Launching an author career after 50
by Susan Ricci
The first word that comes to mind: Perseverance.
Perseverance is the key for achieving one’s personal voyage across the sea of dreams. Like many writers (or perhaps all of them), I’ve been writing in some form or another since I discovered crayons weren’t part of a food group.
Newspaper commentaries became my platform when my children were very young, because they came easier to me than sitting down and penning a novel. This is what I call having a small dose of perseverance—the drive was there, but there wasn’t enough gas to fire up the engine.
Not only was my engine dry, I also lacked time. My son was born with congenital heart defects requiring heart surgery, when he was a year old. My children’s father and I floundered financially, and I had to work full time to help keep our home from foreclosure while raising our three children.
When my children’s father and I divorced, I was still working full time, but my children were approaching adulthood, and I had more ‘time’ to persevere. I wrote and published three magazine articles, was a regular contributor to my local newspaper, attended writer’s conferences. I also wrote the first manuscript I ever pitched to an agent. While the premise for the story was good, the writing sucked, and the project was shelved.
Two manuscripts later, the message finally clicked as I began absorbing information being shared at workshops. I slowly developed my own writer’s voice. My voice finally emerged, because I persevered.
Fast forward another decade and perseverance became second nature to me. I rewrote that dismal manuscript from scratch, and as the days flew by, I couldn’t even convince myself this manuscript held any more value than it did before, so I wrote two more stories that unfortunately, in their present state, weren’t marketable.
I became discouraged and decided it was time I dropped anchor, because my voyage wasn’t progressing the way I wanted it to.
My perseverance found a different direction: The concept of completing a good fiction read and my dreams for publishing it were still floating around, but my writing boat was adrift, as far as fiction was concerned.
I wasn’t completely dead in the water, as I won two writing awards for essays I composed regarding topics that moved me passionately, and was told by an agent to stick to nonfiction topics, because my writing was brilliant when I stuck to the truth.
But I still wanted to write fiction, dang it!
This is about the time I discovered another word: Posthumously.
Wanting to publish an enjoyable fiction read was not something I wanted to accomplish this way. (Who would?) Perseverance kicked posthumously’s butt, and developed into: Dang-it-all Drive.
In order to drive, the engine needs fuel. Over two years ago, I fell in love for the first time in my life, and latched onto an idea I thought might do well within today’s fiction market. I gassed up and persevered until my musings became a book, and that book finally launched September 17, 2012.
Which brings me back to sentiment. My fuel is a loving, supportive husband, coupled with a post-it note from my mother I’d found after she passed. I was cleaning out her desk, (and well, you know)… The post–it says, “Hey, Sue, more later—Keep Writing—You know…” It’s taped to my printer so I can see it every day.
Therein lies: Success, albeit during the second half of my personal century on a moving ship! That, and never drop anchor over the side of your personal ship!
Thank you so much, Donna, for hosting me today.
EXCERPT from DINOSAURS AND CHERRY STEMS
Intense emotion, leading to prose or poetry, cannot be described in any other fashion…
Chapter One: Moral Ineptitude
I’ve been rendered a dinosaur, a relic…
I’m sitting in the theater where my grandson’s rehearsing his spring band concert and darling hubby just texted me, “We should separate.”
“Oh, Glen, that’s so you,” I whisper. In the twenty years I’ve known him, Glen always finds a way to sneak out the back door.
It’s not his motive that’s the shocker. Glen and I have been communicating via sarcasm since our first anniversary three years back. Arguments evolved–how we spend our down time, his and my adult kids’ snafus, even our new bedspread, for Christ’s sake.
He had his picture taken without me the last time we traveled, six months ago (using the word vacationed implies an enjoyable event). I later found his photo posted on a social network he joined. In the relationship section, he’d written it’s complicated.
I’ve even kept my mouth shut about the way we’ve been stagnant as a couple, thinking it would be better for both of us to let the situation ride for a while.
Several weeks ago, Ella Stuart, a woman I know socially, phoned and inadvertently cleared up those rumors I’d been hearing about hubby’s slick trespassing.
“We thought you and Glen might like to join us for a house party we’re having next Friday night,” she’d said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve all gotten together.”
