Monday, June 22, 2009

Fifty Something: Books from the Grave


By Marilyn Baron

“I’m in love,” my daughter said. “This is the one I’ve been waiting for. But it’s a big commitment. I hope I’m doing the right thing.” I was excited. My daughter had finally found her Prince Charming. I had visions of engagement parties, June weddings and grandchildren. Actually, it turned out to be my daughter’s description of her new luxury Park Avenue studio apartment in New York City. When she signed the lease, the doorman hugged her and said, “Welcome Home.” Well, that’s a story with a happy ending. Anytime one of your children is happy is a reason to celebrate.

At my age, I’ll take any excuse at happiness. Last month, I celebrated my 50 Somethingth birthday. And this is the birthday present I got from my doctor.

I’m Coming Elizabeth

“This is Dr. (Physician who shall remain nameless) calling Marilyn Baron. I got the results of your echocardiogram. It did show that you have a slightly thickened left ventricle consistent with high blood pressure, which means that you need to have your blood pressure well controlled. You also had mitral valve prolapse and mitral regurgitation, which is the cause of the murmurs. There’s no particular significance to that. You don’t need to do anything about that, but it does explain those murmurs.”

Okay, that’s a lot to lay on a person, especially a person who didn’t know she had heart murmurs to begin with. Ah, the joys of being chronologically challenged. Before I never knew I had a problem. But now, if I get excited about something, I can attribute it to my heart murmur. Like Fred Sanford on Sanford and Son, whenever something riles me I clutch my chest dramatically, look heavenward and say, “I’m Coming Elizabeth!”

And these days, I have a lot to rant about – those annoying calls I get three times a day, and usually at 3 o’clock in the morning, warning me of the dire consequences if I don’t renew my auto warranty, or those e-mails from Vince extolling the virtues of the ShamWow® or the Snuggie Blanket, or those unsolicited e-mails about male enhancers. I think the people who sold the mailing lists to these companies should be prosecuted.

And I’m not the only one with anger management issues. My neighbor was furious about an incident that happened at her daughter’s high school and she showed me a blistering two-page and growing letter to the assistant principal she had just finished.

“You’re angry,” I said. “Maybe you need a blog.”

But, I digress. Back to my heart murmurs. Apparently these murmurs have made me lose my ability to multi-task.

On multi-tasking

I was having lunch at a Thai restaurant with a friend recently when I went to open up a packet of sugar to pour into my Jasmine tea and accidentally poured it into my bowl of Won Ton soup. Apparently I can’t sweeten my tea and talk at the same time. The ability to multi-task obviously dwindles as you age.

And speaking of age, sometimes I wonder if I’m too old to write. But I just ran across an interesting article in the May 2009 issue of the AARP Bulletin in a column headed, “Power of 50.” And yes, I am old enough to have an AARP card. Just not old enough to qualify for the senior discount at the movie theater.

The article, entitled, “Write On Past Age 50,” by Bill Hogan, poses this question:

“Aiming to write the great American novel? There’s hope. Nearly a dozen of the annual best-selling novels of the past 50 years have been created by American authors in their 50s, 60s and 70s – some of whom turned to writing after other careers.”

The illustrious list includes some of my favorite authors – Irving Stone, James Michener, Leon Uris and Robert Ludlum. Maybe I could aspire to be like Robert Ludlam. He’s dead, but despite his demise, he continues to produce best-sellers. Perhaps he’s channeling from the grave. Is it me or has his writing improved since his death?

Okay, that’s good news. But if I have any advice for a young person contemplating a writing career, it would be this: “It’s never too early to start writing.” I’ve been employed as a writer my entire professional career but I wish now I had started writing fiction earlier in my life. My daughter is 23 and she just started writing so I have a lot of hope for her.

What do you think? Can you have a successful writing career after 50? Is there room at the top for an over-the-hill writer?

26 comments:

Chicki said...

Marilyn,

Great post! I didn't start writing until I turned 50 and have often questioned my sanity in this regard. :)

There is a great article on WritersDigest.com entitled, "Publish Your First Book After 50." Here's a quote:

"And if there’s any doubt that older novelists can succeed, keep this in mind. Anna Sewell didn’t sell the classic novel Black Beauty to her publisher until she was 57. Karen Blixen, the Danish author who wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen, didn’t publish her first book until 50—and her blockbuster, Out of Africa, hit the market when she was 52. Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie series, didn’t have her first book published until she was well into her 60s. Richard Adams, author of the children’s classic Watership Down, remained unpublished until he was in his 50s.

