When you take up (or keep on) writing later in life

Image: Pixabay

It’s never too late to put a pen to paper and these famous writers are proof of that. Some have enjoyed long careers and continue to write books well into their eighties and nineties and beyond (think Herman Wouk). Others have become authors later in life. What do you think they all have in common? Probably a need to get their story out and for that, you don’t have to be young. In fact, being older can be a great advantage.

Read below and see what I mean:


John Barth – American novelist and professor. Currently 87, has been writing fiction since 1956 and has won many awards. Wrote Lost in the Funhouse and Chimera. Collected Stories was published in 2015.


Charles Bukowski was a German-American writer. He tried writing, was minimally successful, wound up working in a post office until he quit and wrote Post Office at age 49. Died in 1994 at age 73.


William S. Burroughs committed a ridiculous number of crimes, including murdering his wife, before he became a writer. Naked Lunch was published when he was 45. Died in 1997 at age 83.


Elmore Leonard – prolific award-winning writer of westerns and crime fiction, passed away in 2013 at age 87, published his last book, Raylan, in 2012.


Doris Lessing – passed away in 2013 at age 94. A British writer and biographer. Won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007, noted as the oldest person to ever receive the award (age 88). Most well-known for The Grass Is Singing, The Golden Notebook and The Good Terrorist.


Toni Morrison – Won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Beloved and is still writing at age 86. Her most recent novel, God Help the Child, was published in 2015.


Frank McCourt’s wife urged him to write Angela’s Ashes and the famous memoir was published when McCourt was 66. McCourt passed away in 2009 at age 78.


Alice Munro – currently age 86 – master of the short story. Dear Life was published in 2012 and she won the Nobel Prize in 2013. One of my favorite authors!


James Salter – passed away in 2015 at age 90. Wrote many novels throughout a long career, including The Hunters (1957) and All That Is (2013). Continued to lecture at age 89 until his death as Kapnick Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia.


Bram Stoker held a bunch of different jobs, including working as mathematician and an actor’s assistant. His writing career didn’t take off until he wrote Dracula at age 50.


Laura Ingalls Wilder was a teacher, mother, wife and farmer before she became a writer. Her first Little House book (Little House in the Big Woods) was published when the author was 64. She passed away in 1957 at age 90.


Tom Wolfe –Known in the 1960s for The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff was published in 1979 and The Bonfire of the Vanities in 1987. His most recent nonfiction The Kingdom of Speech was published in 2016 when he was 85.  Perhaps he has another book in the works!


Herman Wouk – Wrote The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, Youngblood Hawke, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance and many more during a long career. He’s still going strong at age 102. His most recent book, Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author, was published in 2015.


Do you have a book idea ready to surface? Well, get started – you can do it!

Thanks to the following articles for helping me compile this list:

Five Authors Who Prove It’s Never Too Late To Start Writing – litreactor.com 4/29/13
8 Writers Over 80 – bookriot.com 3/15/13
And thanks to Wikipedia.org for the occasional fact check.

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