Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Age & Writing & Not Getting Wigged Out.

Lately, I've heard a bunch of chatter among other YA authors about the age you are when you get your book deal. As one of the elder statesmen of my debut class, being nearer the 50 side of my 40's, I understand the tendency to moan (and bemoan) the wriggly wunderkind of young authordom.

The YA world seems to be flooded with bright, young twenty-somethings, and even teen-somethings, landing lucrative contracts. It would seem that those of of us pushing greater decades, are in the minority.

It's EASY to get freaked out by this. To have wistful moments of lost youth, and OMG, they're going to write books from this point forward and be more in demand for speaking engagements (because they have NO grey roots!) and, and, and....


But I've decided to bless it and release it. These young, smart, talented authors were born in the information age. I did not own a personal computer until I was out of college. I didn't own a laptop until I was in my late 30's. Smart phones, yeah right. Think of the movie, THE HELP, and Emma Stone's character typing up that manuscript and mailing it off, old school style. Now think of today. The late nights I spent jamming out to Led Zeppelin while watching the guppies in my fish tank swim could have been spent, laptop in lap, researching publishing houses.

For young authors, all the information has been available to them, a button push away, for several years now. Agents, query advice, writing advice.  But really, THIS IS GREAT. People can find their passion, THAT MUCH SOONER. Or they can pursue one dream early, then other dreams later. Whatever, I am honored and thrilled to be in their company.

As for me and my generation, I'm going to stand tall and sport my wrinkles with pride. (Grey hair, forget about it.) Life took detours for me. I zigged. I zagged. And I gathered life experience. For me, this is my perfect moment. I didn't do it when I was twenty. I didn't do it when I was twenty five. Or thirty. It took being thirty five to even have the ability to stop moving long enough to let a few words simmer.

All I'm saying is, if you're old like me, don't let the numbers get you down. Young authors are fantastic. So are older ones. We all bring a unique perspective to our storytelling. Write the best story and don't let statistics stop you.

My only advice is to have respect. Don't disparage those who hit the mark earlier than you or roll your eyes at those older than you. If you're a late bloomer, don't make apologies, be proud. Same goes for you teen and twenty something authors, you freaking did it! And for the love of all things sacred, don't ever start a sentence with, "Well, when I was your age....." Or if you're young and somebody my age does start a sentence like that, have some empathy, we're only trying to join in the conversation.

WRITERS OF EVERY AGE are great. They bring us stories. It's the only part that matters.

31 comments:

  1. Great post. There's a lot to be said for respecting your colleagues at any age.

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    1. Thanks Christine! In the words of the great Aretha Franklin......

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  2. Yes! It's all about the storytelling...your readers won't care about your age (and neither do I!) <3

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    1. You better not Miss Thing! ;0) You are one of my favorite twenty somethings!

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  3. Lovely post, Jaye! Truthfully I never thought age was much of an issue unless you were still in your teens. Either way, it's obvious that all writers of all ages have these thoughts. When you're younger you worry that you won't be taken seriously because of how young you are. I think any age is perfect for following your dreams, especially when you're in your 40s. You can take all of those marvelous life experiences and sprinkle them throughout your manuscripts. Yes, writers of all ages are great. :D

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    1. Another friend posted to me privately and spoke to being in an MFA program in her 20's, when she and her fellow classmates tried to hide their age so the snail mail manuscripts they sent off would be taken seriously. It's all relative, isn't it?

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  4. Considering I'll probably be like a hundred when my first book comes out, I'm totally on board with this. :-) Yay to writers of all ages!

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    1. Oh pshaw Kip. I know for a fact you're only 23 in real life. ;0)

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  5. Jaye, it's wonderful to be in such great company. And you're right, there's no age restrictions on writing well.

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  6. Jaye, oh it's wonderful to be in such great company! Plus, you're right, there's no age restrictions on writing well or pursing a life goal.

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  7. When I'm feeling down about my age, I fret about all years I should have been focusing on my writing instead of living other lives. When I'm up, I look at the poetry and short stories I wrote in high school and college and the years when I didn't write realize that even with the internet and laptops, it wouldn't have been the right time.

    Maybe, I'll be the oldest and most famous lady in the nursing home when Kip and I get published ;)

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    1. Creative Writing for Seniors. I love it. Not that you or I are anywhere close to nursing home time yet, I did recently hear about an extended living facility in Los Angeles that catered to creative types with classes and programs, etc geared around all of the creative arts. Artistic elders have moved in from across the country! That's pretty dang cool!

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  8. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!!!!!! JRo, I am hugging you right now.:) I adore this so hard.:)

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  9. Awesome, awesome post! There's something to be said for all ends of the spectrum getting to share great stories, and I love it :)

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  10. As a fellow "elder" of your Valentine group, you know how much I love this post...and anything to do with the Colbert show! :)

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    1. I rather like the lofty, glasses on the bridge of my nose, connotation of elder. i shall wear it with pride.

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  11. Yes, the stories are what matters! Great post, JRo. I took decades to develop "the ability to stop moving long enough", and even though I didn't discover my passion until a later age than some, I'm totally loving embracing it now. :)

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    1. I think it's exciting that we allowed ourselves the time and the passion. Many women don't.

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  12. What everybody else said. And you. ;-) Seriously though this is a great post. I am 'young' in the scheme of things but I agree; it doesn't matter when you wrote the story as long as you wrote it to the best of your ability. I did get a little green with jealousy when I read about a 13 year old last week getting picked up for a book deal, for no real reason except he was 13. Those stories are the ones that get to me - the ones where editors just find people online and pick them up. What about all the people who struggle with queries and writing novel after novel?

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    1. Yep, it's been interesting how this has resonated with my twenty something friends to my older friends.

      And we have to keep in mind our path is our path. It's hard to be Zen when you're WANTING so hard, but keeping a chill attitude does help, along with a little Jack Johnson, and keep on writing. Those 13 yo's might not be prepared for edits!

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  13. I like to think that after the age of 21, instead of being "old" or "young," we're all just "adults." Thankfully, this is an industry where you really can be any age, any size, etc. and there isn't much of a benefit one way or the other. As a teacher, I can tell you that kids just want to meet their favorite authors. They don't really care if they have roots or not (27 or 70, it's all just "grown up" to them)

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  14. Thanks for this lovely post, Jaye Ro. Age is just a number.

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  15. "But I've decided to bless it and release it." Amen, sister!

    Like you, I used to fret about this issue. But now that I see how all-consuming this biz can be, especially when writing under contract, maybe it's a good thing I spent those decades living my life without feeling guilty about not writing. :)

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Hey, do you ever wonder why they call it 'your two cents?'