Old Enough

the kiddo
the kiddo

“Mommy, how old were you when your mom died?” my son asked.

“Twenty-one,” I said.

“Well,” he said. “At least you were old enough to walk to school by yourself.”

But am I old enough to write a good book? I read an article recently that talked about age discrimination in publishing. Does it help to be young and pretty? I wonder about this when the New York Times Book Review publishes author photos. Why a photo here and a sketch there? One doubts the the NYTBR decides these things on a whim.

Maybe I haven’t worked hard enough yet to be published. Maybe I don’t know enough yet. But maybe if I don’t figure these things out quickly enough, it won’t matter.

How do you think age affects your writing, your attitude towards publishing, and publishing’s attitude towards you?

6 thoughts on “Old Enough

  1. Love the kiddo’s photo and dialogue.

    Between the posts and the comment threads, this is the third one in a row talking about the Big Black Wall we’re all rushing towards. Everything okay?

    Anyway, to the questions: now in my late 50s, I am pretty well convinced that the WIP, in addition to all the other reasons it’s important to me, is so because I may not have another book in me. (And if I do, I have no idea what it will be.) Every now and then there’s some crazy publishing-success story at the far end of the timeline, with a, like, 90-year-old debut author rocking the world. But those are rare cases (which is why they’re fascinating, I guess). My sense is, yes, no matter how much improved the WIP will be because I sat on it for so long, I’d probably have an easier time SELLING the book if I were 15+ years younger. And perhaps a tad prettier.

    But that’s pretty much par for the course; publishing is no different in this respect than other fields.

    …Well, now you’ve gone and depressed me. 🙂

  2. Last year at the Harriet Austin Writer’s Conference, an author who knows a great deal about the publishing world said that you have to keep in mind that there’s a big turnover in editors at the publishing houses, and most of them are between the ages of 20-23. So, if you don’t appeal to them, it’s not going to work. She said you don’t have to be that age to appeal to them or write about 20-23 year olds….after all, many of them have English degrees and appreciate good literature. But still…you’ve got to think about who is reading your book there.

    In many ways, I have always felt like the older I get, the better chance I have of writing something of substance. More experience = more to write about. I have no idea if that’s true, and the older I get, the less I feel I have to write. Or maybe it’s just because I’m no longer interested in the things I used to write about because I’m older and more mature. Hmmm. I’m going in circles now. I better stop.

  3. I wanted to be a best selling author by the time I was 30– but my insecurity got in the way of me ever sending my book out into the world (Poor Marguerite, I have neglected her terribly this last decade).

    At 38, I can see that I’m a much better writer now, more secure, I can manage more complicated threads, I can see what I write with better clarity, and most important, I am no longer crippled with the insecurity. I have too many things to do to bother with petty fears. And I have too little time to waste on them.

    Of course, I’m still not published. The irony is that I had all the time in the world to work on that when I was in my 20s, but no gumption. Now I have the gumption, but no time. Sigh. Maybe when the kids are in school?

  4. Kathleen

    I couldn’t let this pass without jumping in.
    I came over from Kate’s site and when I saw your discouragement re your age, I felt that I must share.
    I am presently editing a book (historical fiction) that will be published by Simon & Schuster in the spring of 2010. This is my first book to be published and I am 61 years old. Yes I am. My age has never been a factor, in fact, it has yet to be mentioned.
    Shelli already said this, and I will add to it.The good news about getting older is that you bring all of your life experience to your writing, so it can only get better.
    I, too, wrote off and on during my life, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I was given the gift of time to be able to settle in and apply myself.
    Don’t stop! Follow your dream.

  5. JES, everything is fine, really. Between the rejections and the upcoming show and, you know, general life stuff, I may be a little stressed. But don’t you go and get depressed!

    shelli, I think those are the circles we all get in. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel I’ve written something of substance.

    rowena, one thing I love about reading your blog is that while you obviously struggle with different things, your confidence comes through. And I’m sure there will never be enough time. Just do what you can when you can.

    Kathleen, thanks for stopping by. Congratulations on the book! That is awesome. And I think my age issue is part of that whole turning-40 thing. I didn’t think it bothered me, but I’ve felt so much pressure lately that it is starting to creep in my mind whether I like it or not. A good book is a good book no matter anyone’s age! Of course, maybe I’m just looking for excuses for not being able to get published, and should look less at my age and more at my writing. Thanks for the encouragement. Tired and bedraggled I’ll keep following the dream.

  6. I think time is a huge factor. If I could just stop this working and working and be energized enough to write and write. It rarely happens. That’s why I planned a summer away so I could do it with no excuses. I don’t know what age plays into it, I’ve never thought about it. I always jsut think a good writer will be good enough at selling themselves.

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