Is it possible to create a community for older writers in Rutland? This is the question local writer Jean Yeager is hoping to answer, starting with an open reading at Phoenix Books later this month.
The question comes in the wake of the publication of a new book, “Ageless Authors Anthology,” a collection of essays, short stories, and poems compiled by Dallas, Texas, writers Ginnie Bivona and Larry Upshaw. Yeager, a native of Texas himself
and acquaintance of Upshaw, submitted two essays to be considered for the project in 2016. His piece, “The Kite of Our Genius — Sail On” won first prize in the essay category. Judged by volunteer readers, first, second and third placing entries in each category were awarded with cash prizes and inclusion in the book. Honorable Mentions were also included.
No stranger to winning awards, Yeager, a former copywriter, has been gaining recognition for his essays, plays and screenplays since the 1970s. Most recently, he was a finalist in the 2017 “Tennessee Williams National One Act Play Writing Contest” for the play “Christmas In The War Zone.” Yeager is directing his one-act play “Clothesline” in the Dorset Players 15th Annual One-Act Festival April 6-8, and his book “Th3 Simple Questions,” published in 2015, can be found locally at Phoenix Books.
And, it is at Phoenix Books later this month that Yeager hopes to start the conversation in Rutland that Upshaw began with “Ageless Authors.” After the success of the first anthology, Upshaw wanted to offer a contest again this year, and asked Yeager to help promote it in New England.
While the deadline for the second edition was a few weeks ago, the intention of forming communities of older writers is on-going. Phoenix Bookstore in Rutland has taken the lead on this first event and, based on the number of senior writers and the audience which shows up, is willing to consider similar events at other Phoenix locations around the state. The League of Vermont Writers and other local writers groups such as Stone Valley Arts have been supportive as well. Opening the floor for writers to read their work, Yeager sees these events as hopefully “a catalyst to lead the way to something else.”
Comparing the quality of writing of more mature writers to the syrup of older maple trees or wine from older vines, Yeager believes it only gets better with age. “When you’re 60-plus you can write stuff you couldn’t when you’re 30.” Bivona who is 86, puts it this way: “Now we are free to enjoy our creativity and a life full of the experiences that make good writing possible.”
“Many of the people I grew up with wanted to become musicians, writers and artists, but their parents insisted they get a job and make a living,” Upshaw says. “But at retirement, they are returning to what gave them pleasure. There is a lot of talent out there among the Baby Boomers and The Greatest Generation.” If this describes you, contemplate this: you have a whole year to put something together for next year’s anthology competition!
But in the meantime, if you are over 60, consider attending (and reading at) the open reading at Phoenix Books on Thursday, March 29, and be on the lookout for other “Ageless Author” events around the area. (Readers of any age are also needed for the anthology. Contact agelessauthors.com for more information.)