As I’ve told a number of friends, a while back I began a long overdue task of cleaning out my office. It was a chore I should have undertaken before I moved into this townhome. Instead, I simply boxed up everything in my desk, bookcases, and in two two-drawer lateral file cabinets in which I’ve saved interesting articles from newspapers and magazines for the last twenty or so years. I also saved notes from the many workshops I attended. The upshot is that it became a monumental chore taking weeks, not days to complete. I’d hoped to find some treasures suitable to spark my creative mind to write a heartwarming story. What I found was a lot of outdated material good for tossing. But in the mess I came across an article I’d cut out from a Bellevue, Washington newspaper in February 2002. The article was titled: “Romance is alive and well for author published at 80.”
Since I recently had my 79th birthday and have more than once wondered if at this age I’m reaching my twilight years of writing, the old, yellowed article stopped my cleaning and grabbed my attention. And after reading it I found I wanted to follow up on the author, and share what I ran to ground. The original article included a photo of Ludima Gus Burton working on a manuscript at her dining table. She’s quoted as saying: “For nine years I was rejected by everyone. My rejection file is four inches thick.” It also said it’d been a decade since she’d read her first romance novel, “Partners in Crime” by Anne Stuart (whom I’m sure many of you remember). Ludima said she picked up the book, thinking it was a mystery, as prior to the Stuart book she’d never read a romance. The story spoke to something in her that made her want to read more and write. She had retired from a 24-year teaching career, but was determined to not lead a sedentary life as so many people did after retiring. What the first romance did was make her fall in love with reading romance books. She began taking them out of the library 10 at a time. Her own story ideas started to percolate during her morning walk to and from her grandson’s school bus stop. But she also began to sit with pad and pencil and write. In the way most writers start, she said she didn’t know anything about the craft of writing. She didn’t know anything about a beginning, a hook, or character development. She just wrote ideas that formed in her head. Later she bought a $150.00 word processor (anyone remember those days?) followed by a laptop computer to transcribe her longhand into typed pages. And she began sending her typed work to publishers where she accumulated rejection after rejection.
Then she joined RWA and found a newly formed local chapter which I’ve only, in looking her up online, learned was the New Jersey Romance Writers chapter. In my aged article she told the reporter it was the point she began to learn the art of writing. Having been left a widow at 59, she got so involved in writing that for the first time in many years, she set about traveling away from home to hear romance writers speak, and in the process figured out she wanted to write only sweet romances. She set her sights on learning all she could, then wrote all she could and targeted Avalon Books, an imprint of Thomas Bouregy & Company in New York. They mainly published hardcover books for the library market. Having rewritten her first story idea three times, the book she almost despaired of and tossed out, got accepted. By then she’d written two additional books, and Avalon ended up publishing all three in a year and a half.
I have to admit I shed a happy tear just reading about her success. Assessing the courage it must have taken her to launch into a new chapter in life at age 80, sent me to my computer to see what more I could learn about this amazing woman. I found that she passed away in 2018 in New York in the company of her 2 daughters. The New Jersey chapter’s memoriam states that she published two books in 1999, one in 2000, another in 2001, again in 2005, and 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 and her last in 2014. In 2000 she received The Eddy (Edward H. “Eddie” Pattison Award) for creativity, energy and leadership and was also inducted in the Farrell High School Hall of Fame in 2005.
All I can say is: What A Woman!
Reading about her life circled me back to my original question in this blog—is there a right time to write? Because I was laboring under the concept that “all things have a season” and wrestling with wondering if my last birthday maybe suggested I ought to think about ending my writing season—Ludima’s courage to dive into a totally new career at age 80 is certainly making me reevaluate.
Since I don’t know where everyone lives who may stop to read this blog, it’s possible some of you have had the privilege of knowing the remarkable Ludima Burton. If so, and you have more uplifting stories to tell about her, please do.
