Have you ever felt like you were being ignored or dismissed because of your age? Are you tired of all the jokes about how old you are whenever you have a birthday? Sometimes it seems that ageism is the last form of prejudice that is allowed to still propagate in this era of political correctness. But FirstLantic is always proud to recognize those trail-blazers that never let age define them or stand in their way. In our blog this week, we are featuring five amazing authors that all published their first novel after they turned 50. So next time someone thinks it’s funny to make fun of your age, look them straight in the eye and tell them that like fine wine, you are just going to keep getting better.
A River Runs Through It
Maclean didn’t even start writing until after his retirement as a well-regarded professor of English studies at University of Chicago. At the urging of his children, he began writing down stories inspired by his life in Montana with his family. In 1976, he published his first work of fiction, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories to widespread acclaim. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, it was later adapted into a movie directed by Robert Redford ad starring Brad Pitt. Maclean wrote it when he was 74 and continued writing until his death at 87. And while A River Runs Through It was the only novel published while he was alive, a manuscript was published posthumously as Young Men and Fire and won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.
Who can forget the famous television show, Little House on the Prairie? The show which ran for nine years was loosely based on a series of children’s books written by Wilder that told the story of her childhood as part of a pioneering family in South Dakota. Although she had been writing for many years as a columnist for The Missouri Ruralist, she started the books at the urging of her daughter Rose. She published the first book in the eight-part series when she was 65 and the last one when she was 76. Her books were translated into over 40 languages and Wilder was visited almost daily by adoring fans at her home in Missouri where she died at the age of 90 . Her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane became a writer as well, first as a columnist and later as a best-selling novelist.
The Big Sleep
Chandler is one of the best-known mystery writers, but he didn’t start writing his first novel until after he had had tried numerous jobs and failed as both a journalist and an oil executive. He released his first novel at 51 and went on to write a total of seven novels many of which were made into movies such as The Big Sleep with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart and Farewell My Lovely. He also wrote scripts for movies such as Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train and The Blue Dahlia which was nominated for an academy award for best screenplay.
The novel Roots was one of the most successful and heartbreaking stories of all time. It forced us to take a hard look in the mirror and confront our history with race. It was later turned into an incredibly successful television series. But beyond the beauty is the fact that Haley was 55 when his debut novel was published. Haley had a successful career in the Coast Guard and had been a journalist for many years published an earlier non-fiction work about Malcolm X when he was in his mid-forties. However, it wasn’t until Roots was published that he gained wide-spread recognition and won the Pulitzer Prize.
Everglades: River of Grass
Douglas was a prolific writer well before she published her first novel when she was 57. She wrote for major newspapers like the Miami Herald and published over a hundred short stories. She was also a well know champion of equal rights for women and an environmentalist who championed for the preservation of the Everglades. She went on to write her novel, Everglades: River of Grass which was released to great acclaim with the first printing selling out in 30 days. Her book was widely credited with helping to jumpstart the preservation of The Everglades. She continued writing and received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom before she died at the age of 108.
As the saying goes, “age is just a number.” However, it is also said that age brings wisdom and it could be that the authors above were able to write their impressive works because they were older and not despite it. After all, life experience gives us an overwhelming amount of material to use. So, whether you are writing your first novel, going back to school or volunteering for the first time, we would love to hear about your experience in starting something new after 50. Leave us a note on Facebook and tell us about it.