We never consider the age of the novelists we publish, only the merits of the 5,000 submissions we receive each year. Yet the average age of the writers we will be publishing is 67.38 years, and one can only speculate on the causes for this.Over the years we’ve often published writers in their mid-seventies (like two novels by Daniel Klein, The History of Now (the Silver medal finalist for ForeWord Magazines’ Book of the Year in 2010), and last year Nothing Serious. And then there were 12 novels written by the great Southern writer Berry Fleming (some reprints, but two others newly minted when he was turning 90 years old—Captain Bennett’s Folly and Who Dwelt by a Churchyard: both award-winning novels). Just two years ago we published Christopher Davis’ brilliant The Conduct of Saints, a historical novel taking place when Italy surrendered and the allies occupied Rome after World War ll. At the time “Kit” Davis turned 85.
But nothing prepared us for this year: three novelists in their 50s (Victoria Alexander, Baron Birtcher, and Margaret Vandenburg), six in their 60s (most eligible for Social Security), four in their 70s, two in their 80’s (Erik Mauritzson and Paul Zimmer), and our 92 year old Norman Beim, whose gothic After Byron, comes out in May.How to account for this? My theory is that there is not enough talent to draw from in the pool of writers under the age of 30, if one is interested in reading artfully constructed fiction. Several factors are involved here. One is that the wizardry of modern technology has trumped learning to use language creatively, winnowing many fishes and would-be-writers in the sea. Decades ago this group would read books or attempt to write: be it books, or diaries. Instead they grew up with electronic devices, and carry about their iPads, tweeting, and using Facebook instead.
Another factor is that newspapers are expiring, and in order to stay alive they are laying off staff, particularly reporters, replacing them with wire service reporters from the Associated Press and other wire services. Many writer’s we’ve encountered, and published, developed their writing skills by working as reporters on smaller newspapers, making first hand observations (later used in their fiction) and writing their columns. But this post-grad opportunity to learn the craft is vanishing as well.In my day, not to have read and been inspired by Hemingway, Faulkner, Vidal, Steinbeck, Camus, Sartre and other literary giants was impossible. They were always featured in the news and always reviewed in the press. But today the featured writing and reviews cover not literary giants but best-seller giants like James Patterson and E.L. James and her 50 Shades of Grey books. And how many aspiring young writers try to emulate them, with the hope of gaining fame and fortune?
So again, I raise my glass to the best novelists: the older ones. And I hope you will share your thoughts about this as well.If you go look at our 2015 catalog, you will see what’s coming out from these golden oldies in 2015.