Thursday, May 10, 2018

It's never too late! by Jenn McKinlay

BIG NEWS: Jungle Red Writers has been nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Online Content!!! The winner will be announced at Bouchercon later this year. Needless to say we are just thrilled and thank you, dear readers and visiting authors, for helping us make this blog such a smashing success!



Jenn McKinlay: We live in a society that is geared to the young. I have no idea why because, quite frankly, when I was young I was a colossal idiot. I hadn’t accumulated the life experience, self awareness, or the empathy for the struggles of others to even be an interesting person never mind be the writer I dreamed of becoming.

We hear the stories about the young guns, the successful novelists, singers, actors, artists, and business moguls who explode into the world in their twenties, and we forget that most people haven’t even figured out who they are until they’re forty and then they have to learn to scrape off the opinions of others, which occurs at about age fifty. So, why do we think a person has to succeed at their passion by the age of thirty or perish? Or is that just me?

Well, it was me. I promised myself that if I wasn’t published by the time I turned thirty I would quit writing. Naturally, the universe with its perverse sense of humor allowed me win a writing contest put on by Harlequin for a five-hundred word humorous essay where I received a cool $1,000.00 and a nod in a novel by JoAnn Ross when I was twenty-nine. It was just enough bait to hook me and keep me on the line. Mercifully, I did sell my first book when I was thirty-three so I wasn’t too far off the mark, but still while I was trying to be published, I became obsessed with knowing the age of first publication of every big author out there. Why? I don’t know, maybe so I would be inspired to keep going or perhaps be convinced to quit. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Jenn in lecture mode: Subtitled "Will Work for Food".
I gave a lecture the other day at a seniors’ group. It was fabulous. The attendees were charming and kind, and they all had so many stories to tell. There were a few in the crowd who dreamed of being authors but they had let the dream go as they aged because they said, “Oh, I’m too old to do that now.” That made me sad. One woman in particular had what I thought was the makings of a novel in her, so I said, “You know, if you wrote just one page a day, you’d have a book in less than a year. I mean, you're going to turn a year older anyway, but this way you'll be a year older and have a book." Her eyes went wide. Yes, it really is that simple when you break it down.

So, here is my short list of late blooming authors (whose books I love, love, love) to inspire and admire because…it’s never too late!


Richard Adams wrote Watership Down when he was 54.



Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote Little House in the Big Woods when she 65.

Raymond Chandler wrote The Big Sleep when he was 51.


Toni Morrison wrote The Bluest Eye when she was 40.


Bram Stoker wrote Dracula when he was 50.


Anna Sewell finished writing Black Beauty when she was 57.

How about you, Reds? Did you ever obsess about getting published? How long would it take? How old would you be? And if any of you readers have a late blooming artist story, do share!

115 comments:

  1. Congratulations to all the Jungle Red Writer ladies on your well-deserved Best Online Content nomination. This is such exciting news!
    So glad you stuck with your writing, Jenn. And I hope you were able to convince the woman to take the chance and write her story.
    Sadly, I’ve no late-blooming artist story to share, but as you’ve so wisely pointed out, it’s never too late . . . .

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  2. Congratulations on the the Anthony nomination, and to BOLO Books, as well! Isn't that you, Kristopher?

    As for publishing dreams . . . oh, my. I have six completed novels in the drawer, alongside a stack of rejection letters, and two or three more that I haven't finished, and I haven't given up yet. Life has largely diverted me to the business side of writing because that's where I could make actual money, so I have seen my name in the by-line of newspapers, program books, and CD liner notes, but no book covers. I don't really plan to give up, so I may have a late-bloomer story yet.

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    1. You can absolutely do it!

      Mary/Liz

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    2. You'll get there, Gigi! No doubt.

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    3. I am absolutely sure you will do it, Gigi!!!

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    4. Would be happy to be a beta reader Gigi.

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  3. Congrats to JRW on the nomination! Now the question becomes when is the "Celebrity Deathmatch" against Bolo Books being held?

    No late blooming artist story to share.

    As for me, I don't have an obsession to be a published author. I mean, I would LOVE to write a mystery novel but the realities of life mean it will be just a dream for the foreseeable future. Maybe in 15 years or so I'll be one of those late blooming stories or something.

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    1. You'd make a great late blooming story, Jay.

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    2. Well, I guess that all depends on whether or not you like the book, but thanks.

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  4. So exciting that half the Anthony nominees in this category are friends of mine!

