By Beth Wilson
Author of The Lost Lovelies Foundation
When I was working full bore at an executive level I dreamed about the day I would have an abundance of time. Time to do all the things I wanted to do. I fantasized over how immaculately clean my house would be and the masterpieces I would paint, the music I would play, and most important of all, the writing I would do.
Now I’m retired and in lockdown. My life seems to be contracting inwards – my computer like a magnet attracting all of what June Carter Cash would have referred to as the ‘klediments’ of my life. The gleaming benches of my fantasies are cluttered and, as old age and arthritis inhibit my mobility, I’m finding housework difficult and not all that necessary. I did have some success with three exhibitions of my paintings, but I stopped practising guitar after my teacher died. The mandolins sit unplayed and the cittern has become too difficult to hold, let alone play. I still enjoy bending notes on my harmonicas but the greatest joy and challenge in retirement has been writing.
I’ve always wanted to write fiction. All my life I have adored reading and, even while struggling with writing responses to government policy documents on all manner of complex health issues, reading novels has been my reward; the icing on the cake at the end of the day. I never drove a car because I needed to find time to read and public transport provided that opportunity. But writing my own book was a different kind of challenge.
Although I am retired, I still work in mental health and this throws up some deeply emotional and complex problems. It also makes me contemplate my own cognitive abilities and I was keen to explore how my brain was coping with aging. What better way to do that than writing a novel? Once I had made up my mind to get on with it, I charged on in my usual manic fashion.
At first, I bounced out of bed each morning, and once the boring things like washing, cleaning and eating were out of the way, I got stuck into the writing. I began to revive some of the material from a novel I started about thirty or so years ago. After about 50,000 words, I screeched to a halt. I didn’t know how to proceed. I had a story but I knew I didn’t know enough about the nuances of character development, plot and structure. I did endless revisions not knowing if I was making things better or worse. I knew I needed help. But I didn’t know where to turn.
Then out of the blue, an email turned up asking, ‘Do you need help writing a book?’ Did I what! I responded immediately. I met Regina Lane and she listened carefully to my ambitions. I was approaching my 70th birthday, but Regina assured me it’s never too late to become a published author.
I signed up with Laneway Press and was quickly teamed up with a brilliant editor who guided me like a capable navigator through the sea of complexities that were involved in turning my writing into a manuscript. But then came the joy of holding my book with its attractive cover in my hands – it felt like heaven!
Regina and Rebecca, my editor, never made promises they couldn’t keep and they managed my expectations expertly. Yes, I paid for their services, but it was well worth the price. Rebecca showed me what was needed and oversaw my efforts to get there; she didn’t do the work for me. In the end, my age was irrelevant; my brain was still functioning well and I launched my baby (albeit online) just after my 71st birthday.
Now I’m again working with Laneway Press to write my second novel, using all the skills I’ve learned and if I do say so myself, I’m getting better with age!
Take it from me, it’s never too late to become a published author.