joan Medlicott, a St. Thomas native whose Covington Chronicles series is making a big splash in the literary world.
The main AARP Magazine article is about older women becoming house mates to better their financial and emotional security. The Covington Chronicles series is about just that — three widows who join forces in the fictitious town of Covington, N.C.
Medlicott, 74, and her husband of 40 years, Eben, are now North Carolina residents. They live in the mountain town of Barnardsville, just outside Asheville.
Medlicott left St. Thomas 34 years ago after growing up in the extended Paiewonsky clan. Her mother, Paulina Puritz, was a sister to former Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky and businessman Isidore Paiewonsky. Medlicott's brother is former Sen. David Puritz.
Her novel Belonging, published in 1996, draws on those experiences. Before Belonging, she wrote Celibate Wives; Breaking the Silence with Diana Waltz and Virgin Islands Tales of Ghosts, Hauntings and Jumbees with the late David Sasso. Her book Virgin Islands Tales of Olden Days was dedicated to Sasso.
When Belonging came out, she was hard at work on the first of her Covington Chronicles books.
The series now numbers seven books, and Medlicott has published two other books. They are The Three Mrs. Parkers and Come Walk with Me, which will hit the stands in December. She has other books in the works, including a historical novel set on St. Thomas from 1862 to 1868.
"I wanted to write about the transfer that didn't happen, the cholera epidemic and the hurricane and tidal wave of 1867," she said.
The story line is loosely based on that of her own family and the St. Thomas Jewish community at that time. Her grandmother, Rebecca, moved to St. Thomas from Lithuania at the end of the 1800s. Medlicott said her grandmother never talked about the past, but she's sure she moved to St. Thomas to get married.
The path to the Covington Chronicles took many twists. After marriage at age 18 and three children, she moved around the country thanks to her former husband's job.
They returned to St. Thomas in 1964, where she soon got a job as the local government's director of beautification. In 1973, she and her second husband moved to Boca Raton, Fla., where she worked as a coordinator of volunteers at a senior center.
"The whole writing thing came out of a woman's group in Boca Raton," she said.
The idea for the Covington Chronicles series came to her in the bathtub, the spot where she gets her best inspiration, Medlicott said. When she's not writing, she spends time managing the family's seven rental properties in Barnardsville and attending a writing group.
"We criticize each other," she said.
Medlicott's Covington Chronicles books, published by Pocket Books, are available at amazon.com. Visit her website at joanmedlicott.com.
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