From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, October 17, 2011

Whats age got to do with it?

I'm kind of obsessed with writers' age. Like, how old they were when they got published, and when they wrote their big masterpiece. That's why I get really into stuff like the New Yorker's '20 under 40' thing. I want to know if I'm making okay time, or if I'm really behind in relation to other writers out there.

Some examples:

Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility at 36, Pride and Prejudice at 38, though I think she'd had them written for a decade or so before that.
Charlotte Bronte: 31 at publishing of Jane Eyre
George Eliot: Published at 40, Middlemarch at 52
J.K. Rowling: Published the first Harry Potter around 31.
Maureen Johnson: First published at 31.
Cormac McCarthy: 32
Amy Tan: 37
John Grisham: 34
Stephen King: 27
Stephanie Meyer: 32
Charles Dickens: 24
John Green: 28
Lois Lowry: 40 (The Giver, 56)
Judy Blume: 31
Nicholas Sparks: 31
Danielle Steel: 26
Amanda Hocking: 26
Louis Sachar: 24
Christopher Paolini: 19
Agatha Christie: 30
Nora Roberts: 31
Roald Dahl: 27
Mary Higgins Clark: 41

Ok, ok, I'll stop. I told you I'm obsessed. Its also fascinating to look at this list of the top fiction sellers of all time. It includes books in every language, which makes me want to see if I can get my hands on an English translation of the top Chinese, Japanese and French sellers. It would be interesting, I think.

Anyway. What's the point of all this? I'm not really sure. It seems like the magic age is early-thirties, which means I've got another decade or so. But I don't know. I'm so neurotic and I suppose freakishly competitive that people like that stupid Christopher Paolini make me feel a little behind. And I've only got a couple years if I'm gonna match pace with Dickens and Louis Sachar.

To be honest though, I don't think age really matters at all. Some of the best writers in the world didn't start till their fifties or sixties. And some people come out with something brilliant in their twenties or thirties and then never write again. Writing is so personal, and I think the timing of a writing career is too. I think what matters is where we go from here, wherever "here" is.


Sarah Allen


  1. It's easy to feel rushed in this industry, which is ironic considering how slow publishing really is. Ultimately, though, it's not a race or a competition--you know this already. Just focus on creating your best work regardless of what others are doing and when.

  2. I agree, it's a marathon and not a sprint, but that is not an excuse to waste time. You can't start either until you get something published.

    I'll make this list one day.

  3. Oh my gosh! Never post this list again, Sarah! This has me completely paranoid ;) I'd like to think I'm on my own timeline and I don't want to measure my success relative to anyone else's. But sometimes it's hard not to...

  4. Oh, great. There goes my day. (Hint - I blogged today about my almost teenage grandchildren.)

  5. Oh, dear God. My only claim-to-published-fame chance will be posthumous at the rate I am going.

    Still, as long as the stuff gets written - publishing is different now. Why, I must reach all of twelve people per year out here! Better than a poet could normally hope to collar.

    Thanks for this - it somehow provides me with impetus.

  6. Now that's fascinating! Alas, I won't be published by 40--or even 50. But at least I WILL BE PUBLISHED, I hope, someday. Probably before I'm 55, so that's good. I'll still have 20-25 good writing years after that, right?? ;o)

  7. We'll all be fair game when the zombie apocalypse hits, regardless of age. It's nothing but a number =)

  8. Really interesting! I don't think age matters but it's cool to see when other famous authors published their first book. I'm only a few years away from 30 so maybe my early 30s will be magic for me. :)


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