As yet, I have not reached the status of published author, and nudging the top end of middle age, I find it inspiring to see that writing is not something we need retire from as we get older. Quite clearly, it seems that a lifetime of working and raising families can only temporarily hinder the creativity and stifle the urges of a writer. Once the gift of more time is bestowed upon us, many writers find that their creative juices flow, unchecked, from the rich tapestry of a life well lived. Life, love, travel, trials and tribulations all provide fertile fodder for wonderful stories.The writers mentioned by the Huffington Post include such illustrious names as Laura Ingalls Wilder and Frank McCourt, both first published in their sixties. Even better, Mary Wesley and Harriet Doerr were well into their seventies! ‘Watership Down’ author, Richard Adams, was in his mid-fifties, and the ‘babies’ of the group, Raymond Chandler and James A. Michener, were in their forties.
I decided to do some research to see if any Australian authors were also ‘Late Bloomers’, and came up with some surprising finds.Elizabeth Stead published her first novel, ‘The Fishcastle’ when she was in her late sixties. Now in her eighties, she has just recently had her fifth novel, ‘The Sparrows of Edward Street’ published.
One of Australia’s most acclaimed writers, Elizabeth Jolley, was fifty-three when her first novel was published. She was a prolific writer and went on to have fifteen novels published, plus a swag of short stories and non-fiction books. Through her teaching of creative writing to students in Western Australia, (including Tim Winton), Elizabeth Jolley left behind a legacy of successful publications, all receiving significant critical acclaim.Shirley Painter’s first book was published at the ripe old age of eighty-three! Her memoir, ‘The Bean Patch’ took a lifetime to get written, and tells of her violent and shocking childhood. I can only wonder of the amount of pain Shirley Painter must have endured, and am glad that the therapeutic act of writing her story may go on to help others similarly treated.
Christina Stead, an often controversial but very successful writer, was thirty-two when her first book, ‘Seven poor men of Sydney’ was published. Christina Stead was listed in Time magazine’s ‘Best 100 novels 1923 – 2005’.
Polish immigrant to Australia, and survivor of the Holocaust, Jacob Rosenberg was first published at the age of seventy-two. His published works covered collections of poems and short stories, plus memoirs.
Glenda Guest, another mature-age first novelist, has won many awards and much acclaim for her novel ‘Siddon Rock’. In her bio on the Australian Literature Management web site, Glenda Guest says “Although I started to write late in my life I always knew that I would become a novelist. I am stunned to be receiving this attention which is a huge boost to my confidence and will help me to press on with writing my next novel. This shows that it’s never too late to start a new endeavour”. Ref: http://www.austlit.com/a-list-f-k.html
So, it is with much excitement and hope that I too now throw my hat into the ring. As I approach the end of the process of writing my novel, ‘Stone of Heaven and Earth’, I realise that age does not dim the prospect of becoming published.