    I'm a poster child for late-blooming artist. My first novel was published the fall I turned 60. By this fall, six years later, I will have 15 traditionally published books out plus a dozen or more short stories, with a total of twenty books completed and in some stage of production and another four under contract. It's truly never too late, and I love what you told that woman. It's true!

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    1. Wow, Edith, that is some accomplishment: So many books in such a short time. I'm in awe!

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    2. Edith, you are amazing and inspiring!

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    3. Thank you, Edith, and you are a wonder! Fantastic!

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    4. Edith, I just turned 60 and am wrapping up revisions on my first mystery novel, begun over 4 years ago. I did relatively little writing over the last 18 months due to life-altering events (nothing tragic, but still...), but I will be querying this summer, at long last. You are an inspiration and motivation to Just. Do. It. Thank you!

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    5. Thanks, friends. And LC? Go for it!

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  5. Congratulations to JRW on the nomination! Love this blog! And congrats to all the other nominees as well. I'm pleased that the category is now part of awards. Me, I have no aspirations to be a writer, but I aspire to read every single book I ever want to. Know I'll never be able to do that, but I'm giving it a good shot.

    One author I can think of who wrote a popular book in her 80's - Helen Hooven Santmyer. The book was AND LADIES OF THE CLUB and it was a long one, over 1,000 pages. Published in 1982 when the author was 86 or 87. She had a couple of books published in her 30's, one in her 60's, and then another was published after her death in 1988. Pretty amazing!

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    1. I was thinking of that book too!

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    2. Wow - that's a life story in never quitting! I love it.

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    3. Kay, I missed this on my first reading this morning (blaming coffee deprivation), but posted a little more about Santmyer in my comment below.

      She was an Ohioan, too.

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    4. Karen, 'great minds' right? I'm glad you shared more about the book. It's not available as an e-book, sadly. It's definitely a chunkster, but I recently picked up a very nice hardcover copy. Trying to decide if I want to reread it before long.

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    5. Yes, it's a doorstop of a book, isn't it? At one time I had two copies, somehow. Only one now.

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  6. So excited for the Reds nomination! Wonderful recognition for the great job you do, week after week. I love to read it every morning and I am always thrilled to be a guest.

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  7. Congratulations to the Jungle Reds on their Anthony Award Nomination. Since I visit here first thing every morning,and have done so for many years, you can bet JRW was on my nomination ballot. I am honestly a fan of every one of the sites nominated, so to see my name next to theirs is a total thrill. We are all already winners in my book!

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    1. Congratulations to you, Kristopher, on a well-deserved nomination for BOLO books!

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    2. Kristopher--you are very gracious--and so right--all of the nominees are winners in my (mystery) book!

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    3. Yes, indeed, congratulations, Kristopher! Really enjoyed meeting you at Malice. I monitored that most crowded panel room as you and the wonderful others talked with us about the 'dark' side. LOL

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    4. Thank you Julia, Flora, Kay. And thanks for your monitoring services for that panel, Kay. I was delighted with the Sunday Morning turnout.

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    5. Congratulations to you, too, Kristopher! I feel the exact same way. How fabulous for Bouchercon to recognize online content as the truly valuable gateway to authors and books that it is. And there are many more blogs/websites like Carstairs Considers, Wicked Cozy Authors, Stop, You're Killing Me, and more, that I'm looking forward to seeing nominated in the future!

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    6. Congratulations, Kristopher! You're having quite a spring!

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    7. Congratulations to you, too, Kristopher!

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    8. Thanks Jenn, Ingrid, and Deb. It has indeed been quite the Spring, quite the year really. I hope that this Online Content category continues, because there are so many great websites that need to be recognized. The online community is becoming so much more important as print space continues to dwindle. Now with both MWA (Raven) and Bouchercon stepping up, the industry will begin to see our significant impact.

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  8. Mega congratulations to the Jungle Reds on your nomination for this blog! The recognition is well deserved. I love this blog and the community I find here every day.

    As for late blooming: I'm 58 and contemplating retiring from college teaching sometime in the next five years. To that end, I have embarked on a five-year plan to do something with my writing, so that when I leave that job, I won't be entering a void but, rather, a new nurtured beginning of some kind. This blog and also the Career Authors blog, which Hank is part of, give me a regular check-in place for my writing thoughts and plans, as I read about others' ideas and accomplishments, which is invaluable to me.

    So, mega thanks to every Jungle Red and to every commenter: Unbeknownst to you, you are each contributing to my late-blooming evolution!