And take inspiration from the Bangladeshi writer Nirad Chaudhuri. His first book, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, was published in 1951, when he was 54 years old. Its sequel hit the market in 1988, when he was 90. And his final book, Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse, was published in 1997—when he was 100."

You can find this article at:
http://www.writersdigest.com/article/publish_your_first_book_after_50/

Your GRW sister,

Marilyn Baron said...

Chicki,

Thank you so much for telling me about this article in Writer's Digest.com. The example that resonated the most for me was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I didn't realize she was that old when she wrote "Little House." She was my inspiration. Her series was the reason I started writing. Wow! That's something to consider.

Thank you for sharing this information.

Marilyn Baron

Sandy Elzie said...

Marilyn,

Loved the post! I started writing in 2001...I was 51 and signed the contract for my first publication when I was 58. Like the "old" saying, Like wine and cheese, we only get better with age.

The problem is that since technology moves onward so fast that if we don't text...or don't Twitter...the younger generation thinks we're not capable of dressing ourselves in the morning. (g)

I learned something...I didn't know Robert Ludlum was deceased. Shame.

I also enjoyed Chicki's comments.
Have a great day.

Sandy

Anonymous said...

I was thrilled to hear that your daughter loves her place.

When our children are happy; life is good.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Marilyn, I would have laughed even harder at the sweetner moment, but it hits too close to home!

If you can't start a successful writing career after 50 then I'm sunk. :)

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Marilyn,

Great post with lots of food for thought. I've almost put sweetener in my soup, too. And I'm not fifty. But I did have a newborn at the time.

I'm hoping I can have a successful writing career after fifty because I'm beginning to think I may be that old before I get there!

Thanks for your slice of life,
Sally

Marilyn Baron said...

Sandy,
We may not twitter, but we blog, and that's something! I think we do get better with age.

Thanks Anonymous, for your kind thoughts.

Sally, you will definitely be published before 50 and Debbie you will be published too and who cares if we're over 50?

Marilyn

Ana Aragón said...

Marilyn,

Thanks for the reminder...I'm well over the age of fifty, but that snotty kid who balked when I asked for the senior discount at the theatre on Saturday can kiss my patootie! Pretty soon the senior discount will trigger at 70!

Well, at least she did say, "Wow, you don't look anywhere near 60!"

Thank you very much.

Ana

Marin Thomas said...

Marilyn

What a great post! The more life we live the better, sweeter, deeper our writing becomes. I think your best days of writing are ahead of you!

Marin
www.marinthomas.com

Maxine Davis said...

Marilyn,
I thoroughly ejoyed your post!

I hope the room at the top is reserved for the over-the-hill writer. I started writing in 1986 - I'll blog about that one day. OK, in 1986 some of you were worrying about that zit and would there be another. My husband now kids me that I'm letting my hobby, writing, become my job, but that's fine. I love writing and it sure beats housework.

And, the beloved Agatha Christie wrote 4 books and had 6 published in her 80's (you will recall Curtain and Sleeping Murder were written 4 decades earlier). I think she was the greatest!

Nicki Salcedo said...

Marilyn, it took me months to figure out that we weren't the same age. Either I'm wise beyond my years or you are a spring chicken.

I'd be excited if I published my first book at age fifty. I'd rather not write and sell fast, but write and sell something good.

You have me cracking up thinking about you clutching your chest like Fred Sanford saying "I'm coming Elizabeth!" Thanks for the smile.

Dianna Love said...

Marilyn -

Your post is too funny - "I'm coming, Elizabeth...it's the big one" is one of my favorite things - and enlightening about how many great writers started writing after 50. How nice for your daughter to be so happy in her new place - I think it's important to have somewhere you look forward to going home to each day.

I started writing in 2001 and sold my first book at 50, won a RITA at 52 and hit the New York Times list at 54. I never, ever, think about age when I want to do something unless it has to do with physical limitations. I'd like to make a HAHO (High Altitude, High Opening)parachute jump but doubt my lungs would tolerate the training.

Those of you not close to 50 will reach your goals before you know it if you don't stop and those after 50 understand the benefit of patience and diligence.

And those who have sold - you know what it took to get there so you certainly aren't going to back off the pedal.

Berta Platas said...

Loved your post Marilyn! What an inspiring list of authors who wrote on past fifty. Frankly, it's one reason I took up writing. I picture myself at 95, clutching a Pekinese and dictating my novel to a secretary or a great-grandchild, depending on finances.

