Dear Women 50+,
It doesn't take more than a few clicks to find publications aimed at women over 50 years of age. My first try brings me to "15 Over 50 Magazines & Publications." The next article is from the Guardian informing me about the "rise of older female writers" and proclaiming that "things are definitely looking up," presumably for those same women writers who have recently risen, like so many fresh rolls.
There's "Better After 50" and "Finding Your Voice after 50" and even one publication mentioning their target audience is "limited demographics." How polite!
But all of these are online resources and I work in real life. As a writing coach and book editor for more than two decades, most of my novel and memoir writing clients are female while men make up about 20 percent of such writers who contact me. And yes, most of my clients are over 50.
I do have amazing male clients, even in their eighties, and I have never once had a man apologize for "only" prioritizing their writing now. Not one time. I have only had male clients who are proud of their life accomplishments and convinced they have something to share with the world. From music therapists to rabbis to educators, these men take themselves off mute and dive right in. There is no reason why my older female clients shouldn't do the same. I want to champion all female writers, of any age. All of our stories deserve to be shared and celebrated.
One of the reasons that more women apologize today can be understood in one word: Zoom. In a post-Covid-19 world, most clients want at least one Zoom meeting, if not monthly Zoom coaching on their work. All of a sudden, I am not only glancing at a 2D photograph and scanning a bio, but looking at my clients in real time.
They are eyeing me, too. They notice what I wear, compliment me on different hairstyles and accessories, laugh at my enormous dog when she comes to join us, and glance around at the background (Framed posters of the covers of my four published novels. Deliberate? Absolutely).
So, the pro of post Covid-19 is that clients in 2023 get to know me better via Zoom than the pre-Covid-19 writers and hopefully that connection makes them more comfortable and we are able to dig deeper together in their writing. The con of all this is now clients are self-conscious and certain that I am studying them as scrupulously as they study me (I am usually more concerned with reviewing my notes on their work and coming up with something genius to say). My meetings are beginning to suffer from very similar introductions, even though I am speaking with women as far apart as Israel, Canada, the UK and the USA. These meeting starters go something like this: Sorry, I know it's ridiculous that I'm writing now when I'm so old; I'm sorry… (sorry again!) for starting so late with writing but I had my children, careers, ageing parents, etcetera. You must wonder why I'm doing this now at my age is another popular one. Me-time is also tossed in as a way to justify this ludicrous behavior before I can respond.Please Stop Apologizing for Contacting Me
Well, I'm writing to tell you to stop, please. If anything is ridiculous, it's these apologetic smiles, aiming your eyes away from the camera, and blushing behaviors. I admire my clients; I learn from them and I enjoy hearing their stories and helping them crack the mysteries of their works. There's a hidden voice and a puzzle behind every first draft and it's a privilege to help others find theirs. I have five children, a husband and a college teaching career of my own, so my appreciation comes from experience. I'm a juggler, too.
Aside from Zoom, I have considered other reasons why this is happening more frequently:
Before you apologize, try these three things that will help women push back against ageism in writing and take their rightful place in the literary world:
In conclusion, while I have not noticed any difference in approach between men and women when it comes to publication, I have observed this glaring difference in process for many women, who must challenge their own internalized ageist assumptions and take their rightful place as creators. When you do get writing, find a group, a writing coach or a mentor who can encourage you to break away from ageist tropes about older women and showcase the multi-faceted experiences of women over fifty.
An original version of this post was posted on Stella Fosse's site. Thank you so much, Stella for hosting me.
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