I was confused. Ella’s husband, Bill, and Glen are tight, childhood friends and they’d gone to an attorney seminar together just the week before. I thought for sure, since they’re so close, Glen must’ve told him our marriage was in the morgue.
“Didn’t Glen tell Bill at that seminar last week about our personal situation? That our marriage is not going so great?” I ask.
“Wow, I’m sorry to hear that. I didn’t know and I don’t think Bill knows either because he didn’t mention it. As a matter of fact, he hasn’t seen Glen since last winter. I had a hell of a time tracking your phone number and finally called information. The last number Glen gave Bill, well, something’s not right about it. I tried calling it several times, and some woman kept answering, but when I asked for you or Glen, she’d hang up.”
“What’s the number?”
Ella gave me the number, and as I copy it I’m thinking, you bet your ass something’s not right, because I don’t recognize this.
“Glen told me he went to a seminar last week with Bill, the one in New York when they stayed over,” I said again. “Are you saying Bill didn’t go?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Bill has been home after work every night the past month. He hasn’t gone to any over night seminars in a long time.”
“What about that baseball game they went to last month?” I ask. “It’s hard for me to believe Glen didn’t say anything to Bill about us. I’ve never seen a man love to gossip more than he does.” I try to laugh, but the noise coming out of me sounds more like ARRGH.
Ella sighed. “I’m sorry, but Bill hasn’t been to any ball games this season, either, Cindy. Bill hasn’t seen Glen since the winter.”
“Are you absolutely sure?” The pleading in my voice makes me almost as sick as this conversation.
“Yes, I’m really sure. Again, I’m sorry.” Click.
I lean over my desk to put the phone back in the charger, but my hand trembles and it drops.
I bury my face in my hands. Yep, not only am I a dinosaur, I’m a throwaway…and so humiliated I have those cramps people get when they’re in urgent need of the bathroom, but there’s no time. Glen will be home soon and I want to call the woman who kept hanging up on Ella.
When she hangs up on me, I’m not a bit surprised.
What transpired afterward is muzzy, but what remains with me is the sudden crash at the window during Glen’s lively denials after I confront him.
Diverted from our shouting match, we’d hurried over and saw a bird, lying in the garden below. Even as we watched, it soon gathered its wits and flew away.
As we withdrew to our separate regions in the house, my self-esteem questioned: How many slams into the window of surprises do I need before I fly this marital coop?
I once heard about some celebrity who sent his wife a fax saying he wanted to divorce, but texting such a message is un-fucking-believable, even for Glen. My hands flex with the urge to choke him as I recall how he kept checking his cell during my mother’s wake last spring.
Take deep breaths, I tell myself. Focus on the stage and Jesse’s drum solo.
The pounding drums mimic my heartbeat, but I know until this rehearsal is over and Jesse’s safely home, I must stay calm. There’s forty miles of driving on a freeway loaded with wild weekenders to cope with, and it’s a definite my grandson’s going to want to stop and eat since it’s past lunchtime, and we always do that anyway.
I pinch my fingers on the bridge of my nose to keep the angry tears at bay. I want to text him back, continue the battle, but the situation will only escalate if I do, because Glen never loses his wars.
Instead of retreating, I text him anyway, and ask if we can talk about this when I get home.
He responds he’s busy for the rest of the weekend, and won’t be there.
Christ, today’s only Saturday. What’s supposed to happen on Monday, when we have to go to work in the same office?
Where he’s my boss…
About Dinosaurs & Cherry Stems:
Twice divorced, cynical Cindy Layton feels like a relic with prehistoric baggage, and doubts she can muster the courage to establish a new relationship, even if it’s on her own terms.
Her journey out of the Stone Age hits freaky, hilarious turbulence when she joins an Internet dating service. The scammers and weirdoes she meets in cyberspace make Cindy want to crawl back into her cave, until she receives an accidental email from Jay DeMatteo.
Jay has the dating blues, too, but after meeting Cindy, reconsiders his options. Now it’s up to him to convince her it’s never too late to pursue a meaningful relationship, even when there’s baggage.
Plus check out Susan’s Heart Marks the Spot: Three Short Stories