This story is SO typical of so many baby boomers. You have a dream, but you also have a life to live and the two don’t mix. That was the case for Kathleen Jones of Toronto, Canada, but she never quite let go. And then she persisted. And then this boomer’s 50-year-old dream actually came true.
Ever since I was a child, I have loved writing stories and I excelled at it, from the second grade through university. Storytelling came easily to me. As far as I was concerned, it was more fun than work. Teachers loved my stories and often asked me to read them out loud to the class. My second grade teacher even told my parents that I was destined to become a famous Canadian author.
But when I graduated from university in 1982, I lost my nerve. I soon discovered that it was almost impossible for an unknown author to sell a novel to a publisher, let alone make a decent living from writing fiction. So I did the next best thing: I became an editor, working for a number of Canadian book publishers.
Even though I became preoccupied with paying bills and saving for retirement, I couldn’t let go of my writing dream. In my mid-40s, while still employed at a full-time job, I began writing a novel during coffee breaks at work and on weekends. Six years later, I finally completed it, but I decided that it wasn’t worth submitting to publishers. The writing wasn’t bad, but the plot was meandering and unfocused and the characters weren’t fully developed. Nevertheless, the experience of working on it taught me a great deal about writing. And that first novel, flawed though it was, made me confident that I could actually write.
A few months later, I began creating the outline of a second novel. By then I was in my early 50s. This time, I was much more disciplined and committed to mastering my craft. I wrote virtually every weekend for three years, completing three drafts while still employed at a full-time job. But I was less worried about failing. Self-publishing was now a realistic option, so I knew that I could follow that route if my efforts to sell my novel to a publisher weren’t successful.
But I couldn’t give up my dream of winning a contract with a traditional book publisher. Knowing though that the odds of selling my work were against me, I decided to polish the manuscript before I submitting it to literary agents and publishers. I hired a team of professionals from Editors Canada: a substantive/line editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader. Under their direction, I rewrote and rethought my manuscript, over and over again. Then I crossed my fingers and submitted the polished manuscript to agents and publishers.
By now, it was March, 2017, and I was in my mid-50s. About eight months earlier, I had taken early retirement, after my former employer bought me out, and had become a full-time novelist and blogger. I had set up my own professional author platform and had read zillions of posts on the business and technical sides of book publishing. I was entering an exciting new phase of my life.
Still — despite all my hard work, preparation, and commitment — I was scared. I didn’t think my novel would be picked up by a publisher because it was offbeat and didn’t quite fit into an established genre. My worries turned out to be realistic: a few publishers showed some interest in my novel but they didn’t offer me a contract for it. After five fruitless months, I was ready to give up and self-publish when I received a contract from the publisher called Moonshine Cove.
I am now 58 years old. My first novel, Love is the Punch Line, has just been published. Finally, my 50-year-old dream is becoming a reality! With a great deal of hard work, commitment, and perseverance, what I’ve learned is that YOUR dream — whatever it is — can also come true.
But don’t wait 50 years to do it!