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It’s Never Too Late
From:
American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York , NY
Wednesday, August 21, 2013

 

Stephanie Dahl
Recently, there was a feature article in my local paper about an 80 year old?s first novel. Author Peggy Lewis said that the book had ?been percolating? in the back of her mind for years. The article also quoted another local writer, Leila Meacham, who published her first novel in her 70s, as saying that ?pursuing a writing goal later in life has its advantages.?
Well, yes and no ? maybe. I remember back in 1996 when Frank McCourt, then a 66 year- old retired English teacher, published his first book, Angela?s Ashes. It became a blockbuster best-seller and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize; the author was instantly catapulted to talk-show-circuit, cocktail-party-gala fame ? a status he clearly enjoyed. I heard him speak once.  Don?t remember much that he said about writing, but do remember his regaling the audience with many lively anecdotes, a performance that had no doubt been perfected in the classroom while teaching and on weekends while engaging in barroom banter.

?When I retire, I?ll write a book?
As a working writer myself then, I recall thinking how absolutely unlikely his enormous success really was. Warranted or not, he would become the poster child for all those ?when I retire, I?ll write a book? types, all those who think that writing is easy, that all you need is a little time, and that once done, fame and fortune will surely follow.
Tracy Sugarman, author of the soon-to-be-published Nobody Said Amen, is 88. His wife calls him ?the oldest first novelist in the world.? Well, not really. A quick Google search reveals that there are many first novelists older than he, including one Lorna Page of the UK, who used the proceeds from her first book at age 93 to buy a country house so her nursing home friends could come live with her in a less depressing place!
And then there are all those writers who have kept on writing, often prolifically, into old, old age. Well-known romance novelist Barbara Cartland, who died at 99 but left behind 160 manuscripts yet to be published, comes to mind, as does Doris Lessing, who just won the Nobel Prize at age 88. Maybe the real secret to achieving writing goals later in life is to start writing early and never stop. It?s never too late if you never stop.
Just keep writing
I started writing early, published articles in newspapers and magazines, even wrote three non-fiction books ? and did it while teaching English like Frank McCourt. But then, 10 years ago, my main editor, first reader, and dear friend died in a car crash, and I stopped writing, stopped publishing. Just stopped. Till now.
And now I?m a retired baby boomer eligible for Medicare, so I?ll have to let you know if I find any advantages to pursuing writing goals later in life.  Perhaps it really is never too late to begin? or to begin again.

 
Alexandra Owens
Executive Director
ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors)
New York, NY
212 997-0947
212 937-2315