To Second Acts
Author Robin Gaines on perseverance and being a late bloomer.
“Age is not important unless you’re a cheese.”—Helen Hayes
I am a debut novelist at the ripe old age of 59. So what, I say.
Call me a late bloomer, as some have, or a woman who put everyone’s needs before her own, as most moms do. Or, more likely, I wasn’t ready to write fiction until I trudged through a few decades. Maybe it’s a combination of all three.
For most of my 20s, I was a music journalist and newspaper reporter. In my 30s, I started my family and freelanced from my home. I have always written with the dream of someday writing a book.
And here I am. Some dreams take longer than others.
I started writing short stories in my early 40s when I began to look inward, instead of outward as journalists do, for writing material. After placing in a couple of local fiction contests, I got brave and sent my work to literary journals. The rejections I received fill several shoeboxes. What I lack in talent I make up for in perseverance and thick skin. To write for an audience requires both in multitudes. Trust me on this.
The year I was born has nothing to do with my work, except to add to the rich patina of experience. Readers don’t care if I’m living in a dorm or pushing a walker as long as the story bores into the soul in a way that evokes emotion. The reading adventure always trumps the personal life of the author.
A second act. Thankfully some of us are lucky enough to live long enough to have one. From my view, this middle-aged phase of life looks pretty incredible. My book comes out this month; there’s that. And I’m almost done with the second draft of another novel—hallelujah. I have loads more time to read—pure joy—now that my three kids are grown.
What’s the downside to 59? The limited time I have left to see all the book ideas swimming in my head come to fruition. So I get up, sit in the chair, and wait for my timeworn brain to signal my ancient heart to let my gnarled fingers get moving.
Ageism? Bring it on.
Robin Gaines is an award winning journalist and fiction writer. Her work has appeared in literary journals, newspapers, magazines and anthologies. Invincible Summers is her first novel. She lives in Michigan.
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