Never Too Late

IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO BE WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE BEEN*

              
The online article on marketing one’s novel stated that authors had to do it themselves unless they’d written another Fifty Shades of Grey, and it advised in twenty-nine helpful hints what I should do to sell my books. “A million books are published a year. You must find and sell to your audience.” My problem is that my audience, while growing, may not be reading so much. 
Where could I find people who want to read about older women? A conversation with my husband, invalided with an injury from falling off a rowing machine, sobered us. Maybe we should think of a retirement residence, he said. “They have safe exercise rooms and you wouldn’t have to cook every night.”
“I wouldn’t have to cook very night if you cooked on Tuesday and Thursdays.”  But the idea stuck, not about cooking, but about where my audience might be found
I called the social directors of ten local retirement residences. My goal was to encourage others my age to write. ”It has meant so much to me,” I said. I didn’t say that I’d mention a few of my books along with how to buy them. I set up four meetings
I must have misread my first gig’s blurb in the telephone book. Its sign read Assisted Living Residence, not Retirement Residence. My audience, about twenty people, was led in, quiet, attentive, mostly deaf, some asleep, except for the two who had had  yearnings to write about their Second World War experiences. I cheered them on. One fellow who nodded to me all through my talk, came up afterward, his hands gesturing and his eyes eager. Live one, I thought. He told me several very elaborate jokes. Then his nose started bleeding. I lent him a tissue and waved goodbye, mid-joke. The best part of the hour was that twenty folks showed up, and that I had thought to tuck a Kleenex in my purse.
The numbers declined. Eight at the second talk, unnerving because my presentation was scheduled in an auditorium that seated fifty, but good because two of the women had been writers, one of them very angry about a rejection she had received a few years back. I offered my sympathy. It felt good to commiserate.
At the third residence, I sat for long minutes in an empty room. Then a couple in their nineties wheeled through the door and asked where everyone was. The two, rich with world experiences, English accents, and a marriage that sounded similar to mine, disagreed on who remembered what. She read an essay she had written long before, her memories of internment in WWII Shanghai. I left , but I said I’d be back. I want to know more, the way a good book makes me feel.
At my last stop, the audience I had dreamed of circled around my chair: seven people who wanted to write. My personal mantra* brought smiles and many minutes of conversation. As I walked out of the building, a novel prodded at me. About a writers’ group made up of old ladies with dreams.

HOW CAN I FEEL JOY ON SUCH A SAD DAY?

In the midst of constant radio coverage, TV photos of traumatized students, a million words pouring out of the minds and mouths of onlookers who attempt to gather their thoughts into rational responses to yet another mass murder, how can I rejoice in a small happy moment of my own life?
I was swirling through my Facebook account, reading the posts of both famous and not-so-famous people who, though stunned, managed to express their anger, shock, their condolences, and their sense of helplessness. We, we, we, have to do something, they wrote, and some had ideas of what that something might be.  Control guns, do more about the mentally ill, protect our schools, defend ourselves with our own weapons, and one, not smiling, suggested that congressmen who voted against more funds for mental health projects be sent to a mental health facility for a while to experience what is not being done for those who need that kind of help. (Never mind that many of those facilities have been closed for years in a wave of new medications that promised to deal with disturbed people without locking them up. But perhaps that’s another story.) Others threw up their virtual hands, which shook with anger, fear, hopelessness, offering no solutions.
I couldn’t bear to read any more.  My silent voice had joined this chorus of keening mourners, and I needed to find some sort of respite. I went to my email. When I clicked on a note from a familiar writing site, I was informed that a review of Never Too Late was complete. It had received five stars and had been posted on a number of social media sites. The review made my book seem like the next New York Times best seller.
Finally! My first reaction. All those weeks of scouring the internet for  someone to read my book(s) had resulted in one person who did.  And liked it. A cloud of sweet euphoria settled over my shoulders and I read the review three times.  Maybe I am a writer, I told myself.  Maybe I should keep going on that novel languishing in my computer.
Then I remembered.
And now, hours later, sadness and joy are still crouched inside me, in a facedown, eyeing each other, making tentative jabs at tender places, desiring to win the fight to determine which one would win my day. However, a moment ago I experienced an epiphany, a truth so obvious I won’t write about it to my friends on Face book. I was looking at the review one more time, and I understood the power of one person telling another that she is worthy of her dreams. I knew then that somehow joy will overcome sadness, in me, in others. The result will be Hope.  And with hope we all can move forward as we support each other’s dreams.
  
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