Thank you for this, Roz. My 68th birthday is next week and I've been wavering back and forth. I think this post stopped me mid-waver--and gave me a new heroine. Looking forward to your next book, too!ReplyDelete
What an inspiring story Roz! Ludima reminds me of the kind of women who ventured around the world in the 1800s, when women were supposed to stay at home to serve their families. Her persistence and courage to keep trying were impressive, especially when giving up seems so much easier. There is no cut-off age for writing or trying anything new, I think, though aging does bring different challenges as I’ve learned. Still, I think Ludmilla would turn up her nose at the idea of surrendering to age and say “Nonsense!” Thanks for this ‘lift’ mid first draft frustrations!ReplyDelete
Wow, Ludmilla was a heroine herself. Good for her. I’m so glad she got to live her dream.ReplyDelete
Thanks you guys for stopping by and reading this blog. Did any of you in Denver visit the Molly Brown house? She is an 1800's woman like Janice is talking about. Her name wasn't really Molly, but Margaret Brown. The docent who led our tour said perhaps Molly went better with the song "The Unsinkable Molly Brown". She is another powerhouse lady who did more in her lifetime than most of us can imagine. Besides saving herself and others on the Titanic she held women's meetings, got people to vote, raised money to build a church that still stands, and raised a family. I feel like a slacker.ReplyDelete
Haven't been to her house, but did see the movie. However, another movie, Titanic, portrayed Molly differently than historical accounts of the ship indicate. i.e. the Titanic movie made her cower whereas eyewitness accounts say she was very bold.Delete
I fully intend to write until I drop. A great inspirational story, Roz!ReplyDelete
Same with me. I can't imagine not writing.Delete
Love stories like that. I wish I'd had a chance to know Ludima. Thanks for the inspiration!ReplyDelete
What a great story. I knew another woman in her 70s who told me she'd always wanted to write, but she felt it was too late. I couldn't convince her, but Ludima might have been able to do it.ReplyDelete
I want to write at least as long as Roz has, so keep writing Roz so I know I can! I enjoyed meeting you last week.ReplyDelete
Thanks for a great blog, Roz! I'm with Liz--I reach the milestone 65 in September and although, much good will come of it, it still feels really old to me. However, writing keeps us young, so I'm just going to go for it and hope for the best!ReplyDelete
Lovely post, Roz. Life is what you make of it--at any and every age. Hope to see more of your wonderful stories soon. We need your HEAs. <3 So great to see you in Denver.ReplyDelete
Roz, thanks for sharing that story. I play tennis, and they say tennis is a sport for a lifetime. So writing is a career for a lifetime.ReplyDelete
What an amazing woman! I think the reason you didn't clean out your office earlier was so that you'd find the article just when you needed it, because you're amazing, too. So glad to meet you last week.ReplyDelete
Roz, in another 50 years some blogger will be sharing YOUR story -- you've got the same kind of grit and gumption as Ludima, for sure, and the fact that you've never even thought of yourself as being a heroic role model is part of what makes you that.ReplyDelete
And, speaking selfishly here, I sure hope you keep writing!
You all are too kind. It was so much fun to see all who were able to attend conference. The energy there always peps me up.ReplyDelete
As always, Roz, your blogpost is inspiring and thought provoking. Please keep writing for all of us who love your books.ReplyDelete
Roz has always been an inspiration. She was mine. Still is.ReplyDelete
I bet another heroine lurks in your imagination. Don't hold back on giving her free rein since writing is a lifetime career as Merrillee points out. My thought is writing works at any age as each book takes me on a journey. But we do question what's right for us at each age. Somehow those doubts materialize but someone like Margaret Brown makes it clear we can do so much.ReplyDelete
What a beautiful and inspiring story! There have been times that I wondered if I waited to late to start writing, because let's be honest, it takes some of us YEARS to understand craft. I love this.ReplyDelete
I was 48 when I sold my 1st book...Delete
Again, I'm glad to pop in and see that so many of you liked the story as much as I did. I think writing keeps us young in mind if nothing else. That's positive. I've heard from several people who read the blog, but couldn't seem to comment. One of my chapter members used to belong to N.J. chapter and she knew Ludima. She said they met at a low point in her writing, and she was recharged after seeing someone much older who was filled with enthusiasm.ReplyDelete
Roz, there is no age limit on when to start writing or when to stop. I think it's all about the passion.ReplyDelete
My dear friend Dotty McMillan passed away a few years ago - she was my mother's age (would be turning 86 in September - my mother would have turned 86 a few days ago) and she continued writing until the day she died. She wrote fiction - horror, her expertise being Vampires before they became the "it" subject.... she also was the President of several craft groups including FIMO and the Knitting Machine knitters, and wrote books in those genres as well. She used to write for the Orange County Register back in the day, etc etc... she never stopped writing because her passion never went away.
There is no such thing as physical age limits. It really only depends on your passion.
Hi, Roz. If I can still read, I can still write.ReplyDelete
I'm facing trimmer problems with my hands. Dragon is going to help that. YOU have always encouraged me. I'm so fortunate to be in the same chapter with you. You set the bar high for many of us. It's great to keep stretching. Back in 2007, you told me I could do it. I have the books to prove that you were correct. Thank you!
I read Phylis Whitney as a teen. Years ago, I met her at a workshop in Sedona, Arizona. She was well into her 80s and still writing, no longer romance but school curriculum (ack, I wrote curriculum once ONCE never again). Writers ebb and flow but the waters never still.ReplyDelete
How fascinating and inspiring, Roz! There's not an age limit to writing and no expiration date for me, and I'm betting it's the same for you, too.ReplyDelete
You are and have always been an inspiration to me. Loved hanging out with you in Denver.
This is so inspiring!! It shows that a person is never too old to write. Thanks for sharing Ludima’s story.ReplyDelete
Great post, Roz! Truly inspirational for writers of any age, and a wonderful reminder that in many things, age is not an issue.ReplyDelete