Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Patti Abbott Talks about Being a Late Bloomer

Shortly before he died Brendan Gill (THE NEW YORKER) wrote a book called LATE BLOOMERS. I was lucky enough to hear him speak at Politics and Prose Bookstore in D.C. I'm quite sure he had no idea how inspirational that book and what he said would be to me. As he gave example after example of men and women who came into their own late in life, I said, "Why not me?"

And it was the next semester, when a course I was taking (yes, I was a late bloomer in finishing my B.A. too)  proved too reading-heavy to fit into my work schedule that I signed up for a poetry workshop instead. I'd always harbored a secret desire to write but pursued it in fits and starts that never seemed to go anywhere.

The instructor in that poetry workshop was encouraging and I was able to publish some of those poems, but I took no real joy in it. I like fiddling with the words that I loved, but lacked the profundity that good poetry requires.  One day, I got a letter from a editor at one of those poetry journals. The editor said that after looking at the three poems I sent them, he/she had come to the conclusion I was writing outlines for stories. Not poems.

And with those words, I took one of those wretched poems, and using it as an outline, wrote a story.

The next semester, I signed up for a fiction-writing class and went on to take three more. It took me a long time to gather the courage to submit the stories. I worked my way into it by placing copies of stories on the front desk at the office where I worked. They disappeared and a few people offered me some encouragement and I began sending them out. Some got published.

And eventually over 150 stories were published. Moving from there to a novel required summoning up courage again. The gates were higher and greater in number for a novel. And I had a daughter who was writing some pretty great ones. Whereas earlier my parents had intimidated me, now it was my children.

I wasn't raised to have high aspirations. I was raised to find a steady job with good benefits, to raise a family, to be a good citizen. I think that is why it took me so many years-nearly fifty-to have any confidence that I could be what I secretly always wanted to be--a writer.  I would still not identify myself as one--except to you.

Thanks to Bill Crider for letting me get this off my chest. For letting me admit that I do have aspirations--late bloomer or not.


Jeff Meyerson said...

Thanks for sharing, Patti. I'm glad you kept at it. You should really be proud of yourself.


George Kelley said...

Patti, you're a great success story!

TracyK said...

What an inspiring message, and I am also glad you shared this with us.