Five Authors Who Made it Late in Life

By: Blue Mesa Review on Friday, March 14th, 2014

As the poet John Greenleaf Whittier said, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’” The following are five authors published their popular works later in life and never had to utter those sad words:

Laura Ingalls Wilder started her writing career as a newspaper columnist for the Missouri Ruralist when she was in her forties. She was with the paper for around fifteen years before she started her Little House storybooks. Wilder was in her sixties when the first of her books was published.

Frank McCourt obtained a Masters in English and began teaching at McKee High School and Stuyvesant High School in New York. After 30 years as an educator, he retired. It was then, in his mid sixties that he decided to write about his life in Ireland. The result was the book Angela’s Ashes published in 1996 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1997.

Raymond Chandler never went to college. In 1932 at the age of forty-four Chandler decided to write detective stories. His first short story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”, published in 1933 in a popular pulp magazine, Black Mask. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939.

Mary Wesley, published her first novel for adult audiences, Jumping the Queue, in 1983 when Wesley is 71. Truly a late bloomer she went on to write nine more novels before her death in 2002.

Harriet Doerr left Stanford University in 1930 to marry Albert Doeer and start a family. After her husband’s death in 1972, she returned to Stanford and obtained her BA in European History at the age of sixty-seven. Her first novel, Stones for Ibarra, published in 1984 won the National Book Award.

 Melanie R. Wiley is an undergraduate pursuing her BA in English/Creative Writing at UNM. She has resided in New Mexico all her life.