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    1. And we'll be watching for what's to come, Amanda!

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    2. I am a big believer in five year plans, Amanda. Yours sounds like a well thought out path. You've got this!

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    3. You've got this thing, Amanda!

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  9. I packed my youngest off to college, joined the local gym, and wrote my first mystery...which lives in a drawer. After many short stories published, I'm getting there.
    Congrats on the nomination!

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  10. Isn’t it so great! So so great…! Wow. Jumping up-and-down. Really, you know it’s quite amazing… We’ve been here together for 10 years. Astonishing. Yay us!!!

    And sign me up as a late blooming author…

    My first novel Prime Time was published when I was 55. It won the Agatha award for best version of all, and my newest —my first standalone, my tenth novel —TRUST ME comes out this August! So, yay!

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    1. And I can't wait for TRUST ME!! Truly.

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    2. Look at you go, Hank! So exciting!

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    3. Count me in as one eagerly awaiting Trust Me.

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    4. Congratulations on all the awards! I mentioned to you the other day that I find Jungle Reds info so valuable that it should be compiled in a book. I think I'm the oldest one here and still not published. I'm editing my first completed draft ( for the 4th time.)

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  11. My first book was published when I was 41, so I'm a big believer in "it's never too late."

    Next Friday I'm going to be at the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute in Portland, speaking to their writers group. They're senior citizens engaged in all sorts of creative writing, and I'm very excited to share stories with them.

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    1. How exciting for them, Julia! And I bet they will have stories to share indeed.

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    2. Lucky senior citizens! Wish I could be there, too...

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    3. I'll have to see if there's one near me. I do believe that seniors have the best stories to tell :)

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  12. Congrats on the Anthony nomination, ladies!

    Years ago I met a gentleman at Magna cum Murder who published his first book in his late 70s (I think. Sadly, I can't recall his name). In every panel he was on his message was "it's never too late."

    I like you page-a-day advice, Jenn. Reavis Wortham says the same thing. I just need to make myself stick with it.

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    1. Sort of like brushing your teeth, Cathy. The day isn't done until the words are written, the teeth brushed, the hair combed, etc.

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  13. Congratulations to JRW! Not a bit surprised!

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  14. What inspiring stories! And JRW--well, let's just say it was a revelation to me that these successful, BUSY, writers would embark on the adventure that became this blog--and persevere with it over the years. Thank you, all!! (and that includes the many readers who regularly comment, too!).

    In terms of success, defined here as actually publishing something you've written, it seems as though the best advice is networking--joining genre groups, attending workshops and conferences. But what if you lack the resources--money and time--to do this? Yes, like Gigi, I have a number of novels under my belt--some mercifully out of sight--others that are past the rough draft stages, but aren't where I know they need to be. And this voice telling me 'just give up, it's too late, you're too old, just bury your books six fathoms deep--there's no magic in them anyway....'

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    1. Flora: Unearth those manuscripts. Bury that voice. And keep the faith! You might find both advice and inspiration in Jane Friedman's book, The Business of Being a Writer (featured here a while ago). I'm finding it enormously helpful - packed with info and advice that add up to encouragement, for me anyway. Good luck!

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    2. Tell that voice to hush, Flora. I feel like the best art (writing or other) comes from people who have experienced the most, ruminated over it, put it in their personal blender, and sent it back out into the world distilled in a new and accessible way. I always tell the Hooligans that they can do anything they put their minds to but they have to commit.

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    3. Amanda and Jenn, thanks so much!

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  15. Congratulations on the noms, Reds, Dru Ann, and Kristopher. Now, how is anyone to choose from that stellar field, I ask you?

    Helen Hooven Santmyer had written a couple books in the late 20's, but they didn't really get any notice, and a third went unpublished, Then when she retired in 1959 she started working on her answer to Sinclair Lewis's OUR TOWN, which she felt didn't adequately portray small town life.

    "...And the Ladies of the Club" was published, to great acclaim after an initially small printing of 1,500 copies, in 1982, when Santmyer was 88 years old. She died two years later, at age 90.

    I published my first book at age 33. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

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    1. Wow, I didn't know that history of And Ladies of the Club, but I remember loving that book when it was released. Off to check if it is still in print (or ebook).

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    2. I remember that book, too. Must go look it up. How wonderful. Such an achievement.

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    3. Looks like it is out of print and not available as an e-book. I suspect I still have my copy around somewhere. Based on the re-sale prices, looks like I should find it.

