Please join me in welcoming author Dorothy Place to the blog! Her encouraging story is a reminder that today is a new day for making changes in your life. If you think you’re past the age of writing a book, think again. Thanks for being here today, Dorothy, and the floor is yours.
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It’s Never Too Late.
As an undergraduate, my English professor at Syracuse University suggested that I major in that subject. He liked my writing and said he would like to see me continue to write. “What????” I said. “English major?” That was some fifty years ago and, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t think of one job, except teaching, that an English major could perform. And I certainly knew that I was far too stupid to be a teacher. So, I did the next most sensible thing. I gave up my scholarship and got married.
Divorced, I went back to school to earn an undergraduate degree. Despite the warning question posed by one of my male professors (what will you do when you are a candidate and are menopausal?) I drew a blank. I was 35 and hadn’t even thought about it. So, I went on to earn a doctorate. For the next twenty-five years, I worked as a research director, making sense of numbers and writing report after report that can be characterized as long, boring, and completely sanitized.
Then, Voila! I retired. And, like many women with grown children, decided to write about my early childhood. Having plenty of experience with long and boring reports, I quickly realized that my stories were not only long and boring, but that it would take more strength than I had to strap my grown children into a chair and force feed them my work. I kept writing because I loved the exercise and discipline, and turned out quite a few stories that seemed to go nowhere.
A year or two passed, and I was waiting in the lobby of a hotel in Arusha, Tanzania for the van to pick me up and take me back to Nairobi, Kenya. I began writing a story based on a conversation I had had with the bartender the night before. The words came so easily and so fast, that I had to look through the waste baskets to find paper on which I could write my thoughts. The short version is that the story was published in a small, now defunct, regional journal, “The Yolo Crow.”
Well, I was on my way. I vowed to become the Grandma Moses of the literary world. And truly, I did proceed along that path. I got older and older. But, persistence pays and over a ten year period, I published ten short stories in literary journals—not in The New Yorker or Tin House, mind you. But respectable print journals.
I was thrilled. Well, not that thrilled. These days, writing short stories does not keep a writer solvent as it did for Fitzgerald and Hemmingway. In fact, with all the submission fees and contest costs, I was going further and further onto the red side of the ledger. So, I decided to write a novel. And I did. And six years later, it got published.
And now I am writing my second novel. And I have a book of short stories at the editor, being prepared to be sent to publishers. And finally, my children, for whom I was going to write all those marvelous stories of my childhood have multiplied into seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren, and except for the wee babes, they all think I’m pretty remarkable. And I’m telling you, it’s never too late.
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You can visit my website, www.dorothymplace.com, to read about my novel The Heart to Kill, how it came to be written, and to take a virtual tour of Eight Mile Junction, the town in which the story takes place.