You’re never too old to do what you want to do. That makes anything sound possible, doesn’t it? A circus trick rider in her tiny costume flying across the ring – while standing on the back of her trusty pony? A painter with her work displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City? A politician, a ballroom dancer, or a movie star?

When I turned 71, fulfilling my wish to become an author began with the annual writer’s challenge, NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month) During the month of November, each writer pens a novel of 50,000 words. Our local college offered a class to encourage people to join the effort. I signed up.   

Driving to the first class, my stomach tingled, and my hands shook on the steering wheel. Although my hair was the whitest, at least one of the twenty students was older than me. The teacher would be trying to win at NaNoWriMo along with us.

I sat in front of my laptop to begin writing my book. My empty mind wouldn’t tell my fingers which keys to push. A glass of water would help. Nothing. Maybe if I turned some music on, I’d be able to relax. Okay, so listening to Joshua Bell play his violin was fabulous, but no words came. The first day was unproductive, but by the end of the month, five of us in the class (but not the teacher) had slugged out enough words to finish our novels.     

A flimsy plot and paper characters appeared on the page asMrs. Belmont’s Home for G-girls took shape. It was the story of a woman in her thirties moving to Washington, D.C., to help our country win WWII.     

I did it! My words were down on paper, but the story was rubbish. Never mind, I told myself as I paid for a black t-shirt with silver lettering from the national NaNoWriMo organization, proclaiming my victory. I wrote a book in a month. I felt proud.

“This novel will practically complete itself with a bit of editing and a few additional scenes,” I told my sister a month later.

A quote by Joe Louis caught my eye. “There’s no such thing as a natural. A natural dancer has to practice hard.” Okay, Mr. Louis, I get it. So maybe my novel needs more than I realized. If naturals have to practice, what will an amateur like me need to do to write a book?

Mrs. Belmont’s Home was put into a box to finish later. I’m no quitter, so I enrolled in two years of classes to learn to write a memoir. In those years, I discovered it takes more to tell a story than a laptop. My fingers needed to touch the keys. There were things to learn, critiques to face, and rewrites galore. After that, there were more edits and more rewrites. Will the story ever be readable? Even if it is, will anyone want to read it?

My fingers are crossed that my memoir, Bulldogs and Chocolate, will be available to readers one day. When that happens, I’ll return to Mrs. Belmont’s Home for G-girls and try to turn it into a WWII mystery others choose to read.

Sarah and Elizabeth Delany didn’t write their first book, Having Our Say, until they were each over one hundred years old. Between the two of them, they wrote three books. You’re never too old to do what you want to do. I love that idea.

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