I was 55 when I was first published by a magazine. MIDWEST LIVING had asked readers to write about their most unforgettable winter experience for an upcoming issue. At the time, I was trying to get started as a freelance writer. As I had had an unforgettable winter experience (during the Ohio blizzard of ’79, I’d saved a young boy’s life), I hastily put together an essay on what had happened, and sent it in. To my delight, they published it and paid me $50.
Encouraged by this small triumph, I sent another small essay I’d written about my dog to FIRST FOR WOMEN. They published it and paid me $300. Then, a long dry spell. All my submissions were steadily rejected. I began to question my ability as a writer. The first two accepts had been a fluke, I told myself; I was 55 for crying out loud, a bona fide senior citizen. I told myself I should be content just sitting out my remaining years in my rocking chair.
But those first two sells had lit a fire inside me so I continued sharpening my writing skills along with my pencils. The more I wrote, the better I became at it. I subscribed to and read writing journals. I took writing courses. After a while, my essays, articles, and stories began to sell again. I am now 70, and have been published in more than 300 regional, online, and national magazines, and am, at present, being published more than ever. I believe age has only sharpened my cognitive skills. I’m taking on bigger and more complex assignments. And, editors do not have to know how old I am, anyway. When I write about a solo journey to a desert, or a near boat capsize on a lake, or being stranded on an icy mountaintop, editors do not know that I was 60 or 65 or even 70 when those events took place.
A drawback to becoming a writer at an older age is that you have less time to learn the ropes. One of the ADVANTAGES of being an older writer is that you have had more life experiences and, thus, have more to write ABOUT: grandchildren, senior life, frugal living, gardening, past careers, a solo journey to a desert, etc. Some of us (not I) may even understand modern technology enough to write about that. In any case, I’ve found that with a lot of tenacity and a little luck, we need not put ourselves out to pasture because we’re seniors; there will always be something older people can write about. And, there’s still time to do it.
Barbara Weddle works on her novel when she’s not freelancing.
WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION: ADVICE FOR THE DIGITAL AGE
Research, write, publish and promote historical fiction using digital tools!