Bloomers At Large / Features

Bloomers at Large: Growing Into Voice

by Vicraj Gill

At The New Statesman, Julia Copus explores the legacy of poet Charlotte Mew. Like other Victorian authoresses we’ve written about, Mew first turned to writing as an escape from poverty. However, she was well-known in social and intellectual circles for her fiery manner and gifted mind. And, upon publishing The Farmer’s Bride at 45, she was hailed by Thomas Hardy as “far and away the best living woman poet.” Her story’s a sad one—the tragic loss of her sister, a string of failed romantic relationships, and fear of the mental illness that cast a shadow over her family ultimately ended Mew’s career—but, as Copus points out, “beneath the ceaseless, maddening sound of critical fashion, there persists a small but powerful body of work in which—if only we care to listen—the voice of Charlotte Mew remains distinctly and defiantly alive.”

In a witty, warm reflection on his debut novel’s genesis over at the New York Times, Edward Kelsey Moore explores the ways in which age sharpened his writing and creativity, and allowed him to come to terms with his sexuality. After working as a professional cellist for many years, Moore sat down to write his first book, The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, at 48.  He completed it at age 50 and published it this past March at 52. To the question “Aren’t you too old for this?” he responds, “No, at 52, I’m not too old to be a debut novelist. But, luckily, I’m way too old to be the writer, musician or man I was at 30.”

Speaking of 30- and 50-year-olds, the Huffington Post’s Rita Wilson gave an interview on NPR last month to promote the lifestyle site Huff/Post50 and its newly-launched “Featured 50 Fiction.” Designed as a spotlight for “people out there who have a story in them” but have never been published before, “Featured 50 Fiction” joins a host of other columns that explore the post-50 experience. Says Wilson, “All the things that you cared about before that you thought were important, they aren’t: how much you weigh or how taut your upper arms are. All that stuff doesn’t matter,” she says. “It gives way to something that is far more satisfying.”

Having published her first novel, With Shuddering Fall, at 26, Joyce Carol Oates may not be a Bloomer, but Kevin Frazier’s provocative claim that Oates, at 75, is “now writing some of the best fiction of her career” is just as inspiring. Check out Frazier’s glowing review of Oates’s latest novel, The Accursed, at The Millions.

Professor, political activist, novelist, and Bloomer Adam Braver began his fiction-writing career with historically-based works. His debut, 2003’s Mr. Lincoln’s Wars—published when Braver was 40—looked at the life of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln through thirteen different lenses;  November 22, 1963 is an imaginative retelling of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination; and Misfit is a fictional account of Marilyn Monroe’s last days. His most recent project, however, took him and several of his students to Cuba to campaign for the freedom of imprisoned journalist Normando Hernández González on behalf of PEN America. The group’s efforts were successful. Once González was safely in Spain, Braver teamed up with writer Molly Gessford for a series of interviews, edited and published as The Madrid Conversations. He recently sat down with The Rumpus’s Jennifer Bowen Hicks to discuss the book, humanity and abuse, “literary citizenship,” and the idea that the fiction writer, as Hicks puts it, “giv[es] someone a voice, maybe at the soul level.”

In the spirit of our own Nicole Wolverton’s new feature, “Other Bloomers and Shakers,” we bring you The Guardian’s Catherine Bray, who, inspired by the Hollywood Reporter’s coverage of the “Revenge of the Over-40 Actress,” takes a look at “Hollywood’s latest craze: the over-40 female actor.” Bray’s piece brings to mind an observation Wolverton makes in her profile of chef Julia Child—that for women, it’s not age but gender that poses the biggest barrier to success. Bray also expands the original article’s discussion to include writers like Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids), and Nora Ephron,who approached Newsweek for a writing gig when she was 21 and was referred to the mailroom instead.

Finally, we finish this month’s roundup with Aifric Campbell, a Bloomer whom we’ve featured in “At Large” before. Campbell made the move to creative writing after a 13-year career as a banker and executive; her latest novel, On the Floor, was released this month. She recently sat down with the folks at Serpent’s Tail for a highly-entertaining Q&A. It’s worth noting the figure she cites as her “biggest non-literary inspiration” is the Arctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, whom Joe Schuster (featured this week) also referenced in his wonderful essay here at Bloom, “The Polar Explorer’s Guide to Writing a Novel.”

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