"An Itty Bitty Column on Writing" by Mindy Phillips Lawrence
From Sharing with Writers (Carolyn Howard-Johnson)
January 19, 2009
I join these people in celebrating January 19th as my birthday: Chinese philosopher Tai Chen (1724), Scottish inventor James Watt (1736), US poet Edgar Allan Poe (1809), French painter Paul Cezanne (1839), US author and critic Alexander Woollcott (1887), US publisher Oveta Culp Hobby (1905), US actress Jean Stapleton (1923), Canadian broadcast journalist Robert MacNeil (1931), US singer Phil Everly (1939), English singer and actor Michael Crawford (1942), US singer Janis Joplin (1943), US singer and songwriter Dolly Parton (1946), and US newscaster Ann Compton (1947).
I’m not a teenager but I’m certainly not ready to relinquish my life to the “has been” pile either. In fact, I wish I had money for everyone who says to me, “I’m too old to do that.” BALDERDASH! Here are a few examples of writers who did NOT quit just because they had birthdays:
Until his death on November 10, 2007, Norman Mailer wrote. He was working on the second novel in a trilogy beginning with A CASTLE IN THE FOREST (2007) when he ran out of time. He was 84.
Helen Hooven Santmyer
Santmyer wrote her well-known novel, …AND LADIES OF THE CLUB, when she was 88. The 1400-page novel sold only a few copies before becoming a Book-of-the Month selection and taking off with readers. It was on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Elizabeth Jane Howard
Howard still plies her writing wares at 85. She lives and works in Suffolk, England. http://disembedded.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/an-85-year-old-novelists-writing-room/ She works on a MAC computer and sits in an old chair that she says is comfortable. Her first novel was THE BEAUTIFUL VISIT.
Tom Wolfe is 77 and shows no signs of stopping. His fourth novel, BACK TO BLOOD is set to be published in 2009. He sent shock waves through the publishing industry when he recently ditched Farrar, Strauss and Giroux for Little Brown.
At 74, Joan Didion is still producing work. In 2005, she wrote the heart-wrenching book THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, a catharsis about the death of her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne. She is working on an HBO special about Washington Post’s grand dame, Katharine Graham.
Oliver, a Pulitzer-Prize winning poet, is 71. Her remarkable poetry gets deeper and richer. Her most recent book, RED BIRD, came out in 2008.
What birthdays do is make you think about what is important to you as you become aware that you have less time ahead of you. The worst thing you can do is to get into the thought pattern that you are too old to do anything. The wheels will come off the wagon in due time. Meanwhile, keep driving HARD toward that finish line. Make the trip interesting.
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