If 50 is the new 30, and 60 is the new 40, how old are those thirty-somethings – in their teens? Sam Tanenhaus makes a case for the older writer – defined as over 40 – while confirming that most of the great writers were under 30 when they wrote their first work of fiction. In his New York Times essay How Old Can a ‘Young Writer’ Be? Tanenhaus lists authors from Hemingway to Mailer, who were all mid-twenties when they hit success.
Where is the Grandma Moses of fiction? Are there any fiction writers over 60?
and Mary Wesley, author of The Camomile Lawn – a WWII Cornwall drama, later made into a TV mini-series, did not start writing until she was 71.
Does age really matter? Maybe. Tanenhaus says that every major fiction writer “begins with a storehouse of material and memories that often attenuate over time.” Ah, the need to write before you forget what you are going to write.
If you are already having senior moments, you may be thinking your career as a future novelist is in jeopardy, but Helen Hooven Santmyer, who wrote And Ladies of the Club when she was 87, advises…
“…it never really goes, does it? It is all in our minds.”