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  16. Like Kay, my aspirations are more readerly than writerly. If my TBR mountain doesn't collapse and kill me first, I hope to read at least a small portion of the books in it. But as a senior citizen (and I have very mixed feelings about that term), it's always good to be reminded that it's never too late. And I'll put in a good word for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. I belong to the Rochester, NY one and I love it -- it's allowed me to indulge a late-in-life interest in science and even to teach a bit.

    And congratulations to the Reds on the Anthony nomination. Very well deserved!

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  17. Congratulations to JRW, and Kristopher, and DruAnn Love (Dru's Book Musings). How do I possibly choose?

    I was 42 when I had "the year of the short story" in 2016 and I'll be a month shy of 45 when my first novel is published. One kid off to college, another starting his junior year of high school. So I guess that makes me a "late-bloomer."

    But, like Jenn, I don't think I could have written these stories in my 20s. I didn't even know what I didn't know!

    Mary/Liz

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    1. I knew nothing (like Jon Snow - LOL) in my 20's. So glad I didn't get published until my 30's. Congratulations on your upcoming release, Mary!!! Thrilling!

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  18. My first book was published when I was already 47. After the second, life happened, publishing changed, I changed, and it was 20 years before there was another in print -new (Brooklyn) series,new (Poisoned Pen) publisher. Now there are four. Too late? Never, as long as you still willing to work for it. George Eliot said it: it is never too late to become who you might have been.

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    1. Oh, I love that quote, Triss. And I love Poisoned Pen Press - they really have such a stable of talented authors. Good for you!

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  19. Congratulations on your nomination. You are in very good company!

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  20. Several years ago I saw a 60 Minutes-type of interview with a woman who was 80 something. I can't remember now why she was being interviewed but she was asked if she had any regrets. She said she had wanted to learn to play the violin but she was 60 at the time and thought she was too old. She said, "Just think, I could have been playing for twenty years now if I had done it." That has always stayed with me.

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    1. Oh, wow, that is some serious hindsight. I have a friend who took up piano at 40. She's almost 60 now and plays every day. She's really very good!

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    2. My mother-in-law, a great lover of classical music, started taking piano lessons in her 30's or 40's, too. After her stroke at age 76, she continued to play one-handed with a partner, once her rehab allowed her to sit unaided.

      She was also quite good, and inspired half of her grandchildren to play piano. Two others played the violin.

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  21. Jenn, you are too funny!
    I'm in the late bloomers club, too. I started TRYING to write when I was 40 with a goal to publish my first book by my 50th birthday. I missed by a year. AMNESIA came out when I was 51.
    Honestly, it makes sense to wait with writing, until you have something to say and money to offset the hours and hours of unpaid labor you're going to have to put in.
    Right now I'm reading Tara Clancy's THE CLANCY'S OF QUEENS, and in awe of this young (in her 30s) writer's talent and insight and sheer guts...

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    1. TRYING to write was years in the making for me, too. I probably could have hiked Everest several times over with the hours I put in, but writing isn't for the faint of heart and neither is Everest - LOL. I'm going to look for Tara Clancy's book now.

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  22. Gosh! Jungle Reds, Bolo, and Dru! How can you choose? As for writers there are a lot of late bloomers out there. Alan Bradley comes to mind. He had written short stories and screenplays but he was 68 or 69 when his first Flavia de Luce book was published.

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    1. Oh, that's a good one, Pat! And, yes, the award nominees are thick with talent :)

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    2. So many of the categories are tight races this year, I say we just celebrate all the nominees and just have a hell of a party!

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  23. It strikes me very clearly, reading about all the late-in-like publications, that writing is one place where ageism has less importance. The dialogue between writer and reader goes across the millennia: we can, and do, read what was written thousands of years ago, with no thought whatsoever of the age of the person who wrote those words.

    I had no idea Alan Bradley was that old, for instance. I've always thought of him as someone in his thirties! Obviously, his age makes no difference at all.

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    1. I agree, Karen, and I love that I can read writings from one hundred years ago and see that our struggle to understand our world and explain it through stories remains eternal.

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  24. Like Julia, I was 41 when my first novel was published. As were, if I remember correctly, both Dorothy Sayers and PD James! Hurray for late-bloomers!

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    1. I think the 40's are when everything starts to make sense. I sold my first mystery when I was 41. :)

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    2. I was 42 when I was first published. I agree about the 40s, Jenn!

