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.
Today we hear from late blooming author Carol Gordon Ekster:
Teaching was my passion. I taught 4th grade for 35 years. The summer after I turned 50 my husband and I spent a day at the beach. I was reading the Boston Globe, then found myself walking to the car. I returned to my chair with post-its and a pen. And right then, I worked on my first picture book. Writing came to me that day.
I did not ask for this—it was never planned. But I am so grateful for the gift.
I taught writing but never wanted to write myself. But once on this path, there was no turning back. I joined SCBWI. And then I remembered. I’d written a book in 6th grade, and poems. My Masters’ degree was in reading and language. I took a sabbatical and investigated writing workshop programs for my students. I read picture books every day to my fourth graders, to introduce or follow-up on a concept taught.
Everything in my life led me to this new career. It was perfect timing. I would have something wonderful to do during my retirement years. I would not have had the time to invest when I was younger. I could not have supported myself as an author without the benefit of a retirement check. And I just wasn’t ready.
My sister told me she learned at a workshop—for many women menopause and after are times of enormous creativity. That seemed to be what happened to me.
Aging afforded me the freedom, wisdom, and flexibility to endure a writing life with its ups and downs. And the stories just kept coming. I now have more than 120 completed manuscripts.
I didn’t retire until I was 57, the year after my first book came out. I have gotten a huge number of rejections, but pushed on. I did the work–going to conferences, reading stacks of picture books weekly, joining critique groups, writing and revising, and connecting with other writers. I immersed myself in the creative life.
I’m in six critique groups, a marketing group @PBrockiteers22, the Courage to Create at the Writing Barn, and the group blog, Writers’ Rumpus. After many rejections, even from Highlights Magazine, my first piece was in their December 2021 issue. And I continue to persevere.
I recently turned 70 and my fifth book, SOME DADDIES, with Beaming Books, illustrated by Javiera Mac-lean Alvarez, launched May 17th, 2022. The story came to me during a facetime call with my grandson. He said his daddy shaved like my husband…but he’s going to have a beard when he gets older because he’s going to be a daddy. I said…”Some daddies have beards…” My writing brain ignited and I paused to write that down as a title.
After a picture book pitch event on twitter, this story sold a year later. I’m so excited—it celebrates the incredible diversity of modern fathers and the endless possibilities masculine love offers. And I wanted children to understand the truth in the repeated line, “Every daddy is different.”
I remember feeling emotional at times when I was a child because of the truth in this page spread-
“Some daddies share comforting words and cry with you.
Others love making you laugh.
Some barely hug.
Others hug like bears.”
My dad was one who barely hugged. And when I was younger that was hard for me. But I learned to accept him and appreciate his many other incredible gifts. And as adults we became very close. He passed away before he could see the finished book, but he knew it was coming and that it was dedicated to him and my grandson.
I’m proud of this book trailer for Some Daddies, a family endeavor. My husband and I worked on the trailer and my brother-in-law wrote an original tune and sings.
SOME DADDIES and my fourth book, YOU KNOW WHAT? happened rather quickly in my journey of being an author. My sixth book, TRUCKER KID (Capstone, illustrated by Russ Cox) comes out spring 2023. I wrote it ten years before I will hold the book in my hand. And though there were many rewrites and rejections I believed in that story.
I find writing now to be a meditative experience as I play with words to have them align in the best possible way. This author life even allows me to continue communicating with children during school visits, virtual events, and at bookstores. It has been a surprising and wonderful second career that I hope I can continue for many years to come.
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.)
Find more late bloomers guest posts.