Alas, Marilyn and Sally, it's not age that makes me absent-minded. I've always been like that. Brain thinks one thing, fingers do another. Like when I found my car keys in the fridge's crisper. Backtracking, I found the lettuce and tomatoes in their bag on my dresser. Or the time I found a tea cup in my bathroom sink. What was I thinking? Plot points, apparently.

Linsey Lanier said...

Marilyn,

This is a really great post! That AARP quote is truly inspiring. If your fiction reads like this post, you will be joining those ranks. I laughed so hard, I cried.

Everyone's GOT to be lying about their ages -- you all look in your 30s to me. I never would have guessed Dianna is over 50.

I love that Fred Sanford line, too.

Linsey

Marilyn Baron said...

Ana,

I would take the fact that you were questioned about your age at the movie theater as a compliment!

Marin,

Thanks for your nice comment and for stopping by the blog.

Maxine,

I didn't know that about Agatha Christie. She is my older daughter's favorite writer.


Nicki,

I think you are wise beyond your years and I'm a spring chicken. I always think of us as the same age too.

Dianna,
I forgot about "It's the Big One," I love that part of his quote too.
Yes, my daughter loves her place and can't wait to get home every night and she loves the new neighborhood. And I think you're right about the fact that as we age we develop diligence and patience.

And I never would have guessed you're over 50. I'm not kidding.


Berta,
What a great image of you and your Pekinese writing when you're 95.

Okay, now, what is it about lettuce? I wasn't going to admit this but on one of my recent trips to the grocery store we bought two heads of lettuce. I put away the groceries and when we went to make a salad I couldn't find either of the heads of lettuce. To this day, we still haven't found them. I looked in all the cabinets, everywhere and they're still missing. So somewhere in my house is some REALLY old lettuce. Or, and this is a possibility, I accidentally left the bag in the grocery store. I'd prefer to think that.

But I have done a lot of things like you mentioned, put away groceries that are supposed to be refrigerated in cabinets, etc. I lose my keys all the time, but they're always in my purse.

Marilyn

Marilyn Baron said...

Linsey,

You see. I never would have guessed Dianna was over 50. And thanks for the nice words about my writing. I try to inject humor into everything I write.

Oh, and I forgot to mention I got a really cool Tee Shirt from Dianna at her recent workshop at the Roswell Library that relates to her BAD agency series --

It says, "I'm in a BAD mood." It's really great and it fits me to a
Tee.

Marilyn

Anna Steffl said...

Blogger hates me. I tried to post early this morning and it ate it.

Anyway, terrific post. I'm always wanting to hit a rewind button on my life and keep up on the writing I abandoned twenty years ago. But, it is what it is.

Marilyn Baron said...

Anna,
That would be nice, wouldn't it but I'm sure we learned a lot of things along the way.
Marilyn

Susan May said...

I'd better be great over 50 because I was there in March. I wished I'd started writing earlier but then I don't think I'd have the same stickability, wisdom or life experience to make it work earlier. My timing was right when I got started. My job is not to waste any time now.

Marilyn Baron said...

Susan,

Interesting thoughts. That's basically what Dianna said.

I like your idea of not wasting time!

Marilyn

Tami Brothers said...

Great post, Marilyn. Definitely food for thought. I love the part where your daughter tells you about her apartment and you are dreaming of weddings...grin....

I remember Oprah saying that life after 50 was better than any other decade. I keep that thought in the back of my mind and look forward to it.

Thanks for sharing this with us!!!

Tami

Marilyn Baron said...

Thanks Tami and everyone. I've enjoyed all of your comments.

Marilyn

Barbara Vey said...

I was asked to write the PW blog, Beyond Her Book, at age 55 and 2 years later I'm having the time of my life. I wouldn't change a thing!

Marilyn Baron said...

Barbara,

Thanks so much for commenting and visiting our blog. We love you and your work is great! Everyone should visit Beyond Her Book.

You are living proof that there is life after 50.

Marilyn Baron

J Perry Stone said...

As to your questions, HELL YES.

Marilyn, I have to tell you how much i enjoyed this blog.

It made me laugh and yet touched me.

I truly think a person can accomplish anything they really want to accomplish. I think the only thing age limits is the very superficial stuff.

I have the most amazing parents who are showing my husband, sister and I how to age not gracefully, but minimally. While they are old enough for senior discounts and take them wherever they can get them, they also consider themselves young.

A man once yelled at my dad on the road and called him an old c--ks--ker. He said it really hurt his feelings because he didn't consider himself old at all.

Ha!

Mary Marvella said...

Hi, Marilyn! Good article. You're just a kid. I'm on Social Security and Medi-care and I still intend to make a first sale. I really don't mind being old enough to be a pain in the ass and play the old lady card.