Monday, January 14, 2013

Expiration Date

As I watched the tribute to Jody Foster last night at the Golden Globe awards, I couldn't help but feel like the amazing shrinking woman again. She is barely two years older than I am, and we are celebrating a life-time achievement award for her career while my career has yet to begin—at least in any official capacity. Watching all those accomplished people in their glittering gowns and perfect hair as they live their dream was both inspiring and nauseating.

I can't help but feel somehow it's too late to get it right. I wonder if I should have started chasing this dream earlier or even if that would have made a difference.  I was a very different person at 20 than I was at 36.  While I feel guilty every time I get that twinge of resentment, I have to admit that watching 20-somethings break into the business with a bang sort of stabs me in the gut. Wunderkinds abound and here I sit feeling sorry for my 48-year-old self who has yet to get that big book contract.

Don't get me wrong. I have no intention of giving up (not today, anyway), but I sometimes wonder whether 48 is too old to ever conceive of a writing career. Is there an expiration date on a writing career?

According to one blog, the average age of a first time published author is equal to the meaning of life: 42.  Apparently I've reached beyond such metaphysical enlightenment and am on my way to oblivion.

After a little more checking, however, I found a few encouraging nuggets of information.

  • Raymond Chandler launched his career at 51 with The Big Sleep.
  • Sue Monk Kidd set things abuzz (sorry, I couldn't resist) at 54 with The Secret Life of Bees.
  • Alex Haley hit it big with Roots at the age of 55.
  • The beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her 60s when she found her place in the annals of literature.

I'm not looking for awards or wide acclaim (though I would take them if they were thrust upon me), but I am hoping to write for an audience who will actually read my books and want to read more. I want to say something worth hearing, share something intimate that might inspire someone or jar a reader's creativity. I want to know that what I write is actually worth something more than 255k on my laptop. Is it too late?

I'm going to say NO and keep working on my craft.

And I must give Ghost Hunk big snaps for sensing my doubts and encouraging me last if he could read my mind. With a word from me, he just gets it.

In her acceptance speech, Jody Foster alluded to the fact that she is beginning something new now. That 50 isn't the end and that she is eager to break new ground. I'll bet dollars to donuts that come this time next year, there will be a shiny new kids' book on the shelves with her name on it.


  1. Timing is more important that age! The right story at the right time sent to the right publisher!

    Happy writing!

  2. What an honest, heartfelt post. Boy do I know those doubts--and that sting of jealousy, too. But we only have our own paths to tread. I hope by the time we both get our book deals, we'll look back and know it couldn't have gone any other way. And look forward and be so grateful for all we have ahead of us.

    And just to say, PD James is still writing in her 90s!

    1. Thanks, Anne! Maybe this will be the year we can toast each other!

  3. Too old? Dah-ling, from my perch you're a baby!
    Comparing oneself to Jodi Foster will make anyone ancient and toothless. That gal was streaking over the sky at, what- age nine?
    Never compare, and remember there'll be plenty of time to rest in the grave, as my grandma reminded me. (She's resting now.)

  4. Oh, I feel this. I will turn 50 when my book releases. I'm probably the 2nd to the oldest on the One Four Kidlit blog. It's daunting. Makes me want to dye my hair pink and get a nose ring until I realize I'm googling images of "My mother got her nose pierced" because "nose piercings" only pulls up twenty year olds. Hugs, '64 sister.

    1. Ooohh...I like the pink hair idea! Hugs to you and big congrats, '64 sister! With any luck, I'll be toting some champagne to NC in October!

  5. How old is your inner child? I think that's the place we write from, regardless of our years.

  6. Oh, I hear ya, Mary Ann! I'm seven years older than Jodie Foster. And I remember her as a child actor in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore! But let's not compare ourselves to someone who started her career at the age of three in Coppertone commercials. Please. And no, there's no expiration date on a writing career.

    I like your list. I would add Dick King-Smith (author of Babe, the Gallant Pig), who started writing at age 56. Lists like this keep me going, although at this rate, Laura Ingalls Wilder is the only one I can still hope to emulate.

    1. I adore BABE! Onward and upward, right?! (That'll do, pig)


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