by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
She had done a lot of writing throughout her legal career, but now her writing focuses more on fun and less on the facts.
Attorney Mary Wood Bridgman retired as vice president of Corporate Audit, Risk Management and Compliance for BlueCross and BlueShield of Florida in December after a 22-year career and was looking forward to writing for “fun” rather than writing for work. While Bridgman hasn’t totally given up the practice of law, she has devoted most of her time recently to writing...and recording.
“I’ve written all my life, but college and law school didn’t allow me a lot of time for writing for pleasure,” said Bridgman. “I’m writing Southern humorist short stories right now and they are meant to appeal to people who have grown up in the South.”
She has pursued her passion for writing by signing up for writing workshops and attending local writing groups and a creative writing class offered by the Community Education program of the Duval County School System at Englewood High School. She has learned that the writing process and producing results is a lot different from the corporate world she retired from. In the corporate world, success was measured in dollars and deadlines, but writing has been more personal for Bridgman.
“When you let someone else critique your work, you feel a little vulnerable,” said Bridgman. “The more personal it is, the more difficult it is to let someone else review it. I am open to the critique process, though, and I am glad to have it.”
She is growing more accustomed to the process of review and of getting her work published.
“The most difficult part is finding the right market, and developing that collection of rejection letters,” said Bridgman. “I’m glad I don’t have to count on writing for a living. Especially, now, in the tough economic times we are in.”
While getting published has been a struggle for Bridgman, she is not without success at the early stage of her new career. Her work “Womanless Wedding” will appear in an upcoming issue of Old Florida Journal, and she was reading the piece on air for FM-89.9 to contribute to its “In Context” news program. The radio station is the local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate.
“She approached us and we’re always looking for good writers,” said Kevin Meerschaert, host of In Context. “She is a good storyteller and a great writer. She was a good addition to ‘In Context.’”
Bridgman got the idea after hearing one of her favorite authors, Bailey White of Thomasville, Ga., reading her stories on the radio. She now records two segments a month and will run on alternate Saturdays.
“It’s pretty amazing. You can hear it around the world on the Internet,” said Bridgman. “We listened to the radio program when we were in Romania during our recent trip to Europe.”
Traveling is another activity that is filling up Bridgman’s retirement and she also takes trips with her family to their place on Kingsley Lake, a place where Bridgman draws inspiration for her writing. This inspiration moved her to writing earlier in her life as she submitted “A History of Kingsley Lake” to her Florida Studies class as a freshman at the University of Florida in 1975. The 20-page submission can be viewed at www.kingsleylake.org.
Bridgman also spends some of her retirement catching up with friends and colleagues over lunch. She was active in the Jacksonville Bar Association (JBA) as Young Lawyers Section President, Board of Governors member and editor of the JBA Bulletin. Bridgman also served as Federal Bar Association, Jacksonville Chapter, President.