Jessica Ramsey Golden: In Praise of Late-Bloomers

Raymond Chandler
You’re going to love this.
“A large black and gold
butterfly fishtailed in and landed on a hydrangea bush almost at my elbow,
moved its wings slowly up and down a few times, then took off heavily and
staggered away through the motionless hot scented air.”
What better way to describe the flight of a butterfly?
It is an immaculately
constructed sentence. As complex and spare as the framework of a cathedral.
If that sentence doesn’t kick your chest open, I feel sorry
for you.
Here’s the thing:
The man who wrote that
sentence published his first novel when he was 45 years old.
He wrote this too:
“He swept the room with a
raking glance. His smile nailed on.”
Prose so tight, it would stop
If you’ve ever seen a Coen
Brothers film or enjoyed “The Usual Suspects”, you’ve witnessed some of Raymond
Chandler’s far-reaching influence.
In the spirit of full
disclosure, I must point out Chandler was very much a product of his time. His
novels are rife with racist, sexist language.
And he is a brilliant
When you read his books, you
re-read whole scenes just because the dialog is so snappy you can’t wait to
hear it again. Or you turn to your long-suffering spouse and say, “Listen to
this sentence!”
It’s breathtaking.
And did I mention he
published his first book at the age of 45?
That’s important.
At least, it’s important to
You see, I’m turning 35 this
For women, at every birthday
starting at 30, when you tell someone how old you’re turning, they suck in air
between their teeth and gently ask, “How are you feeling about that?”
I’m okay with my age.
It’s my productivity that
worries me.
I’ve been writing fiction for
3 years, and so far all I have to show for it is one unpublished manuscript,
two short stories, and two messes still under construction. 
To edify myself I’ve started
to collect Late Bloomers like our dear Mr. Chandler.
Here’s some more:
Toni Morrison wrote her first
novel when she was 39.

Isabel Allende published her
first novel at 40.
Maya Angelou was 41.
Dante was, most likely, at
least 50 when he penned the Inferno.
Ricky Gervais quit his job to
start writing comedy at 38.
Of this Gervais has said,
“It’s never too late. But start now.”
Prodigies are well and good.
But there’s something to be said for stamina. Especially in writing, a field
with an alarming rate of self-destruction.
Don’t get me wrong. When I
see some whiz kid making good, it’s not that I resent the little darling.
But there is comfort in
knowing that we don’t all make it up the hill in the first 20, 30, or even 40
I’ve known since I was 8
years old that I wanted to write fiction. Then I wasted a lot of years saying I
wanted to be writer, but not writing. I had excuses. Completing school. Having
babies. Raising babies. Working.
You can waste a lifetime
waiting for the right time.
Me, I’ve started. So I’m
closer than I was 5 years ago.
Dreams take work.
It can’t be instant pudding
for everyone.
It’s never too late.
But start.
Jessica Ramsey Golden’s poetry has appeared in such journals as The
William and Mary Review, Orbis International, Calyx, and Cirque. In 2006 she
was awarded the Eleanor B. North Poetry Prize. In 2009, she received an
Individual Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation. In 2011, she began
writing fiction. She is currently drafting a science fiction project, while
seeking representation for her literary Gothic novel, The Hidden Door.

3 thoughts on “Jessica Ramsey Golden: In Praise of Late-Bloomers”

  1. Great post, Jessica. I was combing your examples with great interest. I'm 49 and just published my first. I was hoping to find one of your late bloomers closer to 50! Oh well, better late than never. I agree with you that Chandler was a really fun craftsman.

  2. While I have never found that anyone asks me how I feel about my age (40) when I tell them how old I am (that might should earn a person a sock in the nose) I think it's extremely important to remember that it's only too late when you're dead.

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