Late Bloomers

For those of you who didn’t watch the Academy Awards last night, David Seidler won for original screenplay for “The King’s Speech” at the 83rd Academy Awards on Sunday night.  He’s seventy-three years old.

He began his speech with a wry statement:  “My father always said to me I’d be a late bloomer.”  He went on to say that he believed he was the oldest person to receive that particular Oscar, and hoped the record would be broken early and often.*

This smacked me right upside my forty-and-a-half-year old head.

See, several of the little  anxieties that swarm around and bite my ears when I’m trying to get into the writing zone are the ones that tell me I’m not writing fast enough, didn’t start early enough, haven’t been published yet, I’ve only got a few decades left, I’ve wasted all this time . . .

This is all patently untrue:  Betsy Lerner might rightly call me a bleeder**, but I do get there in the end, and usually well under deadline.  When in my right mind, I don’t consider thirty-three years of writing practice—and thirty-seven of reading—wasted time.   This is the point in my life when I have something to say and, just maybe, the ability to say it.   And if I follow my parent’s example, I won’t be middle-aged until I’m eighty, if then.***

I know this.  I do.

But I still have a tendency to hyperventilate like the White Rabbit trapped in a hamster wheel  when I read about all these talented infants authors on the 20 under 40 list.  When I read in The Guardian or the New York Time—or PW, occasionally—that younger writers have promise and older writers have an imminent expiration date.  Remembering the writing instructor who informed me that I was starting five years later than I should be^ and realizing it’s been four years since I took her workshop—

Breathe, breathe.

It helps to know about Mr. Seidler.

It helps to know that plenty of authors debuted after, some well after, forty:  Paul Harding, Belva Plain, Stina Hergin (who was 90), Annie Proulx, Sue Monk Kidd, James Michener (there’s a writer who hit 57 running), Richard Adams, Raymond Chandler, for pity’s sake, and a couple more bestseller lists full of etceteras.

It also helps to remember that late bloomers do, in fact, bloom.

Of course, finishing up my current chapter wouldn’t hurt.  I believe I’ll try that next.


* Mr. Seidler was a childhood stutterer, and he closed his speech by dedicating his award to all the stutterers in the world who finally had a voice.  I’m sure the video is on the Oscar website.

**Forest for the Trees.  If you write, read it.

***You know what my parents did on their vacation in Hawaii?  They went up a volcanic mountain and rode zip-lines down.  I’ve yet to see the photos (Dad?  Please send some, soon, so I can post proof), but I’d believe it anyway.  For anyone keeping score, Dad’s going to be 79 this year and Mom’s going to be 73.

^No, I don’t know what her reasoning was, though marketability might have been on her mind.


Armchair Fashionistas

I may not realize that its Superbowl weekend or that the World Series is going on until the grocery store bakery starts sticking little plastic footballs in green-frosted gridirons and decorating the doughnuts like baseballs, but I do know when the Academy Awards are.

This is the one year I haven’t seen any of the movies up for Best Picture, or any of the actors or actresses in the roles for which they were nominated. I re-read True Grit and borrowed Janie’s Great Ballets picture book to reacquaint myself with Swan Lake, but that’s about it. 

Not that this is much different from other years—I tend to use all awards ceremonies as prolonged infomercials. 

But what really interests Janie the most about all these people who worked so hard to write, visualize,create visual stories that evoke such strong emotions and reactions in their audiences . . .  is what they’re wearing. 

She examines jewelry, colors, necklines,hair, and shoes—oh, heavens, the shoes. Even the make-up, which she won’t be wearing for five years.   

 She’s an eight-year old fashionista, is that one.

I know that I’m encouraging her to judge people by their looks–which, in my defense, is exactly the opposite of what I preach the other days of the year— but I cherish the time she looked at Joan Rivers, who was snarking on and on about some poor kid’s purple dress, and said, “Mommy?  What’s wrong with the mean lady’s eyebrows?”

And I secretly love this stuff, too.  My favorite award is for best costumes, and my favorite Oscars remains the night Whoopi Goldberg wore a sample from each Best Picture while introducing the clips—as well as ten or twelve other outfits.  It didn’t even matter that it was, perhaps not coincidentally, the longest Academy Awards to date. 

I think—I usually fall asleep before the final award.*

It’s on!  Bye!


*Yes, I know it’s a school night—the kids are bathed and ready to be tucked in at their usual time.  Jane spent all afternoon at the batting cages, so I think she’ll be out by eight, anyway.  Sunny is almost out now—she had a birthday party.

The Keemponzigump Forest and the Gender Genie

I’m currently reading Johannes Cabal the Necromancer,  by Jonathan L. Howard.  I’ll have more to say about it later, I’m sure, but last night at dinner, I mentioned to my husband that so far it was a kind of steam-zombie-punk-Faustian tale.*

Sunny’s little brow wrinkled.    “Mommy?  What’s a Keemponzigump Forest?”

I was too busy gasping in admiration and rummaging for a working pen and a piece of paper to answer.

“Could you repeat that for us, honey?” asked my grinning husband.

“No.   Mommy?  What is one?”

“That, my love,” I said, scribbling it down on the back of a bill envelope with a broken green crayon, “is the wonderful setting of a future story. Thank you.”

She shrugged her little shoulders, my writer’s child, and sighed in stern impatience. “Welcome. So now what is one, Mommy?”

So I paid for Keemponzigump by explaining zombies and Faust** to a four-year-minus-one-month old in front of my disapproving MIL.

Small price for the use of something so tickly!***


Apparently, I write like a man. At least Gender Genie thinks so.

It was pretty close, though.  Judging by individual chapters,  it appears that when writing from a male character’s POV, I use more ‘typically female’ words—and vice versa.

How interesting is that (to anyone else but me)?

I don’t pretend to understand the theory behind word usage or where they compiled the data to develop the algorithm . . . but it’s fun to try!

Should I be worried about my compulsion to plug various pieces of my work into Internet toys? I already know I write like Vonnegut and my chapters tend to make word clouds that look like unshelled peanuts . . . what more do I want, a bestseller fortuneteller?

Oh, Lord, yes.

But I wouldn’t trade my soul for one, just in case anyone was wondering . . .

*With a carnival. It’s an interesting book.

**Steampunk was oddly easy—she loves old trains.

**I’m absolutely certain that elephants on pogo sticks can be found there . . .