Risky business

For the past few years, I’ve been writing my second memoir. It’s about falling in love and marrying in old age.

John was married to my life-long friend Marcia for almost fifty years. Some time after her death, their children invited me to his seventieth birthday. Exactly a year after the birthday celebration, we married.

We didn’t just marry like a good conforming aged couple should, surrounded by our children and grandchildren. On a Monday morning in May, 2007, we eloped. We celebrated our wedding in spectacular fashion with Nuptial Mass, complete with music, flowers and candles, in my parish church – empty except for us and our four witnesses.

Signing the register with Fr Simons
Signing the register with Fr Simons


In honour of our wedding day, Father Trevor Simons, my parish priest and the celebrant of our Mass and marriage, wore the gold-fabric vestments he usually reserved for high feast-days . He acted as if John and I were starry-eyed twenty-some-things, embarking on our first marriage.

At the airport that evening, before we flew to Paris at the beginning of our honeymoon in France, we posted a pile of carefully-crafted cards to our families and friends. The cards announced that John and I had married that morning and we would see them again in a couple of months’ time.

Place de Voges, Paris, two days later
Place de Voges, Paris, two days later

Little did we dream of the storm that would erupt in some quarters when those letters arrived.

My new memoir is about our courtship and marriage in the last third of life, and about the aftermath of our decision, complicated by family and the reality that he had experienced a long and happy previous marriage and I had lived alone and celibate for the previous thirty years following a divorce.

Four months ago, after working on my story for some years, I decided, as one does, that it was finished. At any rate, I was finished with it and wanted to move on. I bundled it off to a publisher.

As anyone who has done it will well understand, sending a tender new manuscript out into the world is laden with the terrible twin emotions of fear and hope.

There is fear because of the high possibility of rejection of one’s baby.  Like new parents, writers find it difficult to admit their babies aren’t perfect. Parents quickly discover that the infant for whom they had so longed and hoped has a tendency to leak at both ends, and to sing out of tune, especially at three o’clock in the morning, when the parents might prefer to sleep rather than attend to the needs of the small, demanding person who has taken up residence with them.

Writers also often discover that their manuscript is not perfect; no one loves their baby as much as they do.

On the other hand there is hope because there is also the possibility, however slim, that some discerning reader will love the manuscript so much they will convince a publisher that it is a must-buy, destined for the best-seller lists in the near future.

I sent my manuscript to a publisher I know and trust, who had recently taken up a position with a different publishing company from the one she had worked with previously. She said she liked my writing and the story. But she added,

‘It doesn’t fit with our list. Perhaps you could try…’

The second publisher liked the first 5000 words I sent him well enough to ask to see the complete manuscript. He has had my baby for a couple of months and he let me know me last week that it is still under consideration.

If writing a story is the gestation period, waiting to hear about its fate it is like a long, long labour. Little wonder I am anxious and impatient – an understatement if you listen to my husband.

Meanwhile, I haven’t settled down to write anything new. A writer who is waiting to hear from a publisher would be bad enough. But a writer who is waiting, and at the same time not writing, is decidedly – messy. Writers write. That’s what they do. When they stop, the consequences can be dire. They clean the pantry, bathroom cupboards and the top shelves of the wardrobe in the guest room. They fidget. Moan. Complain. Find fault. Start arguments.

Now it’s definitely time for me to engage with a new writing project. Dusting off old, half-forgotten, unpublished novels won’t do – I’ve tried that. A blog is good – I’ve tried that too – but it isn’t enough. The next project needs to be meaty, research-based and satisfying.

As the author Natasha Lester pointed out in a blog post recently, at 500 words a day it takes just under six months to write a book of 80 000 words. I can probably write 500 words most days if I put my mind to it.

Please stay tuned for the next instalment of my writing journey. You will read it here.


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20 replies on “Risky business”

  1. How happy you and John look in that lovely wedding photo! I’m so pleased you shared that in your blog – and I’m always pleased to read your admirable writing, in whatever mode, friend Maureen!

    1. Yes, I think it’s a lovely photo, too, Coral! Of course! Such a wonderful, wonderful time. Nice to share it on my blog. I’m glad you liked it.

