I made an ageist comment. It didn’t seem ageist at the time. I was sitting in the second row of a packed room at Flyleaf Bookstore in Chapel Hill as Pat Schneider finished reading from her new book, How The Light Gets In.
I came to hear Pat for two reasons. One, I wanted to see the woman who developed the Amherst Writers and Artist (AWA) writing method. And, second, I wanted to see a fellow writer that was still prolific going into her ninth decade and had the stamina to go on a book-tour at six sites across North Carolina in seven days.
Maybe it was the interview I had heard a few years ago, which had taken residence in my memory that influenced my comment. A local author discussed her new book on a radio talk show. When asked her age, she said she never tells because she would have problems getting published. She believed there was a great deal of prejudice toward seniors in our society. Well, what of it, I thought at the time. She was already published. Why hide her age? She didn’t look like a 20-something on her book jacket. Telling her age would only prove older writers do get published.
So that evening at Flyleaf Bookstore, when Pat Schneider acknowledged she would be 80 years old on her next birthday, I raised my hand and congratulated her for acknowledging her age in front of this audience. How smugly self-satisfied I felt to call attention to that fact.
It was only later that I wondered why I felt the need to recognize Pat’s age? The audience consisted of people of all ages. Did the 20 or 30 year olds come to see what an 80 year old author looked like? No, they came to celebrate her new book, her legacy of great writing in various genres, and to affirm her talent.
And there I was, calling attention to age as if being an older author on a book-signing tour was in some way unique. After all, I know first hand what older folks are capable of from my many years in practice as a gerontological nurse practitioner.
Had I forgotten that the three other women in my writing group were in their 70’s, the same as I, and we all are writing memoirs. One had already published a book and was working on her second, and three of us have Blogs.
And what about Greta Matus, who was 74 when I meet her this past July. She mesmerized me with tales of her exciting life. I told her about my Blog and within a week she emailed me that she had begun a Blog. “I consider my Blog stories part of a memoir, or memories. That’s the incentive for me, looking back at the stories of my life and remembering them in detail. I’m not looking back because my life is winding down, hardly, but because life changes all the time, and so rapidly, that grabbing and capturing highlights seem important.
And, sharing stories is a good thing to do.”
I came across Emile Betts who wrote her first book at 80 and is working on a second book: a novel. Then there’s Jim Henry who wrote his story while in his 90s. I had forgotten that I had written about him in one of my earliest posts.
And check out this web site : Writers at Seventy, Eighty and Ninety.
So since I heard that local writer a few years ago citing prejudice, it seems there is evidence this is abating. More and more “older” writers are sharing their stories to a welcoming audience. I need to remember age is not a barrier to accomplishment. So whatever age I will be when my book is finally written and published, I know I will be in good company.