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    3. Yep, count me as late-blooming too--I was 50 when SIX STROKES UNDER came out, and still remember being horrified when the newspaper printed that #. But I had bloomed in another career--really it took me until my 40's to even imagine that I wanted to write!

      I have a good friend who's a multi-published, very smart and talented writer, who happens to be 70. She suspects her new book is being turned down because of her age--that agents and editors want baby writers. Sigh. That would be a good study for someone to do--submit the manuscript using two different ages and see what happens.

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    4. Baby writers! The last thing I ever think about when I pick up a book to read, is how old the author might be! How ridiculous!

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  25. Karen, autofill has made me smile: “late-in-like” for “late-in-life”. Some kind of magic in that twisting of words.
    And hooray for all the nominees. Good work!

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  26. Oh boy. Heart rate up. Inspiration taking hold. Listening clearly listening. Takes deep breath. I hereby make a commitment to write and submit one fiction piece - short story -- to a legit publisher this year. And be positive about the rejection letter from said unknown publisher. However, thinking of using Hallie Phillipi Rian as a pseudonym.

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  27. Congratulations JRW, Dru Ann, and Kristopher! I love all of you!

    Well, I'm retiring very shortly and I plan to take classes at the local senior center, and also plan to check out the Institute for Learning in Retirement (at Albertus Magnus College). I want to do something different with this next stage of life! That's the plan!

    DebRo

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    1. Good for you, Deborah! I had a high school classmate who went to Albertus Magnus - she loved it.

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    2. Go DebRo--can't wait to hear what comes next!

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  28. Congrats on the nom!

    It might make your case if you picked authors people had heard of before in this list. ;) Seriously, it's always good to remember that success for these authors came later in life and yet we are still reading and talking about their books. Things worth doing well can take time.

    And I'm glad you didn't quit trying to get a book published at 30.

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  29. I'm so happy for the Jungle Red Writers' nomination. Add to that the nominations of Dru and Kristopher, and it's a love fest for me of great friends getting well-deserved recognition. It's also set me up for an impossible choice, as I want all three of you to win. Congratulations, Reds and Dru and Kristopher! Well done!

    Jenn, I like your message of never too late. When I was in the second grade, my teacher had me take a couple of stories I'd written to the principal and read them to her. I followed my love of reading in my life, but not writing. Well, I have kept writing on my blog and doing reviews and such, but I haven't pursued a fiction writing path. I always thought that I needed to have a great novel in me or a lengthy tome, or else I shouldn't write. But, recently I've started reading more mystery/crime anthology stories, and I had somewhat of a lightbulb moment. What if I tried a short story instead of the next War and Peace? I'm not saying I will, but I'm saying that I am as close to trying it as I've ever been. We'll see.

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  30. I read the posts of everyone that is working on their books or about to have their first published and I'm a little envious.

    If only I had the time and money(come on Powerball jackpot win!) to really sit down and write said desired mystery novel. I've got the name of the main character, the draft title of the book and an extremely rough idea of a story. But that's it. Way too much work to be done before I'd even say "I'm working on my book" and mean it in a serious way.

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    1. Start with a coffee break amount of time for one week. 15 minutes: where is this story set? Next day, next 15 minutes: what do you know about your main character, besides the name? Next day, for 15 minutes: who is the victim/bad guy/etc. Do one bite at a time (see advice above about writing one page per day). When you get going, you will start writing--and one page a day isn't scary. And it doesn't matter if it's 'good'--because it's only the first draft.

      And if you can't get the book going, ask yourself why not? What about this story, this character, this plot, doesn't work for you? Then start again, fresh 15-minutes--ask yourself 'what if?' because there will come a second idea, then a third, and so on.

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    2. Flora, great tips! thank you!

      Diana

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    3. Great tips, Flora! See? You know what to do!

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  31. The following is a public service announcement:

    Anytime prior to fifty is childhood, and middle age is five years older than I am.

    You may return to your regularly scheduled programming.

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  32. Wonderful post! I am always surprised to discover that an author is younger than 50 these days. I think it depends on when the person starts honing their writing skills. I have been writing all of my life. I think perhaps I will be in my fifties when I publish my novel, if I decide to go that route.

    Congratulations to the Jungle Reds for the nomination!

    Diana

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  33. Just dropped in to say "CONGRATULATIONS!" on your nomination. I'm not going to Bouchercon this year, so won't be voting, but if I were, it would be this blog I voted for. Best of luck!

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