Older Writers

April 7, 2015 | By | 46 Replies More

Densie Webb_2013 I am what the French so delicately call, femmes d’une certaine age, somewhere between middle age and Social Security—much closer to Social Security, if I’m being honest. And I just had my debut novel published as an ebook, with a paperback to come out later this year. I’m also in the process of having an audiobook produced. And recently I wrapped up a Facebook online book launch party hosted by the Women Fiction Writers Association. It’s all terribly exciting and energizing, in a youthful sort of way.

I’ve read several articles recently about authors, titled something to the effect, “Debut Authors after 40!” The message being, they may be over the hill, but look, isn’t it amazing? They can still actually write a book!” Forty has long since faded in my rearview mirror, yet my debut novel, “You’ll Be Thinking of Me,” was just released in January of this year.

So, what took me so long? Like so many of us, I got sidelined by family, by deadlines—by life. And it wasn’t until a dear friend convinced me that I could do this, and that “f**k, yeah” I should. I guess I’ve always been a few years behind most women when it comes to life passages. I had a too-early first marriage, but the second one, the one that has stuck, didn’t happen until I was in my mid-thirties.

While many of my friends and acquaintances were preparing to send their kids off to college, I was having my kids. When others were planning for retirement, I was (and still am) working full time, while planning my novel-writing career. Many of my online author friends who are releasing their novels—sometimes second and third novels—are a handful of decades younger than me, yet here I sit, looking down the barrel of my “golden years” and embarking on a new writing adventure.

I’ve done a lot of navel-gazing about why I’m ready and willing, excited even, to put myself through the rigors of writing, publishing and promoting, which as we all know, is not for the faint of heart. And I’ve asked myself, how do I feel about playing the role of new author at my age.

How do I feel?

I feel awesome! I feel enthusiastic! I see new, exciting possibilities! Writing I can do until my fingers become warped with arthritis and my eyes can no longer see the letters on the keyboard. This, I can do for the rest of my days. And you’re never “done” learning to be a writer, so there will always be the carrot of improvement dangling in front of me.

24546708I think it’s some mystical combination of denial of my chronological age (I think, if asked, I would clock in at thirty-something) and the ability to still feel that new possibilities are out there, waiting, just around the corner. “Possibility” is a romantic notion for a woman of any age, but at my age, it’s a special kind of magic that enables you to write a romantic suspense novel with young characters (24 and 27, to be exact), who have their lives ahead of them and make mistakes, but still have time left to rectify them.

To get me to this point, I spent years offering up my words to critique groups and ravenously taking in their feedback. Most who attended were much closer to my characters’ ages than my own and it was always encouraging (and entertaining) to watch their expressions, after reading the anonymously submitted pages, when they found out that the oldest woman in the group had written those words. I’m not sure how, but I’ve been able to tap into and channel that mindset—the unique exuberance and optimism of youth, with all its drama, heartache and longing.

The truth is, some of that never goes away. I think as we get older we simply learn to suppress it, lock it away in the attic of our minds where we think it belongs. Decorum and all that. But there are treasures hidden up there, romantic notions about life and possibilities. I like to take them out, dust them off, examine them and remember—no actually feel—what it was like when I was twenty-something and I was sure every love, every heartache would be my last.

There’s no moral to my story, just that the worn-out cliché, “You’re only as old as you feel,” is spot on. Sure, some days I feel younger than others, but overall I’m doing fine, thank you very much, and I have no intention of sitting on the sofa, putting on my terrycloth robe, closing the blinds, turning on Netflix, and…waiting. Not gonna happen. I have workshops to attend, blogs to post, novels to write—and possibilities to embrace.

Densie Webb (not Denise) has spent a long career as a freelance nonfiction writer and editor. Her debut novel “You’ll Be Thinking of Me” was released by Soul Mate Publishing in January 2015. She is an avid walker (not of the dead variety), drinks too much coffee and has a small “devil dog” that keeps her on her toes. She is currently working on a second novel.

Find out more about her on her website http://densiewebb.com/ and follow her on twitter https://twitter.com/dlwebb

 

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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

Comments (46)

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  1. Life can offer many twists and turns. We make choices along the way. One of the things I’ve discovered is it’s never too late to make a better choice. Here’s my story on the road to publication – which I’m still working on! http://www.maryannclarkescott.com/blog/

  2. I found you on FB, and am so glad I did! I’m 76, and am one year into my life as a blogger, er, writer. I have fallen in love with writing fiction while writing short stories loosely based on my memories of my childhood and younger life. You can find them on my blog. I write about ageism as well, and have addressed the terms people use when talking about us. I’ve found that there is a lot of confusion and discomfort when talking about older adults. Seniors, elders, olders, older adults, etc. None of these terms describes us well. But I do wish everyone would just stop saying “women of a certain age”! I find it’s coy, indirect, and not entirely honest. Why not just come out and state your age? I have a wonderful connection to many, many women over 60, and I can see the transition as they learn to accept who they are.

