A couple of years ago I had the brilliant idea to write a one-of-a-kind book on the subject of purposeful aging. Knowing I’d need a publisher’s advance to support the research and travel required for the book, I wrote a proposal for it and sent it to prospective literary agents in the hope that one of them might open the right door for me.
The working title for my proposed book was MFAA — Toward a Master’s in the Fine Art of Aging, and the concise description of it in my proposal went like this:
“My ‘MFAA’ will guide readers to find their own path toward purposeful living during ‘life’s third act.’ Like Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, there will be fill-in-the-blank pages with writing prompts and quizzes, as well as suggestions for fieldwork and valuable reading lists. This how-to book for older adults (those nearing or into retirement) will be written in a clear, accessible, conversational tone and will appeal to readers who want more from their later years than television or golf.”
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a New York agent willing to take my call after I’d sent her my proposal. On the phone she sounded like an older woman herself, someone who’d been around the block in her business, straightforward, but not (exactly) hard-hearted. In a gravelly New York accent she gave me this piece of advice: “Dahling,” she said, “forgettaboutit.” She paused to let this sink in.
“Do you know how old the decision makers at the big publishing houses are these days?” she asked me.
I didn’t answer.
“Well, they’re not old at all. They’re all very YOUNG – just out of grad school! And they don’t give a damn about old people and their issues. Your book doesn’t stand a chance with them.”
I knew she was only one person with one point of view, but what she said to me was enough to halt my purposeful-aging-book dream in its tracks and make me take another tack. I decided right then to create this WOW Factor blog and write short, inspiring posts on the subject of aging, as the spirit moved me, and offer them freely to whomever cared to read them, in the belief that every little bit of inspiration helps.
Then last week my friend Becky loaned me a new book she’d been given, A Modern Woman’s Guide to Aging: Together We Consider Our Options, by Claire Haye; and I read it right away. What a pleasant surprise for me to see that Haye has written and published the book on aging that I’d hoped to write! And she’s done a better job of it than I think I could.
A Modern Woman’s Guide is a timely, invaluable treasure – beautifully written, beautifully designed, and beautifully illustrated (with photographs by award-winning Taos, NM, photographer Lenny Foster). Haye’s authorial voice is intelligent, conversational, accessible, and up-beat – a kind of “all-in-together, girls” tone:
“We are thoughtful women. As a group let us give ourselves a new designation: Femina sapiens, the wise women. We have the capacity to learn and change throughout our entire lifetimes. You and I can develop new habits and expand our consciousness at any age.”
With insight and humor, Haye’s Guide weaves together research, ideas, personal stories, and thought-provoking questions to assist older women in their quest for self-understanding and direction at this critical stage of life. “In this book,” Haye’s says, I encourage you to reflect on your own life, ask important questions, make choices, and find answers.”
It’s always fun to have a laugh-out-loud moment while reading a potentially earnest book such as this, so I must share my “lol” experience here. In Chapter Four, “Together We Search for Meaning and Purpose,” Haye offers some of the environmental and psychological factors that statisticians say increase life expectancy: Education, Money, Status, Marriage, Being a Catholic Nun, Winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and Living in Minnesota. “Shall we all become nuns and move to Minnesota?” she asks. “Only if we truly love Jesus and ice fishing,” she answers.
Claire Haye, 69, is a widow, the mother of two grown daughters, a self-supporting visual artist and jewelry designer in Taos, NM, and now the author of this wonderful book. If I were the author of A Modern Woman’s Guide, I’d be extremely proud. Perhaps the decision makers in New York’s publishing world might be too young to recognize its value, but every woman old enough to be their mother would see it differently. In my view, this Guide is a necessary addition to every thoughtful older woman’s library.
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For more on the Guide, visit: www.amodernwomansguide.com. Note: For each sale of the Guide, Haye will contribute $5 to the charitable fund, Making it a Better World for Women and Children.