Am I Too Old for Literary Success? A Few Reasons 50 -plus is Just Alright With Me

Some of the literary greats didn’t start publishing until well after 50 years old.    —She Writes Press

I read this post a couple of weeks ago and felt relieved. I’m well in to my fiftieth year now.

photo(5)And I’m well in to the process of getting something major published, not just a simple content article or essay, but a real-life manuscript.

I cannot tell a lie; it’s been anything but quick and easy.

I remember finishing the first draft of my memoir in 2003 when I was thirty-nine. I was so sure it was ready to publish. Whew! I got it in just under the wire, I thought, confident that forty was the cut-off point that if I hadn’t gotten a book deal, all efforts were doomed.
“What’s your rush?” one of the agents I shopped my book to asked me after showing interest but ultimately rejecting it –“as it is currently written”– a phrase I would come to despise.

It was a good question that I could not answer. I still can’t.

I’m not sure I can articulate in so many words why I think it’s important either. But every time I read someone’s story, I’m so grateful that the author, and that I, have persevered.

Last night, I finished The Craggy Hole in my Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It by Geneen Roth, an oldie but goody I picked up at a garage sale.

It was transformational.

Now I’m reading Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir by Gail Godwin, who has been publishing books for 45 years.


But perhaps it was reading to my adult daughter punctuated the point best.

Eleven days ago, I let her pick out a book I would read to her from my library before bed. I rarely get to read aloud anymore, but she indulges me once a year. She selected Carole Radziwill’s What Remains.

I read her the opening scene which begins with the date July 16, 1999.

“Honey, what’s the date today?” I asked my daughter after reading it. She looked on her iPhone.

“July 16th.”

A few lines down, as I’m reading about a fatal plane crash, it gave the time also: 9:44 p.m.

“What time is it right now?” I asked my daughter.

Again she looked at her phone screen. “It’s 9:43p.m.”

Suddenly, the engine of an airplane close by drowned out my reading. We don’t live near any airport. My daughter and I looked at each other, wondering if this was to be our last memory before the plane crashed in to our tiny home.

It is this that I love. The fact that we can be transported in to someone’s story that happened sixteen years ago, and it’s real and it’s relevant and for a moment, we were a part of it.

I don’t really mind that I’ve spent more than sixteen years working on my own story to share, so long as many years later, or even after I die, someone might still relate to it.

What I do mind (only a teeny bit) is that my kids’ former teen-aged babysitter posted a story on VOX at her young age that knocked my socks off a few days ago and is now expected to turn in to a memoir very quickly. Perhaps you’ve read the story. I Spent Two Years Cleaning Houses. What I saw Makes Me Never Want to be Rich.

Sure, I felt an ugly twinge of envy when I saw it pop up on MSN’s feed, but it’s such a great story that I’ve nearly forgiven her for being so young and so dynamic. (Watch out for Stephanie Land’s upcoming book. I can’t wait!)

And thanks for not giving up on mine. You can e-mail me at if you want to be on a waaay early pre-order list.

Thanks always for stopping by.