Late Bloomers defy age stereotypes and help show us the way to tap into our creativity using life experience, energy and positive attitudes.
“Creativity keeps us fresh, keeps us alive, keeps us moving forward.”
(Rollo May, psychotherapist and author of Courage to Create.)
Guest post by author Yvonne Pearson:
I began writing books for children seriously when I was sixty years old. It’s become one of my life’s great delights.
I’d been writing in bits and pieces for many years, the occasional newspaper or magazine article, freelance writing for non-profits and companies, but rarely my own creative writing.
I had dreamed of being a writer for as long as I can remember. Sometime in my thirties I got up the confidence to take a community education poetry class, which launched my obsession with writing in the spaces between changing diapers and giving baths and cooking grilled cheese sandwiches.
I was thrilled when my poetry was published. I loved doing readings. But the endless rejections overwhelmed me. Before I really got started on a writing career, I gave it up.
My confidence deserted me. Instead, I went back to college for a graduate degree in social work. I loved it, I felt like I’d come home, but that writing bug still clung to me.
I had loved reading picture books to my children. My favorites were the ones that read like poetry. So I thought, “I can write poetry. What could be so hard about writing a picture book?” I dashed off a poem and was certain I’d written a beautiful picture book.
Oh my, I had no idea how much I didn’t know. Writing children’s literature opened up a whole new world of learning along with a rich community of supportive friends.
The year I turned sixty I saw a contest for picture book manuscripts through the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. I was feeling a lot of time pressure: if I was ever going to do this, I had to do it now. So I submitted. I was one of eight winners in the Shabo Award contest that year and in the subsequent year’s contest.
My children’s writers’ group formed out of the second Shabo workshop with author Marion Dane Bauer. Two years later a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant allowed me to go to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s (SCBWI) annual conference.
Then I learned something from Alison McGhee that helped tamp down my worry that I’d come too late to this effort. She taught the workshop that was my reward for winning the first Shabo Award, She told us that New Yorker cartoonist William Steig didn’t start his enormously successful children’s writing career until he was sixty.
During the wait for publication I went after non-fiction books for the educational market, publishing with Red Line Press and Capstone. Some of those projects didn’t allow a lot of creativity, but they were all great learning opportunities. And some of them let me play happily with words, including five books on writing poetry and another on the 33 miners who survived being buried alive in Chile.
I also wrote a middle grade novel that’s gotten no traction and has gone back into the proverbial drawer. My newest project is a young adult verse novel, in which I’m very lucky to get guidance from Marion Dane Bauer with the help of a second Arts Board Grant.
And then there was the surprise of my life—receiving the 2018 Loft-McKnight Fellowship in Children’s Literature.
At 71, I still am visited periodically by the panic that I don’t have enough time left to make a substantial career. But I know others have proven that’s it can be done after 60 and after 70. I also find that at 71, I worry less.
I remind myself that this isn’t about making a big career. It’s about the lovely community I am privileged to participate in; about the pleasure it brings me to put together good sentences; about finding inside myself a book that can make a difference to another person; and about learning, always learning.
Read more about Yvonne’s experience publishing with a Historical Society Press at Cynsations, the blog of author Cynthia Leitich Smith.
Late Bloomers are guest blog posts at A is for Aging–sharing thoughts and insights from individuals who have launched notable creative efforts in the arts in their Third Age.
(For further resources, see books Secrets to Becoming a Late Bloomer: Extraordinary ordinary people on the art of staying creative, alive and aware in mid-life and beyond by Connie Goldman & Richard Mahler; The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life by Gene D. Cohen M.D.; What Should I Do with the Rest of My Life by Bruce Frankel.)