So old news around the literary community is Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first Canadian in 112 years (read: since never). As the Americans would say
WE’RE NUMBER #1! WE’RE NUMBER#1!
And as Canadians a more humble and snarky people, we would say
We’re number 112! We’re number 112!
I’m sure Alice Munro would appreciate this sentiment, after all we Canadians are the patient type (we didn’t liberate ourselves with cannons and wasted tea after all), and writing 14 short story collections and declaring ones retirement to win a Nobel prize is grounds for winning the platinum medal for patience in the literary Olympics. But really, anyone whose read her short stories would know Alice Munro writes like no other, and the papers must have been gushing about the shooting star that flew over Wingham, Ontario to signify the birth of literary greatness when she started making money off her short stories. More specifically
“Housewife finds time to write short stories”
Yep, Canada’s first Nobel literature laureate and she was the housewife, squeezing bits of words between minding the babies and struggling to reach the top shelves of grocery stores. And when did she start getting published? Let me check. Holy Shit, she was 37 when she published Dance of the Happy Shades.
Yeah beginnings could be better. But fret not Alice wasn’t alone in her patience; here are some more late starters
Barbara Gowdy first published when she was 38
Kathy Reich first published when she was 47
Jack Whyte first published when he was 52*
Notice an unerring pattern in these late starters? All very prolific who were only held back by life getting in the way (hey I wasn’t kidding about Alice Munro the housewife).
Or rather it was life pushed them the right way.
Alice Munro, lived in Southern Ontario most of her life, raising kids, and what are her stories about? The harsh and slow starkness of Ontario gothic. Kathy Reich is a forensic anthropologist, which certainly bulked up her research when writing her bestselling crime novels.
Writing a novel, or becoming prolific, it takes developing street smarts, it takes the shock of realizing that you may be old when kids ask you who the Power Rangers are, it takes being able to say “I was watching it on TV/didn’t know about it until later /was there when Expo 67/ the Ontario Place riot/September 11 happened”. It takes life experience is what I’m saying, and writing is taking those life experiences and crafting them into words, into prose, into poetry.
So if you are fretting at how late you started writing, its okay. Fret. Alice Munro was struggling with a quartet of kids and suffering writers block for the entirety of the 60s before her first publication. You can bet good money she fretted about not making it. But she also experienced life and she wrote.
You’ll get published too.
Note: For those who are desperately searching for a wordplay exercise (read: none of you buggers) like filching for the nonexistent token from your coin purse while the bus driver is waiting, sorry this isn’t a wordplay exercise post anymore. Wait a couple days.
*Fun Fact: It was only until he was 69 that Jack Whyte fulfilled the dream all boys have when they get their drivers license and got himself a flashy new Mercedes to pretend the world is the Autobahn and yell at women to get off the road. (I added this because I thought it was cute)