  3. Beatriz says:

    Wrong genre choice — I fancied myself a novelist or short story writer and never imagined I could write poetry on a publishable level!

  4. Middle age is the best time to write a book and launch a new career! I may have written in my forties, but I didn’t publish till my fifties. This month I’ll launch my third novel – they’re coming faster than the kids that kept me too busy to write in my thirties! – and, I’m just as proud of them. Dreams put on hold get a chance to stew longer, and the flavor or success is all the richer for it.Best to you and all the other second half century newbies!Let’s flaunt our stuff!

  5. Liz Trenow says:

    How true! Started writing seriously in 2009 aged 58. First novel published 2012, now writing my fifth, for Pan Macmilln. It’s never too late!

  6. Toni Jenkins says:

    I love your article, Densie! I also published later than I hoped (I was 44) and I intend to write novels until I exit stage left. I see no reason why I can’t. Let’s let the only number we think about be the number of books, stories, poems we produce. With all that hard-earned wisdom we amass over the years, it would be a shame not to share it!

    • Densie Webb says:

      Thanks so much, Toni! I totally agree. I don’t believe I had with wherewithal to write before now. Still working full time and anxious for the day when I can spend my days, as well as my nights, writing fiction. Best of luck!!

  7. Gill James says:

    I relate to this. I started a new career at the age of 55 – one that acknowledged my writing, actually, and now I’m about to retire or more exactly, become a full time writer.

  8. I’m 64 and I’ve been writing romance novels since 1996. I greatly enjoyed this article. I agree with you. I feel more liberated now than I have at any earlier point in my life!

  9. Encouraging post.Thanks. Have you any views or experience re whether age of author deters agents and publishers? I can see that it might as they don’t want a one-book wonder.

    • Densie Webb says:

      To my mind, they really don’t care about age, if they think it will sell. However, having said that, they also look at the promotional potential. If they have a choice between a young, attractive, vivacious young person vs an older person who’ve written similar types of novels, they’d go with the young person. But when you query, they’re really only looking at the story and if they think it will sell. So my non-answer is, it depends. 🙂

  10. Laini Giles says:

    Great article! I got a late start at everything, thanks to life.

    Publishing second novel TOMORROW. I highly recommend moving to another country and not being able to work for a year and a half to get into a regular writing routine and get gutsy enough to publish something!

    • Densie Webb says:

      Laini, I love the idea of moving to another country. I’m actually working on that. Maybe I can pick up the snail’s pace I feel that I’m writing at now. That’s awesome about publishing your novel! Best of luck!!!

  11. Becky says:

    Denise,

    Thank you for posting this wonderful article. After twenty-one years of teaching I am beginning my career as a writer. My first book GIANNA THE GREAT was published through Anaiah Press in March of 2015 and two sequels are already in production. I can totally relate to your linking into a younger perspective. My protagonist is an elementary student and we totally connect.

    At sixty one I am excited about my second career and the one I should have had all along except for the fact I needed a little life experience under my belt.

    Keep writing!
    Becky

    • Densie Webb says:

      Becky, congrats on your debut and the upcoming sequels. That’s awesome! Right now i have a day job and writing fiction. I’m looking forward to the day when writing fiction becomes my day job! Best of luck!

  12. I am an older author. One of the authors I interact with is 84. EIGHTY FOUR. Her debut novel comes out in early September. Sitting in your terrycloth robe and vegging on netflix isn’t about age, it’s about attitude. You’ve obviously found better things to do with your life. 🙂

    • Densie Webb says:

      Yes, yes, yes! Eighty-four and writing and publishing. That’s my goal. It is a matter of attitude, but based on my observations, it’s an attitude that becomes more pervasive with age. Sadly, it’s what society tends to expect of people as they age, as they retire, as they’re no longer YOUNG. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sounds like you’re determined to stay relevant as well. Best of luck!

