You’re Never too old


Writers can be born at any age.

How wonderful that the Society of Authors has announced its first debut novel prize for those over 60, the Paul Torday Memorial Prize. Paul Torday was sixty when he published his first novel ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.’  His son Piers explained the thinking behind the prize: ‘Our message to the industry and the public with this prize is very simple and twofold: it truly is never too late to follow your dream, and we passionately believe that writing could be a wonderful second career for many more with a life of well-lived experience to call upon.’ In an industry where there seem to be plenty of grants and awards for the under thirties (and rightly so, as they are more likely to need to earn a living) it is nonetheless refreshing to find encouragement for those of us who are more advanced in years (and no, I’m not quite eligible to enter!)

Writers don’t need to be strong, agile, or have huge reserves of physical stamina. We can exercise our imaginations sitting at a desk. In middle or late age we are more likely to have read widely, experienced deeply and acquired large amounts of wisdom – all of which we can bring to bear in our writing.

Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie) published her last book at aged 76, Judith Kerr (The Tiger who came to tea) is still writing aged 94.

When I took my Masters in Creative Writing, I was delighted to find several students my age or older on the course. Like many, I’d always wanted to write but first had to carve out a career, bring up my children, look after elderly parents…It was only when I turned fifty that I finally had the time and the capital to develop my writing professionally, and I feel so lucky to be contemplating publication when many of my friends are contemplating retirement.

I hope the Paul Torday prize finds a huge number of talented older writers. Here’s to mature novelists and the wonderful insights and skills they bring!