Writing After Retirement: Tips from Successful Retired Writers, ed. CarolSmallwood and Christine Redman-Waldeyer. Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-44220-3829-9
If there’s one thing this book proves, it’s that retired persons are as productive or more productive than they have ever been and retirement is a myth. As Lynne Davis writes in her piece “What Shall I write Today?”—“In retirement, I write what I want to write.” Every author in this book has chosen a writing life as all or part of the new life they have created after “retiring” from formal careers in as many different careers are there authors in the book.
The book is divided into four sections: Starting In, Practical Aspects, Finding Your Niche, and Publication and Marketing. Every section, however, is filled with down-to-earth, practical ideas and suggestions to help any reader find his or her writing life.
The common denominators in this book, in addition to the practical, are that these writers have chosen a writing life to which they bring a lifetime of experiences, personal dedication and discipline, a desire to write (not necessarily a desire to “have written,” that is, to see their name in print), and a deep passion to do this work well.
In “Starting In,” the authors cover the solitary life of writing, the need for community and how to create one, and the value of college courses, workshops, conferences, and so on. One author writes about “Following Dreams Put on Hold,” and his transition from technical writing (purposely emotionless) to creative and fictional writing (purposely filled with emotion). Other writers in this section write about inspiration, and finding or creating a writing “place.”
The shortest section, “Practical Aspects,” focuses on the infrastructure a writer needs, along with the “nuts and bolts” of writing. There is even a pieces on estate planning for authors. Who knew that plans should be made over royalties, artistic control, unfinished manuscripts, and one’s online presence? Other authors in this section provide practical suggestions on forming or joining writers’ groups, taking advantage of the public library, combining multiple passions such as writing and volunteerism, and the business of publishing.
“Finding Your Niche” explores the many directions writing can take and the many outlets available. In today’s world, there are traditional genres and routes, but there are also other avenues, such as blogging, grant writing, compiling an anthology, memoir, submitting to magazines, and so on. A key piece in this section is Lynn Goodwin’s “My Niche, My Way.” Goodwin retired to take care of her aging and dying mother, a process that could have been incredibly limiting. Instead, Goodwin ended up writing Journaling for Caregivers and building a network through the Internet to other writers. Through her own website, Writer Advice, she provides writers with community, offers online classes, edits, and promotes authors. She writes of being “technically retired,” but she is clearly a going concern, fully engaged, fully busy, and clearly forging her own path in the writing life.
In “Publication and Marketing,” authors write about their individual experiences within their specific genres. All of them are organized, manage time well, are flexible and able to work with editors, and run writing as a business, which it is. This business is not for the faint-hearted. As with other authors in this book, they engage with others writers through conferences and other means, ensuring that they have a community. Further, they write about the importance of a “platform,” and online presence that past authors didn’t need to consider.
There is something for everyone in this book, but above all, it’s practical, down-to-earth, and sensible. It opens the mind to new paths from the traditional to online, to different genres, and to new approaches to the writing life. Regardless of the variety of offerings in this book, however, two key points remain critical. Writers have to write and writers must persist. If you love it, as many of us do, it’s worth every character on the page.
Aline Soules' work has appeared in journals, anthologies, and books (print and e-formats). Her latest is a chapbook--Evening Sun: A Widow's Journey--in which she wrote about her emotional journey through widowhood. She is also a librarian at California State University, East Bay. Her website/blog is at Aline Soules