Monday, July 13, 2015

Forever young: 20 famous children’s authors still working hard after 65


Years ago, the age of 60 marked a threshold in a person’s life.  Not anymore.  Today, 60 is just the beginning.  For many authors, including independent, self-publishing authors, it’s the start of the most productive years of their career.


Easy:  we’re busy doing other things.  If you start having a family in your 30s, then you’ll be in your late 50s before they’re all up and out (if you’re lucky).  Plus, until age 60ish, you’re probably working like crazy and perhaps caring for elderly relatives as well.

It’s a tough time to sit down and write a book (though you can still find time to write if that’s where you are in life!).

An ancient Jewish teaching says that “at fifty, one can give counsel; at sixty, one attains old age, and at seventy, fullness of years.”  This is because King David died at 70, which the Book of Chronicles (29:28) says, “And David died at a full old age.”

Forget about that.

Most of today’s seniors (who may even resent being CALLED seniors) aren’t taking this instruction sitting down.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because my mother is having a Big Birthday soon.  A milestone birthday.  The kind of birthday most people of former generations would never be lucky enough to see.

And she’s still working.  Why wouldn’t she be?  She’s still healthy, and she loves to keep busy.  Work adds meaning and interest to her life. 

How does this touch our lives, as writers?  Especially as writers who love kids and kids’ books?

The years ahead are your golden years – and I mean that very literally.  You could well find yourself at a point in your life where you finally have the time to sit down and face the keyboard head-on. 

But you may also feel discouraged.  Why even bother trying to get ahead, when publishing sometimes seems like this is a young person’s game?  With a world of ebooks, and marketing nonsense, and all the complexities of formatting for print and digital editions out there, why sit down and put words on paper?

It’s worth it.  That’s all I can tell you.  And I hope that this list of other authors who are doing it will help inspire you.  I’m not just listing LIVING authors.  I’ve included only writers who are over 65 and still working, actively creating children’s books and contributing to the contemporary children’s literature scene.

Here are just five of these 20 fabulous living, working authors over 65.  Read on for the full list!


(l-r Patricia Polacco, Gary Paulsen, Mary Pope Osborne, Jane Yolen, Marc Brown)

Here are these 5, plus 15 more writers over 65 that I think you should meet.  They’ve all written so much, but to keep things short, I’ve listed one of their best-known books (or series) for each author.  Click through to find out what else they’ve written.

  1. imageAvi (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle)
  2. Tedd Arnold (Parts)
  3. Judy Blume (Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing)
  4. Marc Brown (Arthur series)
  5. Sharon Creech (Walk Two Moons)image
  6. Jeanne DuPrau (City of Ember)
  7. Mem Fox (Time for Bed)
  8. Juanita Havill (Jamaica’s Find)
  9. Kathryn Lasky (Guardians of Ga’hoole)
  10. Lois Lowry (The Giver)image
  11. Robert Munsch (Love You Forever)
  12. Jane O’Connor (Fancy Nancy series)
  13. Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House series)
  14. Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia)image
  15. Gary Paulsen (Hatchet)
  16. Patricia Polacco (The Keeping Quilt)
  17. Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials; Golden Compass series)
  18. Jerry Spinelli (imageWringer)
  19. Jacqueline Wilson (Best Friends)
  20. Jane Yolen (Owl Moon)

It’s true that most of these writers got their start when they were younger, but that’s not always the case.  So don’t be discouraged even if you’ve never published a book in your life.

imageThis list proves that publishers don’t care how old you are – and neither do kids.  A great story is a great story, regardless of what colour, race, gender or age you are.

Even if you’re coming from a completely different field, that life experience gives you a terrific head start.  You’ve had a lifetime of adventures (even if they didn’t feel like adventures at the time!).  Between that and the time you have for yourself these days, your books could well have an edge that younger writers’ books simply don’t. 

Sure, publishing is a pain, and marketing is a hassle, but the essence of it is just getting great stories down on paper.  Write the story, and the rest will come.

Perhaps you also have the very BEST reason in the world to start writing down stories as you get older:  grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and other children in your orbit.  What a treasure, not just of stories to leave behind, but books you can share with them while you’re still around for many years to come.

So take a deep breath.  You’re not ready to retire yet, right?  Now, another deep breath.  Sit down.  And write your heart out.  Your best is yet to come.

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