I’ve given two talks in the past 48 hours. One to a group of aspiring writers at my local library, another to a book discussion group a couple hours away. Both had dreamers there with stories in their soul who have always wanted to write. Nearly all were people who had put these dreams on hold while they raised families, tended to ill parents,and worked demanding jobs. Most were at a point in their lives where they finally had the time to write–but assumed they were too old at 40, or 50, or 60 to try for publication.
When I began seriously writing and submitting at age 50, I “knew” I was too old–but felt compelled to at least try. At my first writers conference where I shakily pitched my first book to a New York editor, I was astonished to find out that my age didn’t seem to be a consideration. The only thing that mattered to her was whether or not my writing was any good. She accepted a manuscript, read it, and turned it down with suggestions for improvement–not because of my age but because the novel’s structure was dicey.
I was sixty years old when my first book Love Finds You In Sugarcreek, Ohio was published. I am sixty-two now. My third novel came out this month and I have four more contracted novels that will be publishing at six month intervals into 2014.
This is one of surprising things about the publishing industry: Age, weight, gender, education, looks, social connections–everything by which society tends to judge us–is unimportant compared to whether or not we can write well and consistently. I even heard one literary agent say that he prefers to represent older people because their life experiences tend to make their writing deeper.
It was never my intention to become a poster child for starting a writing career simultaneously with qualifying for social security–but if it will help give someone the heart to write–so be it.
A friend in Tennessee has been e-mailing me short stories he has written. He’s a retired teacher and writing has become a retirement hobby. He thinks he’s too old to publish–but these stories are SO good! One thing I’ve noticed–his latest story, written at age 79, is even BETTER than those he wrote five years ago. Pushing 80, he’s grown as a writer.
And then this morning, I read the most amazing thing–and it triggered this post. Herman Wauk, author of The Caine Mutiny, and War and Remembrance, recently sold a brand new book to my publisher, Simon & Schuster. The word is that his new book is really good.
Here’s the thing: Herman Wauk is 97. Compared to him–I’m a mere child! Kinda made my morning:-)