  2. Lovely post, Maureen. I hope you find your next project. as for those in-between days when you’re waiting to hear, I’ve paced these by simply not submitting, after several efforts, and painting instead. I’m now returning to the merry-go-round for one more try, but if this doesn’t work, it’s the other merry-go-round for me, the one of e-publishing. I’m almost over mainstream publishing, which I think, like the government of our nation, is descending further and further into dry philosophies of everyone paying their way, and nothing that has not a hard dollar value being of worth. There, that’s my dump.

    1. Love your support and comments, Christina, thank you. I’m one of your greatest fans, as you know. I love your writing and think publishers are missing something delicious when they by-pass your writing. But I also admire the way you have turned to painting and do that so well and successfully. As well as that, your editing skills and the generous encouragement you offer other writers are wonderful, as your testimonials witness. The hallmark of a truly creative person, or so I’ve come to believe, is that they have a number of talents which they can use well.

      I’m not sure e-publishing is as much of a merry-go-round as it might first appear. Some authors I’ve spoken to say it is not all that difficult or expensive, and they have sold lots of books that way. I’m sure you’ll do it well!

        1. Indeed, Christina! I feel very lucky I met you at that workshop I invited myself to at Curtin University all those years ago. A meant-to-be friendship, I think.

  3. keep it up Maureen – you can do it – and we love what you do.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. Love your encouragement and kindness always.

  4. What a gorgeous post Maureen! And my heart is with you while you wait to hear about your manuscript – I know just how excruciating that can be. Good luck with both the old and the new project.

    1. Thank you, Natasha, for both your comment and the inspiration of your latest blog-post! I suspect that only other writers understand the agony of waiting to hear about a manuscript.

  5. My dear talented Sister
    I remember the day your wedding notice arrived! I was so excited when the envelope arrived addressed by you with a silver pen. Oh yes, such joy, Maureen and John must be getting married! Then to discover you were married in secret, I was shattered! But that’s passed now and I am so happy you and John were like ‘starry-eyed twenty-some-things, embarking on your first marriage.’
    I love that you and John are my sister and brother in law and are sharing happiness in the last third of your life!
    I’m getting impatient, as are my friends, to read your book, as you’ve never talked about your courtship- so get a wriggle on Mr Publisher!

    1. Oh, indeed – the disruption of my relationship with you, my dear sister, was one of the storms we faced (although a minor one). Thank goodness you were so forgiving! I hope the publisher hears you from Dowerin, and does get a wriggle-on.

  6. Impatience, impatience dear friend!!
    Some of us in the world well one of us anyway waits for some publisher to scoop up your work with cries of delight!! It will come to fruition ONE DAY. Using the birthing analogy how often in your mid days did you admit or interview women who were convinced they had the dates right and labour was imminent – only to wait an agonising 2/3/4 even 5 weeks for the baby to come? I’m amazed that even these days of technological ??certainty causes angst and impatience.
    In my current state I have learnt patience sometimes is SO difficult but has to be if I am not to go insane.
    Love you, love your work and thanks for sharing. RosieXX

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rosie. I hoped I wasn’t so much expressing impatience as deciding it was time to get back to some meaningful writing. Well, perhaps I’m a little impatient, but at my age time has become a precious commodity, and I want to get things done as soon as possible. Thank you for being there for me.

  7. Maureen, your writing is exquisite—I wish I could write like it. Not a wasted word, and the words are all perfectly chosen.
    This post is beautiful! I love the photo of your wedding day—the priest looks so happy to be marrying you. I can understand why you wanted to elope—weddings get complicated the more people involved and you end up compromising to please everyone else. Really, your wedding is for you and your husband, and it’s your right to choose how and when you want to do it.
    I’m so looking forward to your book—I’m sure it will find a home!

    1. Louise, thank you for your lovely comments about my blog. I so enjoyed writing it, and I’m glad that comes through. Like all weddings, we think ours was wonderful. Father Trevor was superb. I think he really was happy to marry us, and happy for us. Thank you for your kind thoughts about my book. I do hate waiting, and I’m getting worse with age.

  8. What a lovely post Maureen and I echo many of the above sentiments. Cannot wait to see what you choose to embark on for the next big project. Lisa x

    1. Glad you liked my latest post, Lisa. Thank you for commenting. I’m playing on the edges of the next big project hoping it will present itself fully formed if I give it enough attention, time and space to emerge.

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