Today I read a national newspaper story about a woman, an ex-TV presenter, who is having her first novel published at the age of 61. Good luck to her! Wishing I had the contacts she obviously has to get this profile - after all the story is really no more than ‘Slight older woman writes book’ – I wondered if the journalist was aware that vast numbers of people do not start writing until they have finished raising children, working in publishing or teaching such as the inventive and fascinating Penelope Fitzgerald, Diana Athill and Frank McCourt to name but three? There are more writers listed on the website, Bloom, and authors interviewed or mentioned whose first major work was published when they were age 40 or older.
Bloom poses the obvious question: ‘Late - according to whom?’ So I asked myself why I had waited until I was almost 60 before putting finger to computer. I concluded in was in part due to the space left when our two boys left for University. I was working part time and enjoying it still but I was now able to feel and sense the part of me needed an expressive outlet. And then a stroke of luck. On January 1 2011, I visited St Mary’s Church in Huntingfield. It was the perfect chance to learn about a Victorian woman who found a way to express herself through art. Mildred Holland - expected to dispense tea and sympathy – did something radical instead. The Huntingfield Paintress is her story.