A Bitter Old Writer

Monday, August 08, 2011

Recently, I realized that I was a bitter, old writer. Yes, me! When I look in my bathroom mirror I am neither bitter nor old (OK, maybe...mature...but definitely not old). But when I look in my magical writer mirror? Yowza! Bitter. Old. Really old.

Maybe it's not that I'm so old as much as the fact that I keep running into people that are really young.

This upcoming year is going to be a big year for one writer I know. She's releasing her second novel... and graduating from high school.

I went to a writer's conference and the agent conducting a workshop was all hand flapping and nervous grins. She reminded me of someone I know...my college-aged daughter! OMG, do I remind the agents of their mothers? Would they ever believe someone their mom's age could write a YA novel?

For Christmas I got a subscription to a writer's magazine that offers a quick bio of four or five debut authors each month. Seems I'm way behind schedule. Debut authors are twenty-somethings. They're single. They don't have the wrinkles that come with raising three kids.

Have I missed my chance? Is it time for me to give it up in favor of younger, more hip writers? Is being a debut author like playing the ingenue for actresses? After all, there comes a time when actresses stop auditioning out to play Juliet and start auditioning to play Lady Capulet or Juliet's nurse. Am I too old for a debut novel?

I was beginning to think that novel writing wasn't in the cards for me when I met Nayanna Currimbhoy, author of Miss Timmins' School for Girls, released this June. When I asked her what made her write she told me, "I have always wanted to write a novel since I was fourteen years old. That is all I ever wanted to do. I just didn't get it together to do it. And then when 50 was upon me, I realized that it was now or never."

I wondered, how many other writers were "mature" when they published their first novel? Plenty, it turns out! Here's the list that hangs on my bulletin board. Feel free to copy it for your bulletin board! And let me know if you have any authors to add!

Debut Authors with Laugh Lines!!!

  • Alex Haley (Roots) -- age 55
  • Annie Proulx (The Shipping News) -- age 57
  • Bram Stoker (Dracula) -- age 50
  • James Michener (Tales of the South Pacific) -- age 40
  • Jeanne Ray (Julie and Romeo) -- 50s
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House series) -- age 65
  • MJ Rose -- mid-40s
  • PD James -- age 42
  • Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer's Daughters) -- age 57
  • Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) -- age 57
  • Richard Adams (Watership Down) -- age 52
  • Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) -- age 54
I just took a peek in my magical writer mirror. The face peeking back at me isn't bitter or old!

Jodi Webb is a WOW Blog Tour organizer, writer and mom of children old enough to drive! Stop by Words by Webb to learn how her writing life is going.


Nancy said...

Enjoyed your post today. It was good to see that list of 'mature' people who published novels. I think one of the reasons we're seeing so many very young authors published is that a good many of today's editors are also very young and they relate to one another. A plus for the young writer, maybe not for the mature ones. I'm a grandmother who still writes and will do so as long as I have a mind. :)


Tamara Marnell said...

I'm only 23, but I can tell you that if I were twenty years older I would be a much better writer. Imagination and second-hand knowledge can only take you so far--you need real-life experience to write convincingly. You need to experience conflicts, meet different people, and mature enough to read those people instead of projecting the biases of immaturity on everything. I tried to write a novel in high school, but with only my tiny fishbowl perspective to draw from, it ended up in the trash. I'm trying again now, but I still have to limit my characters to young "hip" females because I can't identify strongly with others yet. Any attempt I make at older adults feels shallow.

Margo Dill said...

Yes, yes, yes! :) Love this post.


Amber Polo said...

Of course you're kidding to write that early 40s is old.

Robyn Chausse said...

Thanks Jodi, I needed this!

Jodi Webb said...

Glad you all enjoyed the post. Since I'm just home from my summer vacation I'm a little happier...OK, except when I look at that pile of laundry waiting for me!

Anonymous said...

Posts like these make me think it's possible and I don't have to live in the depths of despair bc I've lost my chance rearing kids. Thank God!

The other day I was reading Matthew Norman's Domestic Violets and saw he was born two years before me. Yikes!! I had the beginnings of an anxiety attack, started plotting out hours in a day to write, deadlines for my rough draft, finding an agent, etc etc. I yelled at my kids, burned the chicken fried steak and started crying in the bath. Sometimes we feel like chances are rushing away from us at warp speed and all we can do is look on, helplessly.

But reminders like this--that others have done it too--often provide the strength to keep on keepin' on.

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