When Laguna Beach resident Sam Dawson turned 60, celebrating was the furthest thing from her mind.
"It was like the end of the world and I didn't do anything about it," Dawson said. "In my 40s and 50s I was having a great time. I used to act and loved being in the limelight."
After Dawson's second husband, Bill Dawson, died of cancer in 1996, certain signs of aging crept in, such as wrinkles around the ankles.
In search of wisdom and a desire to regain vitality, Dawson, now 73, embarked on an adventure. She interviewed 70 women from around the world to gain their thoughts on aging.
"Broad Appeal: Wit and Wisdom From Women Ages Sixty to Ninety" is Dawson's compilation of quotes from those interviews. She will sign copies of the book, her second, at 4 p.m. April 21 at Laguna Beach Books, 1200 S. Coast Hwy. Dawson, a former publicist, previously wrote a source book — a collection of historical documents published — for public service and public affairs.
Dawson knew 60% of the women before she started calling them for the book. She interviewed women from Wales, Florida and Maine, though most are from California. The book is a series of quotes from the women.
"The women were so candid, open and honest," said Dawson, who also has weathered a divorce. "They really inspired me. I found that I'm freer than at any time of my life."
One of the book's chapters is titled, "Health is not a laughing matter, but physical changes are a laughing matter."
Dawson took away three primary ideas from the interviews "Dump the toxic people in your life," and "Women are always trying to lose 10 pounds," are the first two.
The third centers around marriage: women married for 25 years or more are happy, she said.
She returned to the workforce after Bill Dawson died, taking a position with the Ahmanson Foundation. The organization funds various projects for arts, humanities and education, and programs related to homelessness and underserved populations in Los Angeles County.
Returning to the workforce helped her move on from Bill's death, Dawson said.
"I used to ask for permission to go to work," Dawson said. "There's been a huge change."
Dawson also ascribes to the "don't give a [darn] about what other people think," mantra.
Writing a book allowed Dawson to tap into her outgoing personality and her publicist roots. "The ulterior motive [for writing the book] was I wanted to be a speaker."
Portions of book sales will go to Impact Giving a Laguna Beach-based women's collective giving organization that has granted $345,000 to 20 nonprofit agencies — 11 locally in three years, according to its website. Dawson heads Impact Giving's grant writing program and is an original board member. Impact Giving gives money to organizations that feed destitute seniors and donate wheelchairs to people in developing countries.
Impact Giving will announce its next grant recipients May 8.