Still haven't got round to writing THAT book? It’s never too late

It’s often said that everybody has a ‘book in them’ and that it is never too late to write.

This is certainly true of top-selling British writer, Barbara Taylor Bradford, who celebrates her 80th birthday today. She published her 28th novel earlier this year and has no plans to retire.

Carolann Copland, 47,who runs writing workshops and retreats, in Dublin, says older people don’t realise they are talented and that their stories are important.

“It is a confidence issue. Many people feel they are going into the Lion’s Den, sometimes, especially if they have to read their writing out loud.

“But we all feel like that, every writer feels like a fraud, and as you get older it can be harder to do that,’’ Carolann says.

She will run a course in September, targeted at older writers, to improve their confidence and to show them their writing is good.

“Last week, we had a crime-writing course and it was split between the ages — from very young people to those retired — and you could feel the difference. The younger people had no inhibitions and just stood up and said, ‘This is what I am writing’. Whereas, people of my age and older, said ‘Well, I haven’t written for a while and, to be honest, it is not very good.’ When, in fact, their writing was often very beautiful,’’ she says.

Last Christmas, Jack O’Rourke, 64, a retired bus driver from Tallaght, Dublin, was encouraged by his wife to attend one of Carolann’s courses. Initially, he was reluctant.

But Carolann was impressed, saying that he is a “very talented’’ writer.

“I had written a few poems before, sentimental stuff, really. I like writing, but only when the humour takes me. It is very pleasurable,’’ he says.

Jack also volunteers at the Lorcan O’Toole day care centre, Kimmage, Dublin, twice a week and, after listening to the older people’s life stories, he encouraged them to write them down and he created an anthology.

“Many of them wanted to tell their stories, but they didn’t know how to go about it. Some of them were actually illiterate, which sounds an awful thing to say, but some of them had actually never been to school,’’ he says.

“Some of the stories are really heart-rendering, but, also, some are really heart-warming, at the same time. It is stuff that might have been lost.

“One lady describes how, as a child, there was no food in the house, so she had to go and sell anything she could. It was beg, steal or borrow for a loaf of bread. It was an absolutely beautiful story. ’’

Another lady wrote a story called Waiting for Cinderella, describing how her father put her in the local orphanage.

“He told her she was going to the pantomime. That was a really sad story, and she is now in her 70s,’’ says O’Toole.

Carolann says many of the stories reduced her to tears. Jack’s poem, which was also included in the anthology, described going to the local pawn shop for his mother.

“It was all hush hush, nobody was suppose to know that I was going,’’ he says, laughing. “But everyone was going to the pawn shop. I didn’t care who saw me. Yet, I was told not to let the neighbours see me.’’

The older people enjoyed doing the anthology so much that they hope to write another one, soon.

“I think that we will have to do a follow-up, there is some fantastic talent in the day centre,” says Jack.

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