When you hear about baby boomers taking up writing late in life, you might wonder: what makes them do it? From her home in Akron, Ohio, that’s what Sue Amari writes about.
My father died, and my past rolled in like a fog. It settled in memories from college — dorm rooms with Joplin playing on the stereo and incense choking the air; smoke drifting up past Indian patterned drapes, over the heads of people whose faces were frozen at that perpetual age of promise, 21. I suddenly was consumed with reconnecting with those I had lost touch with — and one person settled in front.
Charismatic and intelligent, beautiful and self-assured, I was certain if anyone’s life could live up to that 21 year-old promise, it would be hers. After weeks of trying to track her down, I finally heard from a friend who came from her home town.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I heard she ended up addicted to drugs, homeless. Died of an overdose decades ago. It ruined her family.”
Somehow this piece of information became part of a simmering roux that spurred my urgency, initiating a new direction. Employed as the editorial director of a prep school thirty miles from my west Akron home, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to live this way. My kids had grown and moved out — those overwhelming responsibilities were part of my past, not present. It was now just me.
I began to wonder: if, as I had told myself for decades, what I really wanted to do was write stories of my own selection, when, exactly, was that going to happen? When I was seventy?
And that mixed with the idea that if I could choose my stories, I would write one about that 21-year-old friend — but this time, I’d finish it right, the way her story should have ended.
That was four years ago. The result was the completion of my two novels, A Calculated Guess and its sequel, The Year of the Red Fire Monkey. My friend became the inspiration for Cindy, a central character of both books.
I think, looking back, my starting a new direction at 60 is quintessentially Baby Boomer — ours is possibly the first generation to be blessed with a last-chance opportunity to try those things that seemed impossible to try when life was hitting full-force.
Or, put a different way, never retire from writing your story.