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Author Karen (Traynor) Cole donates memoir

By Kaye Bird

SPRING VALLEY, WI - On Tuesday June 8, Karen L. Cole, author of "Lifting the Veil" returned to her  hometown of Spring Valley for a reading and a book signing. She was also thereto present a copy of her book to the Spring Valley Library.

   Cole read excerpts from her first full-length work to a very appreciative audience. Quite simply, her book is fascinating. "Lifting the Veil" is a memoir of her life as a Benedictine nun.

   "Young people ask me why I would join the convent," she said as a way of introducing her book. "Older people ask me why I left." The answers to both of those questions lie between the covers of her memoir.

   Cole, who taught high school English in Canada for nearly 30 years, told the story of the day her high school students found out about her past.

   It happened one Halloween. Halloween parties and Halloween related costumes were frowned upon by the district in which she taught, so she told her students that for one day they should all dress up as someone from their past. She would do the same. "I came dressed as a nun," she said. Her students were surprised, to the say the least, and they had many questions.

   She then revealed her past life to a local writers' group of which she was a member. "They told me I had to write a book." In August of 2001, Karen wrote a basic draft and showed it to her mother who said, "There are lots of things [in the draft] that I didn't know about you." Next, the draft found its way into the hands of her dear friend and classmate, Mary Ann Richardson from Spring Valley. "She had one comment," remembered Karen. "She said, 'I want more.'" With hard work and much encouragement from family and friends, "Lifting the Veil" was published in 2009.

   Karen (Traynor) Cole was born in Olivet 1943. After her graduation from Spring Valley High School in 1961, she became Benedictine nun at Saint Bede's in Eau Claire where she earned a BA and taught for four years. "My Benedictine family became very important to me," she said.

   The late 60s/early 70s was an exciting time for Karen. "In the late 1960s, I wanted to do something good for other people. I think that late 60's movement was a big inspiration for me. I wanted to do something for the world, and I wanted to do something that was based in religion." Other events helped her along in her decision to leave the convent. "In 1970, there was a lot of upheaval in the church following the Second Vatican Council" said Cole. She left the convent in that same year.

   After leaving, she earned her Master of Arts Degree from the University of Kansas and taught for one year in Missouri. But it was her decision to teach in Jamaica that sent Karen's life in a whole different direction.

   While teaching in Savanna-La-Mar, Jamaica, she met her husband, John who was from Canada. In 1974 they married, and in 1975 the couple moved to Ontario where they both taught in the Scarborough schools for almost 30 years.

   After retirement in 2001, Karen became a serious writer. In 2008, her story "Quilts and Quirks" appeared in an anthology on grandmothers called "Wisdom of Old Souls." She has written an unpublished novel about Jamaica which she calls "Southern Exposure" and is working on another called "Letters to Louise."

   Today, Karen is no longer a practicing Catholic. "I have some issues," she said. "It's been a gradual change, but I do believe in a Supreme Being." And she has remained friends with the nuns from Saint Bede's. "I keep in touch with them; there have never been any hard feelings. They have always accepted me and been supportive of me."

   To find out more about this local celebrity, visit Karen's website at Information on how to order "Lifting the Veil" can also be found at that address.

Posted with the permission of Paul J. Seeling - Owner, Editor & Publisher - Gateway Publishing (Sun-Argus, Woodville Leader)