Poets & Writers

5 over 50

The debut authors featured in our third annual 5 Over 50 have all demonstrated the patience and resilience that is required of anyone who is devoted to writing as a lifelong art. What makes them special is not simply the quality of their first books and the depth of character they express in the following essays, but also that they’ve already achieved so much, including obtaining the wisdom and perspective that comes from living a bit of one’s life. Here, in their own words, we present five authors over the age of fifty whose debut books were published this year.

Jeanne McCulloch

Age: Sixty. Residence: Brooklyn, New York. Book: All Happy Families (Harper Wave, August), a family memoir that takes the author’s doomed 1983 Long Island, New York, wedding—her father had a massive stroke two days before and died the day after—as an occasion to examine the marriages of her parents and in-laws. Editor: Karen Rinaldi. Agent: Amanda Urban of International Creative Management.

IWAS a writer before I was an editor. My first job, in the Features department of Vogue magazine, was writing short, anonymous reviews, captions, and titles, and finally I earned my own byline. My next job was as the managing editor of the Paris Review, and in my mid-twenties I naively thought I’d keep writing while I edited a literary magazine. That works for some people, but it didn’t work for me. I found myself giving all my energy to the words of my authors. I applied the auditory tools I use as a writer to help my writers—to “listen” to the sound of their sentences, the f low and the beat. I think writers can make for very sensitive editors. We know how difficult it is to write, so there’s an empathetic support system built in, and instinctively we know how the work should sound. That said, there’s also the danger of editors putting off their own work until it’s almost forgotten.

That almost happened to me.

I do think on

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