Tammy, thanks so much for inviting me to blog for you me to write for the General Fiction Forum. I’m honored. I’d like to talk about the writing life, and also about my just-published novel.
Dakota Blues is about a middle-aged woman who thinks she’s got the world figured out, and then it explodes and she has to discover not only what to do now, but who she IS now, at age fifty. Since all her carefully-constructed lifetime strategies didn’t work, what now? Where might she go, what might she do, now that she’s free to recreate her life?
I love this theme of coming alive in midlife, but it wasn’t until I reached my own middle age that I discovered it.
Ever since I was an adolescent, I wanted to be a writer, but life interfered with that dream. In my twenties and thirties, I raised my son, climbed the career ladder and endured several divorces. When I reached my late forties, I was able to cut back to part-time work and start my novel, but I didn’t realize how much a person had to know to write a whole flippin’ book! It took me about ten years to write Dakota Blues because I learned while writing. Now that the book is published and people are saying nice things about it, I feel like I’ve graduated.
About the time I started to write, the publishing industry began to change. New writers were told not to query an agent until we had a platform. By platform they meant thousands of ready customers for when your book was finally finished. We were told that we had to do all of our own selling and marketing because unless you were John Grisham no publisher would spend any money to publicize your book.
Most of us writers panicked. I was very discouraged. But I vowed to do what was necessary to launch my writing career, so I started platforming. I built my own website using Dreamweaver. I get a headache just remembering that! It wasn’t very good. Then somebody invented WordPress and things got easier. I started a couple of practice blogs but eventually figured out my niche.
I could be mad at the traditional publishing industry for kicking us new writers to the curb, but it’s not their fault. Everything is changing. Because I worked so hard to develop a platform, I discovered my passion: the idea that we are more powerful in the second half of our lives than we ever knew. I began to write about the strengths of old age, like not getting swept away by drama (because you’ve seen it all before), and having more resilience in the face of adversity.
I began to write about this and other benefits of maturity in my blog, AnyShinyThing.com, and the response has been tremendous. It seems I’m not the only one celebrating the glory of being older. Of course that means you have to shout back at the commercials featuring 17-year-olds demonstrating the latest anti-aging products! Or magazines that run articles about how not to look old, because old is bad and young is good, right?
Well, old is good in some ways. If I were a lamp, I’d be a priceless antique!
But back to platforming. In her book, Get Known Before the Book Deal, Christina Katz proposed we figure out what we love and then write, speak, blog, and tweet about it. She said a book is only one form of media, but the idea is the big deal. What is your idea, your passion, the thing about which you must speak?
That was a moment of awakening for me, because like most writers, I thought it was all about the book. It isn’t about the book. It’s about what you believe in.
I wrote Dakota Blues because I’m obsessed by the idea that we create our own prisons. Some men, but particularly women do this. We sleepwalk through our lives, not realizing that were basically throwing away a great gift. We have more freedom than we can imagine. Roll the world off your shoulders. Create a new life for yourself. Walk away feeling light. This is the message of my writing – the good news about the second half of life.
My next book is a collection of short stories about that very thing. It’ll be called, “The New Country – Stories of Midlife and Beyond.” I hope to have it out just before Christmas. After that, a novel about a smug CEO who retires to an affluent, age-restricted community, thinking she’s going to enjoy her leisure time, only to receive a surprise package – an infant to raise, courtesy of her estranged and newly imprisoned daughter. The working title is, Golden Years, My Ass. But I’ll probably have to change that!
In the meantime, if you or your readers are interesting in seeing how a middle-aged woman sheds her skin and finds her power in midlife – even at the expense of another life! – check out my Amazon website here: http://amzn.to/PhPijb (That’s a shortlink for everybody’s convenience). Be sure to scroll down the right-hand side to see the book trailer and the video of me reading the first scene!