Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Feeling Nifty at 50

By Martha Reed

Last Friday I celebrated my fiftieth birthday, the big 5-0, and I suppose I shouldn’t let the event go past without writing about it, since writing is what I do. It’s been a pretty funny experience, first off because I’m okay with it, I’ve never felt healthier and I’m very happy where I am in my life, but everyone else seems to be having a bigger reaction to it than I am. It’s making me feel, well, odd.

One of my neighbors, a very nice older woman, saw the black balloon floating outside my door and offered her condolence, asking me how I felt about it. I think I surprised her when I said I felt great. Somehow, I think I’m supposed to be feeling like the end is near and the grim reaper is about to tap me on my shoulder, but honestly I can’t say I feel that at all – I’ve got way too much work to do to think of giving up now.

But fifty is a great time to take a pause and assess your life and your direction. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones – I wrecked my life pretty effectively in my late thirties and I have been rebuilding it ever since, and building it in what I think is a good direction and on a solid foundation. One of the things I’ve committed to is my writing – I’ve written before on how easy it is to get distracted and to go off and spend great swaths of time doing foolish things. Now don’t get me wrong, foolish is fine, in the proper place and at the proper time. Maybe that’s what turning fifty did for me; it seems to have freed me up to say ‘no, thanks’ and to continue on doing what I think is important (to me): the writing.

Two weekends back I did get a little distracted and I drove to Arlington, Virginia, to help celebrate another anniversary: twenty years of traditional mystery at the Malice Domestic convention. Everyone who enjoys traditional mysteries should go to Malice at least once – it’s a three-day merry-go-round of author signings and informative entertaining panels and interviews plus an awards banquet where they hand out the Agathas. I’ve always had fun making sure I read the Agatha entries beforehand so I could pick out my favorite dark horse, and the true surprise of the convention is just how accessible everyone is: I’ve met some terrific new authors just by sitting next to them in The Mez restaurant for lunch or taking a pause in a cozy chair in the lobby. This year introduced me to Nan Higginson with her Agatha nominated short story “Casino Gamble” (http://homepage.mac.com/adept/CasinoGambleMNYS.pdf) and I fell right into a great new series by Beverle Graves Myers, “Interrupted Aria” featuring Tito Amato, a castrato soprano in 18th-century Venice.

For purposes of disclosure I should mention that something big happened to me at Malice this year, and I have to laugh at it. With all the effort I put into my fiction, with the hours I spend exploring every possible plotline or trying to develop interesting new characters, the hours I spend polishing my prose to be the very best it can be, I finally won an award at Malice XX - for my hat. That’s right, yours truly won the Malice Domestic XX Most Beautiful Hat Contest for my entry “Black and White and Read All Over”. Actually, I don’t really think it was my hat that won, I think it was more likely the pun that won the judges over, and I’m sure there are some serious southern ladies with bigger hats who are a little steamed at me right now, but I’ve made it back north across the Mason/Dixon line and I’m hoping they’ll get over it in time for Malice XXI, because next year, as God is my witness, I’ll be judged for something I wrote!

13 comments:

Tory said...

Congrats, Martha! Having seen the hat, I had no doubts. I figured it was surely a "dark horse."

I'm turning 50 the end of this month and I agree with you, I don't think I've ever been happier in my life. Things are coming together!

Joyce said...

I loved turning 50. Maybe it's because we look much younger, dahlings! At least I think we do...

It's also very freeing. My kids are grown and almost on their own, so I have more time to devote to writing. I have a job that doesn't suck most days. I'm pretty content.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Belated Happy Birthday, Martha. Get ready for the way of AARP mailings inviting you to join. Based on experience, the only way to get them to stop is to join.

By odd circumstance, it's my birthday today, although we won't go into specifics.

We need to see the winning hat.

Joyce said...

Happy Birthday, Will! Hey, if the women of the blog can disclose our ages, you can too. C'mon, out with it!

Gina said...

Congratulations, Martha, on the birthday and the hat!

Just think of 50 as half-way to 100.

Martha Reed said...

Thanks, everyone, for the wishes! I'm hoping for a picture of the winning hat, I know it was taken, but I was so shocked that I won my head was spinning and I didn't get the name of the photographer.

Halfway to 100? Great, if I work another 50 years I might just break even. :)

Beverle Graves Myers said...

Happy late birthday, Martha! I also think that one of the best things about Malice Domestic is chatting in between panels and meeting new people. Hope we see each other again next year, and good luck with your writing.

Martha Reed said...

Beverly, let me say how much I'm enjoying Interrupted Aria - you really captured the feeling of being back stage during an opera, and your descriptions of Venice make me want to visit! Luckily, I picked up copies of the series, so I have a lot of Tito Amato to look forward to - thanks!

JennieB said...

Yes, we definitely need to see a picture of the hat!

Happy Birthday wishes, to both you and Freddy. You can tell us, Wilfred. Really.

Just FYI, for all of you who enjoyed Jordan Dane's visit to the Stiffs a month or so ago: she's blogging today and tomorrow at the Avon blog, here:

http://www.avonromanceblog.blogspot.com/

Her topic is the appeal of bad-boys & bad-girls, anti-heroes, and the like, and being Jordan, it's interesting. Hop on over and participate. You get entered in a contest to win one of her books just by commenting!

Martha Reed said...

Fred, it was a shock when the AARP card fell out of the envelope with my name on it. :) It shocked my mother even more!

Hey, as long as I get a discount, I'll use anything...

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Let's say my age is just two shy of the last two digits of my birth year.

It's no use ignoring the AARP mailings. They will keep pummeling you to submission.

Martha Reed said...

Maybe I'll get early AZ and forget about it?

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Sorry about the cryticness (is that a word?). My mind was focused on my day job.

Today I turned 53 and I don't feel a day older than 55. Actually, I just finished hooking up a new home entertainment center. I feel like I just got done wrestling an octopus.