  13. Second read for me – first time I’m able to thank you for echoing what so many of us are feeling and hoping to accomplish! It was fear and envy that got me moving last year. I’d dabbled my whole life but didn’t feel right taking the time and energy away from family obligations. Too late to go back and undo but I’m hoping to pass the message on to my daughter who got married just last week: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SACRIFICE YOUR WHOLE LIFE TO BE A GREAT MOM! My kids are my biggest supporters, they share all my FB and blog posts. Now I don’t have time to be embarrassed about claiming the title “writer.” Your success and sharing is inspirational!

    • Densie Webb says:

      Suzanne, how awesome that you want to read it a second time! If I’m being honest, I reread it myself as a reminder that all those youthful ideas and energy are in there. Just have to make sure they don’t get buried under all the stuff that come along with being an older adult. I have to mention that I saw Judy Blume at BookPeople in Austin this week. She’s 77 and is doing a book tour for her latest, “In The Unlikely Event.” Such an inspiration!

  14. Denise,
    Congrats on publishing your book and for sharing your journey with us! As a yet-to-be published woman writer ‘of a certain age’ it’s so gratifying see someone else having success. Best of luck to you!

  15. Hi Denise! Congratulations and good for you for getting your book published! I so, so agree that the only age limit for any of us is the one we put on ourselves. Staying optimistic, eager and excited about the future demands that we stay in the game. And aren’t we fortunate to live at such a wonderful time that allows us such great opportunity? I look forward to hearing great things about you and your work in the years to come. ~Kathy

  16. Splendid post. Thank you. I myself am a woman in a hurry. Began writing fiction 3 years ago. First novel coming out later this year (Driven Press) and a second one nearly ready. I agree that it’s never too late but all the same I wish I had started earlier. My novel by the way is called ‘Timed Out’ and I am in my seventies.

    • Densie Webb says:

      Barbara,

      Congratulations on your novel! And a second one on the way. I attended a writers’ conference last year and at one session, we went around the table saying what we wish we had done earlier and that’s exactly what I said, “I wish I had started earlier.” But, as my mother used to say, “If wishes were horses, I’d ride like a king.” So, I’m where I am and it sounds like you are too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Best of luck!

  17. A book is a book. It’s either good or it’s not. It shouldn’t make any difference at all how old the author is. And we shouldn’t feel we have to apologise for doing something amazing that most writers dream of because we are over 40. Well done to you. It doesn’t matter that you did it over forty, it matters that you did it. Good luck x

    • Densie Webb says:

      Lindsay, yes, yes, yes! I just think a reminder every once in a while (to myself as well to readers) that age is a state of mind and, as you said, “either it’s good or it’s not” is what counts. Thanks for commenting!

  18. Lucy says:

    Hi Densie,

    I loved your post. I think the implication that older writers are just coming out of the box or dabbling is such a poor assessment. Some people have very different experiences that either support an early writing career or they don’t. And even once the commitment is made, there’s still life to fit it around.

    I wrote a post in which refer to it being like a perfect storm to get the process underway (link here, hope you don’t mind me leaving one! http://lucybowler.com.au/?p=70 ).

    Best of luck as it all unfolds!

    Cheers,

    Lucy

    • Densie Webb says:

      Lucy,

      Thanks so much. And yes, I think the creation of the perfect storm of circumstances or having your desire to write reach critical mass, is essential for moving forward. I haven’t checked out your post yet, but I will!

  19. Sue says:

    I noticed the other day that the female protagonists in the last three short stories I wrote have all been 36 (I’m 44). Might need to change that up.

    I love the way the rest of my life feels when I look down the decades (maybe) and imagine myself writing all that time. It sort of makes me feel sad for people who don’t write 🙂

  20. You are always the age and energy of your current character in your Work in Progress.

  21. MM Finck says:

    Great article! What my own writing path has taught me – Timing is perfect whenever it is. I don’t feel old. I know teens that feel older than me. 🙂 In all seriousness, the more life experience you have, the better you can write about the myriad of emotions we experience and people we meet in life. So happy for you, Densie. Can’t wait to read it. I hope it blows up into one of those magical debut NYT bestsellers! 🙂
    ~MM

    • Densie Webb says:

      Thanks, “Ms. Finck.” One of these days, I’ll find out your first name.:-) Yes, “now” is the perfect time for anything you feel compelled to do. Writing has made my life infinitely fuller. I’m sure it has yours as well. We’ll keep plugging away, with or without the NYT!

  22. In an age when many have more than one career through a lifetime I think of us older women who have transformed ourselves into writers as keeping up with the times. Glad to be part of an aging but expanding club.

  23. Oh Denise! God love ya for getting it out there; for you, for me, and for all women over a certain age who have no intention of giving up – are on fact – just getting started. You are a true advocate and I salute you.

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