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What Better Way to Honor National Senior Citizens Day than by Celebrating Older Authors?

By Beth Clark • August 21, 2018

The Inception of National Senior Citizens Day

On August 19, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed Proclamation 5847, in which he wrote: "For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older—places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity."

We literally wouldn't be here without them, so take some time out of your day to support and honor the seniors in your world, let them know they're loved, and listen to their stories...even if you've heard them a hundred times before. It's also a good day to explore volunteering at an assisted living or nursing home and bring a smile to those who don't get many (or any) visitors.

P.S. If you're a senior, don't be shy about asking for those discounts or help if you need it!

Senior Authors Who Were Late to the Party

Harriet Doerr

Doerr spent her first forty years in California, then moved to Mexico, where her husband Albert was restoring a family copper mine. Following Albert's death in 1972, Doerr returned to California in her sixties, where she finished her education at the teasing of her son and began writing. Her National Book Award-winning first novel, Stones for Ibarra, was published when she was 73! She went on to write two more novels, Consider This, Señora and The Tiger in the Grass: Stories and Other Inventions, and lived to be 92.

Frank McCourt

McCourt's story of his impoverished childhood in Ireland and adulthood teaching in New York attracted global attention when Angela's Ashes was published in 1996, especially when it won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. It was published when McCourt was 66 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Boeke Prize in addition to the Pulitzer.

José Saramago

Saramago worked as a car mechanic, translator, and a journalist who published a few pieces of literature earlier in his life, but his work didn't receive international acclaim until Memorial do Convento, his fourth novel, was published when Saramago was 60. It was then translated to Baltasar and Blimunda and won the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Bram Stoker

Stoker's day job was working as a civil servant at Dublin Castle, so for years, writing was a side gig consisting of local newspaper theater reviews (done for free) and a few minor works. His first novel, The Primrose Path, was published after he left his civil position to help run London's Lyceum Theatre, which he was doing successfully when Dracula was published the year he turned 50. By the time he died at 65, he'd written twelve novels.

Mary Wesley

Wesley wrote three children's books in her fifties, but her first adult novel was published when she was 71. The following year, The Camomile Lawn was published (and made into a TV series in 1992). She kept writing until she was 84 and published ten bestselling novels in the last two decades of her life.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wilder was inspired by her daughter, Rose, to begin writing in her forties, but Little House in the Big Woods wasn't published until 1932–two decades later–when she was 65 years old. And that was book #1 in a series of nine...she was 76 when the final one was finished. Given that they were based on her own real-life adventures, her age enhanced the stories even further!

Other Noteworthy Literary Latecomers

Strong to the End

  1. Herman Wouk (103!), author of bestselling classics The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance, published a novel titled The Lawgiver at age 97, 66 years after his first!
  2. Alice Munro (87) is a short story master whose collection Dear Life was published when she was 82 and won the Nobel Prize in Literature…an impressive bow to tie on her career.
  3. Toni Morrison (87) is a Pulitzer Prize-winner, Honorary Harvard and Oxford Doctorates of Letters recipient, and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner who published her 11th novel, God Help the Child, when she was 84.
  4. Millard Kaufman (died at 92) was a screenwriter (and co-creator of Mr. Magoo, trivia buffs), but his first novel, Bowl of Cherries, was published when he was 90.
  5. James A. Michener (died at 90) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote 40 books AFTER the age of 40. His final novel, Recessional, was published when he was 87.
  6. James Salter (died at 90) was a screen writer, short story author, and novelist whose final novel, All That Is, was published when he was 88, after a three-decade gap.
  7. Tom Wolfe (died at 88) only published four novels in his long career, including the classic The Bonfire of the Vanities. His last books were Back to Blood and The Kingdom of Speech.
  8. Elmore Leonard (died at 88) averaged a novel every year or every other year from the mid-1950s forward, and Raylan, his final, was published the year before he died.

And that is just one example of the myriad of ways seniors make the world better, so happy #NationalSeniorCitizensDay and #HappyReading!

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