I was excited about meeting the visiting author, but worried about his reaction to the 25 pages I'd submitted. Would he like my work or would he gently hint about shelving the novel? After some preliminary small talk, he got right down to business.
Visiting Author: You’ve got an interesting premise here. And I like how you’ve what you’ve done with the female characters, but...
Me: Go on. I can take it.Visiting Author: Almost everyone is over 50. You need more youngins.Me: What do you mean by youngins?Visiting Author: Characters in their twenties and early thirties. That’s what’s selling now.
I thanked him for his time, but decided not to follow his advice.
At creative writing workshops and seminars, I encountered more of this “youth” talk.
“It’s okay to have an older woman as a sleuth, but surround her with younger characters.”“Don’t mention anything about boomers in your query letter. That’s the kiss of death.”
“Don’t even think of using retirement homes in your novel.”
I persisted, determined more than ever to feature boomer women and their older sisters as protagonists in my novels.
Halfway through 2012, the winds of change started blowing.
The term “boomer lit” was bandied about on social media, and groups started forming on Twitter and Facebook. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Intouchables and Quartet attracted record crowds and Downton Abbey became a worldwide sensation.
People were taking a closer look at heavyweights like Maggie Smith, Dame Judy Dench, Bill Nighy and Francois Cluzet. The younger supporting casts added color, but for the most part were expendable. In fact, many wondered if Downton Abbey could survive the departure of the Dowager Countess.
Those favorable winds also blew in my direction. At the end of January, senior editor Debby Gilbert of Soul Mate Publishing offered me a contract for Between Land and Sea, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged mermaid.
My patience and persistence definitely paid off, but so did my attitude toward aging and retirement. I could easily have incorporated more youngins in my novels and pursued “age appropriate” retirement activities, but instead, I chose to take the bumpier road, the one filled with unexpected twists, turns and blind curves.
If you wish to join me on the bumpier road...
Claim Your Age
It's refreshing to hear superstars such as Oprah, Jean Houston and Maya Angelou proclaim their ages: 59, 75, and 85. These women do not feel the need to subtract years, nor do they parrot those tiresome clichés: 50 is the new 30 and 60 is the new 40. I have no qualms about stating my age: 58 and Proud.
Find New Role Models
I enjoy reading memoirs and gravitate toward those featuring feisty women of a certain age. I highly recommend My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayer, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen, and Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou. I also follow the lives of more accessible role models, the ones I refer to as the “butterflies next door.”
Where do I find these butterflies?