Fearful of getting old? Wonder what it would be like to collaborate on a novel (working on my novels can be lonely)? Read on to meet four late-bloomers who reinvented themselves, some better categorized as “re-bloomers” with several life success! Numbers 3 and 4 describe in their own words what it’s like to be co-authors…
In the interest of learning to blog at any age, have you read WordPress’s ebook/pdf, “The Ultimate Traffic Guide”? A few chapters in, there are already some broken and rather old “additional info” links, and I’m unsure it’s worth a full $17. However, it’s got me updating posts to total no more than 15 categories plus tags each to ensure (fingers crossed) they show up on searches at the WordPress Reader. Given how important WP says they are and how our success as bloggers can only help WP, wouldn’t it be great if there were category/tag counters on editing pages and the post list pages? An alert when we go over would be all the better!
Between updating categories and tags, I clicked over to try another (here’s the first one I tried) super easy near-immediate gratification Jenny Can Cook no-knead bread recipe, this one for whole wheat. After 10 minutes of measuring and mixing, a 3-hour rise, a 40-minute bake, and an hour to cool and slice — yum!!!!…
Now meet late bloomer/re-bloomer #1: Grandma Moses…
American folk artist of worldwide fame, Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses, September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961) grew up humbly; farming as a child, at twelve leaving home to work, and later giving birth to ten children, only five of who lived past infancy. She’d always loved creating beauty out of nothing, but it wasn’t until she turned 78 that arthritis forced her to take up painting. When one hand tired, she’d switch to the other.
As practical as she was prolific, she told journalism giant William R. Murrow that painters should be self-taught, otherwise, “You’ll paint as the teacher paints.” When he asked her if it was hard to part with her work, she answered, “Oh, no. I’d rather see the money.”
Late bloomer/re-bloomer #1: Colonel Sanders…
Heard of a little fast-food chain called Kentucky Fried Chicken? Harlan David Sanders (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) started it when he was 65. Prior to that, he worked as everything from a streetcar conductor and an army wagoner, to a blacksmith’s helper and a fireman. After he sold KFC for boo-coo bucks, he badmouthed the new owners for cutting so many corners they ruined the food.
In 1962, Sanders taught Tennessee Ernie Ford and Minnie Pearl how to cook their own KFC chicken…
Today’s Guests: Late bloomers/re-bloomers #3 and #4…
J. L. Harland is a duo of authors, both who “turned new pages” after retirement; Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett. Check out each of the aforementioned three links, because they also write independently. Residents of Cardiff, South Wales, UK, they met as colleagues and ended up friends for thirty years.
Jan, originally from North Wales, speaks Welsh and worked as a professor of languages in education. She writes poetry and short fiction.
Jacqui says, “Writing together has been an unexpected joy as we share much laughter in the process. Plus, it’s an excuse to meet and eat cake!”
She grew up in Northern Ireland, was a teacher and an academic before she became a multi-genre author. Her writing includes an award-winning non-fiction book for teachers and recently published crime novel, The Nesting Place.
The Joy of Co-authoring by J. L. Harland (Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett)
We are J. L. Harland: two writers with one voice and co-authors of What Lies Between Them, published by Dixi Books. The name is a combination of Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett, both former academics and flourishing in retirement.
Many people see retirement as the end of a meaningful life, especially if they have left a job which has occupied every waking moment. Retirement should be seen as an opportunity to do all those things you dreamt of doing when you were a youngster, before the need to earn a living became a reality.
As academics our working lives were busy, demanding, intellectually stimulating and often stressful so when we retired, around 2014, we threw ourselves into exploring the opportunities our new freedom afforded. Academic life consists of many different aspects and requires people skills as well as writing ability. We both published academic papers, chapters in books, modules for degrees and helped students to edit their work and expand their knowledge. It was inevitable that we should both want to do something more creative. We discussed the art of creative writing and which areas we felt we had weaknesses, set targets and then edited each other’s work. Tentative beginnings. We also took classes in creative writing.
The first class we attended was across the city, so the journey entailed two buses to get to the venue. We met in the city centre and had a coffee and a chat before heading to class. It was during one of these chats that writing together was mooted. And so, our journey began.
What shall we write about? Where shall we set it? Who are the characters? Those were our questions and starting point. Every week when we met, we talked and planned. Our recent experiences of Higher Education gave us the setting, a fictional university in a familiar city, Cardiff, South Wales.
We each had a notebook and spent hours working out the characters first. Physical, personality, backstory, friends, relatives and what dilemma our main character had to face to ensure conflict. It was so much fun, and Elin Fiorelli was created. It should be noted that we both believe so much in this fictional character that we think we’ve seen her. Elin Fiorelli is a Welsh/Italian academic, a career woman whose life starts to unravel when she returns from a research trip abroad to find her former lover is now her boss. Can she keep the secret from her past while dealing with present day problems? You need to read it to find out.
Once we had a vague plot – we knew where it started and ended, the story arc, but the middle was more muddled – we started writing. Taking a chapter each, in turn, we wrote four chapters at a time. It was very exciting as, to keep the storyline intact, we each waited for a chapter before continuing to write. Opening the computer to find that your writing partner has completed the next stage in the story was stimulating and motivating. We are both guilty of going ‘off piste’ and creating scenes and minor characters not in the planning but that adds to the thrill of the writing process.
The story was in a very rough almost first draft when it was longlisted for a debut novel prize. That gave us encouragement and hope that it would be published. We sought editorial advice from a couple of sources, tweaked, adjusted and polished the manuscript before sending it into the world. It has been edited so many times and our writing voice so blended even we do not know who wrote which bits.
As any writer is aware, rejection is part of the journey. Our previous experiences as academics had made rejection something to be expected so it didn’t deter us. Every so often, we’d send the novel out while continuing to write other things.
During lockdown, when we couldn’t met in person, we Facetimed and managed, after the initial panic, to write a novella, a novelette and several pieces of short fiction. We kept a record of where What Lies Between Them had been submitted and put it on the back burner while we carried on creating. A second novel was nearing completion when we found our publisher. A couple of publishers had previously shown an interest but not the right fit, for various reasons.
For both of us having a novel published is a dream we held as teenagers. Now it’s a dream realised. The fun and laughter, as well as tears of frustration, we have shared on this journey has been a joy and we have many ideas and plans for future co-authoring projects.
Although many of the skills we learnt in our working lives have been of benefit on this journey we are still learning. Some of the learning curves have been vertical and we are busy marketing in the local area, doing talks and signings at all sorts of venues. For writers who have no public speaking experience this aspect, the need to be seen and engage with people, must be agonising. For both of us it almost feels like a return to work.
We also pursue our individual writing and are happy to support each other in these endeavours. As well as long form writing, Janet enjoys writing short stories, flash fiction and poetry, with work published in national magazines, literary journals and online. Jacqui’s debut crime novel, The Nesting Place, was published by Diamond Books UK in 2021 and she’s busy working on the next in the series.
Retirement? What’s that? We’ve found a new career in retirement, and we are relishing all the opportunities offered to carry on living purposeful and enjoyable lives.
How many times do you hope to bloom?