By Patricia Sands
At sixty-three, when most people are settling into retirement, my unanticipated career as a writer began. I refer to this as my rewirement.
At first, I found myself lamenting that I had not begun writing when I was younger. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had to have experienced my life, in order to be inspired to write.
That life included being suddenly widowed at 43 with two children. I returned to university, became a teacher and remarried a few years later. When I was 63, my husband retired and that’s when my writing journey began.
Wintering in Florida, we had plans. Unfortunately, before too long, my husband became restricted due to health issues. I found myself with time on my hands.
I began writing a chronicle purely for the amusement of my real-life “Bridge Club”. This was simply going to be a look at the lives we had lived through almost fifty years of friendship.
As other people in my life read excerpts, they encouraged me to consider publishing. Friends told me, “My book club would love to read this!” and “You’re telling our stories … women’s stories.”
Seriously? Could I do it?
Writing a novel had never been on my agenda. A photographer all my life, I had told stories through my photos. I had been a teacher. Everyone said I left the longest voicemail messages in the world. Perhaps I could write a book.
The support of my Bridge Club was loud and unanimous. A novel was conceived.
It was life I wanted to write about. Of friendships that are true, honest, and strong. Of the issues we face in life that work out in the end. That was the story I wished to tell.
There began a period of attending intense writing workshops, taking courses, and reading everything that was recommended about the craft of writing fiction.
Then came Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Praised in every course, I knew I had to read it even though I had never read anything by him before. His genre did not resonate with me. This book did. By the time I finished it I liked the man, unconventional as his life was, and I liked what he had to say. His message was clear: If you feel strongly that you have a story to tell, sit down and tell it. Find your own voice. Tell the story in your words. Then find a reputable editor who will help you hone that story.
That message from King gave me the confidence and motivation to write The Bridge Club. Now, when I am invited to speak about writing, I always share his advice because I think it is a basic truth that can help others find their own unique voice. It may be the impetus they need to begin writing.
Learning about the business of publishing was a steep curve. Queries were sent. Rejections received. Some interest was generated. “A year and a half before we may get to it,” I was told by one publisher.
I’m too old to wait!
The dynamics of the publishing world were changing. The more I read about self-publishing, the more I felt being an indie author or author-publisher was the route I wanted to take. Working with a reputable professional editor was not negotiable. Little did I know what lay in store when the writing was done. I soon learned that publishing the book was only the beginning. If I wanted my novel to reach readers, social media involvement was a must.
I am grateful that I fell into an online blogging course in 2011. There were forty of us enrolled. We were all in the early stages of our writing lives; some published and others almost there. The facilitator was instrumental in helping us discover our brand.
This group established a tight bond that continued on Facebook, sharing information, support and social media tips.
As a result, I’m connected with many writers, editors, publishers, bloggers and reviewers. I value the importance of critique groups, associations, writing conferences and networking.
Writers helping writers is what drives our indie world and puts to bed, in my mind, the long-held theory of writing as a solitary existence.
When I first held a print copy of The Bridge Club in my hands in 2010, I was hooked.
As I began to hear from readers, I discovered this was the greatest reward of writing. I knew I wanted more. I wanted to continue telling stories about women and life and how getting older can simply mean more time to achieve dreams. I feel fortunate that my writing has also resulted in speaking invitations. I love to share this message.
I knew I wanted to write some novels set in the south of France. I also knew I wanted to write for people like me—women over 50.
In 2011, my husband and I lived in Antibes, France for five months. I began my second novel, The Promise of Provence, at that time and published it in 2013. Readers, especially Francophiles like me, kept asking for more. Women over 50 wrote and expressed satisfaction at discovering a protagonist closer to their age. A sequel, Promises to Keep, followed in 2014. The Love in Provence series was born and I planned more.
And then the totally unexpected occurred. In January, I received an email from a senior acquisitions editor with Lake Union Publishing, which publishes women’s fiction. My first reaction was that it was spam; I hadn’t reached out to them.
Another chapter began. I signed a contract for my Love in Provence series and looked forward to an exciting collaboration. The third in the series was published in 2016 and Lake Union requested a stand-alone next. Drawing Lessons was published in 2017.
