My Take on Boomer Lit

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We’re the young generation,
And we’ve got something to say.

Almost five decades have passed since I first heard those catchy lyrics from The Monkees.  At age fifty-eight, the song continues to resonate with me.

I’ve still got something to say.

And so do seventy-eight million other baby boomers around the world.

We are fueling a growing demand for a different kind of literature, aptly called boomer lit. While it is entertaining to read about young vampires and twenty-something women wrestling with relationship and workplace issues, we want our own heroes who are not afraid to change the standard romantic and literary formulas.

Age-appropriate. Nostalgic. Finding meaning in the golden years. Or to quote LuAnn Schindler

Move over, chick. It’s time for the hen to strut her stuff.

I started to seriously “strut” my literary stuff five years ago. After retiring from a thirty-one-year teaching career, I decided to devote my second act to writing. Excited about my first novel, I anxiously awaited input from a visiting screenwriter. That conversation is still etched in memory:

Writer: “You’ve got an interesting storyline here. And I like how you’ve developed the  main female characters. But…

Me: Spill it. I can take it.

Writer: Most of the characters are over fifty. You need to bring in a couple of young’uns. Create a sub-plot with the protagonist’s niece and introduce a love interest for her.

Me: What do you mean by young’uns?

Writer: Characters in their twenties and early thirties. That’s what selling now.

Since then, I have encountered different versions of this conversation whenever I participate in writing workshops and seminars. Several instructors urged me to downplay the “boomer” elements in my books.

“Don’t mention anything about age in your query letter.”

“It’s okay to have an older woman as a sleuth. She’ll be invisible and that works well for sleuths. But make sure you surround her with younger characters.”

“Stay away from retirement homes, senior homes, and nursing homes. Don’t dwell on all that negative stuff. Too depressing.”

Hmm

Thankfully, the writers and producers of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Quartet, The Intouchables and Downtown Abbey did not consider such misguided advice. I can’t even imagine creating younger characters to replace Maggie Smith, Dame Judy Dench, Bill Nighy or Francois Cluzet  in any of their outstanding roles.

I am equally impressed by Jeanne Ray, Lynda Rutledge, Debra Goldstein and other writers who have launched spectacular second acts.  Inspired by their stories, I  have continued to use boomers and their older siblings as protagonists in my novels and short stories. My determination and efforts are finally paying off. In the fall of 2013, Soul Mate Publishing will release my debut novel, Between Land and Sea.

Any other boomer lit success stories out there? I would love to feature you on this blog.

Related Articles…

Are You Ready For Boomer Lit? Laurie Boris

Boomer Lit: Romancing the Middle-Aged Reader by LuAnn Schindler

How I Reinvented Myself at 60 by Jeanne Ray

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8 responses to “My Take on Boomer Lit

  1. Congratulations, Joanne! I can’t wait to see your name in print.

    And I agree not to listen to all those people who think they know what they’re talking about because it has worked in the past. The world is constantly changing, and a good idea is a good idea. Congrats on finding your ‘soul mate’ (okay, pretty sure everybody says that to you. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) 🙂

    • Thanks Jenny. I’m always inspired by your tweets and blog posts. You bring so much positive energy to everything you do. As for my finding my ‘soul mate,’ I couldn’t be happier. 🙂

  2. How interesting. I make a new friend and find we have each posted to our blogs about the same topic on the same day…which is clearly how we were supposed to “find” each other. I love the sample interview and tidbits of advice about how to pitch/angle your book by cloaking your protagonist in the lives of younger, more appealing characters. I remember facing a similar challenge at the beginning of my career. Despite having graduated cum laude with an English Language and Literature degree, I was always first asked if I could type at job interviews. My then-husband, who had the same degree but graduated with a much lower grade-point average, was never asked. [Sigh] I was ready to break new ground then, and I am now. Yes, I was one of those “feminists” back in the 60s and 70s, and I continue to be…creating sexy, interesting strong female characters of boomer age in my novels. Boomer Lit has a widespread audience of readers who want to read literature that features characters that mirror themselves, not their children.

    But this is how we progress as a culture. My daughter was never asked about how fast she could type, and she probably won’t be chastised about exploring her sexuality after age 50, either. I don’t mind taking the heat for trailblazing…it’s rather fun to upset the apple cart 😉

    • Hi Shelley,

      I also believe in serendipity. In reading your story, I see so many parallels to mine. When I graduated in 1977, I had degrees in mathematics and education. Sounds like a dynamite combination, but I got my first job because I was willing to teach keyboarding. Interestingly enough, most of the men in the department had full timetables in math. One of the new male recruits was asked to teach science.

      We’ve come a long way since then.

      When I retired five years ago, the math department at my school was predominantly female. A common occurrence throughout the province of Ontario. Inspiring young women to pursue math, business and science careers was one of my top priorities throughout my career. I like to think that I made a difference.

      In deciding to devote my second act to writing, I am also breaking new ground and surprising many friends and colleagues. Not too many people expect math majors to write novels.

      Upsetting apple carts and shattering illusions can be fun.

      Joanne 🙂

    • Thanks for all your support, Patricia. It’s been great meeting with you and the other members of Writers Ink and Guelph Write Now. I also admire Betty and her boundless energy. She is a role model for women of all age groups. 🙂

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