I’m embarrassingly old to be having a first book. Like a long-barren woman who miraculously conceives, stretch marks triumphantly claiming her dry, wrinkled skin.
When I started writing fiction six years ago and workshopping stories online, I closely guarded my age. No anecdotes about adorable grandkids in chat rooms. I didn’t want younger writers dismissing my work out of hand. It took time for me to trust them, to feel comfortable slipping in the odd reference to the ‘50s and ‘60s. I needed the anonymity of the ‘Net to gradually unveil first my writing and then myself.
That’s all about to change with the publication of Silent Girl. I’m scheduled for five readings, possibly seven, in May. Readings that – oh no – strangers will attend. Strangers who might speculate about the black hole of those years leading up to this one and wonder why I couldn’t get a book published before now.
Our culture celebrates youth. CNN has a blog called Young People Who Rock—interviews with people under 30. Granta publishes a list of the 21 Best Writers Under 35. And then there’s the 30 Under 30 Awards for journalism and the worldwide Young President’s Organization. The pressure is on to “make it” as early as possible. A talented woman who’s dear to me said she didn’t want to celebrate her recent 38th birthday because she hadn’t “done enough.”
“Are you sorry you didn’t start writing when you were younger?” my daughter asked.
“No,” I said. “I wouldn’t have had those stories in me then.” It’s true. I wouldn’t have understood at any but a surface level the oppression and drive for freedom I give words to in Silent Girl. Besides, I seemed to have needed to get other things out of the way first: Getting married and birthing children. Divorcing and marrying again, divorcing and marrying again. Breaking through the corporate glass ceiling. Proving whatever it was I had to prove to myself.
A well-known Vancouver author wrote to me recently, “It's better to start publishing with a little less dew on the on the petals. You've got something real to say now.”
I sure hope that’s true.