I realize my good fortune in having excellent, professional support in every way, including marketing, from Lake Union Publishing. The author community is tight.
However, I also love the world of indie authors. The genuine culture and collegiality that has developed in the last decade is impressive. I am blown away by the content and advice that is shared by so many within our global sphere. I would mention names here but the rest of this post would be taken up by a very long list. Whatever your genre, your writing style, your question, there are answers and support out there. We are blessed in this business!
Lake Union has first dibs on my next novel, but I can also continue to be an indie author. It seems to me I have the best of both worlds. I’m exceedingly grateful. If this can happen to me, it can happen to you.
Becoming an author at this stage of my life has been a satisfying, stimulating, and demanding experience. The lesson learned? Believe in your dreams, work hard, and never give up!
Be a possibilitarian! Does this word describe you? Then write on!
Canadian author Patricia Sands writes award-winning women’s fiction. Her best-selling Love in Provence trilogy was drafted in the south of France, where she spends time each year. Drawing Lessons, her fifth novel, was released on October 1, 2017. Connect with Patricia on her Facebook Author Page, Amazon Author Page or her website where there are links to her books, social media, and the women’s tour she leads each summer in Provence, based on her novels. She shares her love of photography on Instagram. Sign up for her monthly newsletter that has special giveaways and sneak peeks at her next book. She would love to hear from you!
Under contract to Lake Union Publishing; represented by Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency
Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2sJeWrv
Wonderful story, Patricia! Lots of luck with current and future books!!
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Kessie! Always appreciated. 🙂
Lovely, encouraging post, Patricia… all the best, as always, with your writing!
Thanks, Liza ~ great to see you here!
I so connect with you. I did not start writing until I was into my fifties, when I immigrated to Canada. So not only was I living on a new continent but discovered a new passion. Since 2011 I have published 5 books (making up for lost time I think!) and 2 more this year. The stories tumble from my finger tips now.
Thanks for sharing your experience here, Mandy. You had a lot on your plate when you began. Congratulations!
Such an inspiring story to women and writers everywhere. Mille merci’s. I so enjoyed your books. We have spent quite a bit of time in beautiful Antibes and are looking at renting long term there. Perhaps I too will find my writer’s voice there. Wishing you much continued success snd fulfillment.
Thank you, Sandy. I hope Antibes inspires your stories as much as it has mine. I’m there now and the magic continues for me. Good luck with your rental plans!
Seeing people like you, i feel very positive. Keep the good work up.
And you keep feeling positive! 🙂
Your story was so inspiring, Patricia! I had no idea of your personal history when I read–and fell in love with–The Bridge Club. I listened to it as I drove 300 miles round trip to my ranch in the country (40 acres of undeveloped land where my husband and I built with our four hands a house, powered by solar energy). My only complaint was the couple of times when I was crying so much I had to pull off to the side of the road. I’m in the same age bracket as you, and everything was just so true to my life as well–even the Internet clicks on the charity giving site. I wish you all the best and look forward to many more books in your future.
Cheri, thank you for taking the time to leave your comment here. I’m so glad The Bridge Club resonated with you. It’s words like yours that feel my soul and inspire me to continue writing. It sounds like you and your husband have quite a story yourselves. Congratulations on that amazing achievement!
Patricia, thanks for sharing your wonderful story. It’s so encouraging to know there is community out there!
The collegiality and support of the global writing community is part of what makes the entire experience so positive. 🙂
I loved reading this article.. as well as your books. In everyone of them, I am right there in the story as a passenger traveling on the same transportion, walking close by on the same street or shopping in an open market, where your characters are shopping too. I am soaking up your great storytelling which seems so real and magical. I am looking forward to your next release… keep sharing your stories!
Susan, thank you for your kind words. I’m delighted to have you along in the pages!
It is really inspiring to know that you started writing at 63. Keep writing. I also started my blog at 60.
Rewirement is a great word. I call retirement ‘my reclining years’ which wouldn’t lead you to believe I do much. I am writing tho! The most important discovery I’ve made after 60 (so far) is sex. If this sounds crazy, I agree; but invite you to read: https://sexover60.wordpress.com/