The age of the author is often brought up when discussing young adult novels written by middle-aged authors or older authors writing about younger characters, but young authors tend to fall to the side unless they are exceptionally young. This isn’t going to be a post about young people griping about “the man” or older people. Most of my friends are older than I am, and I enjoy their company immensely. Recently, my age has come up several times when talking about my writing or books.
I’m twenty-three and am currently working toward my masters in creative writing. I went directly from high school to getting my bachelors to getting my masters. Somehow I always feared if I stopped, I would lose momentum or be talked out of working toward my next degree. Apparently, I look young according to other adults. Not sure what that means exactly. Sometimes I wonder if they expect a twenty-three year old to be in a business suit sitting demurely behind a desk or wearing a uniform at McDonalds. I have a chubby face and wear jeans, t-shirts, flannel shirts, and hoodies, which constitutes looking young even though most of the people in my class dress the same way and are often older than I am.
If I am asked my age, I willingly give it. There’s no reason to hide it, and I should be flattered by still being carded at an R rated movie, but being called an undergrad or being treated like an oddity because of my age gets old quickly. In the same way they treat a seventy year old running a marathon, I get the same with my lack of years. “Wow, you’re only twenty-three and did x, y, z.” Why is that shocking? My age doesn’t alter my intellect or ambition, and being in my early twenties with nothing but time on my hands, makes it easier to write or get work done. I’m lucky to have parents with good jobs who are willing to support me financially while I spend my days writing and reading for class (though I do have a part-time job and am a graduate assistant, which pays for my tuition). I know I’m lucky, and I use that time wisely to get work done.
Part of me doesn’t like to divulge my age or full identity when I’m in author mode. At a book fair, which was rained out and disastrous overall, I was sitting at my table with my boyfriend, who at the time had a beard. Everyone thought he was the author. Sexism, agism, ignorance, or stupidity? I have no idea, but it frustrated me. Why did they not think I was the author? Even in my classes, I get an odd response when people hear I have written and published a book. But you’re how old? I don’t want people to ever think, “She wrote a good book for a twenty-three year old.” My age doesn’t matter. What should matter is my talent and drive. Mentioning someone’s age when they accomplish something cheapens it. It’s the equivalent of saying, “You throw well for a girl.” You write well considering you aren’t a forty year old divorcee bitterly pecking a novel to alleviate the sting of sending alimony checks.
As my mom reminds me, I should be flattered, but I’m an ingrate. I’m not flattered. Sure, part of it is age. I want to be taken seriously and be seen as a contender, and when most of your competition is a decade older than you, it’s a bit daunting. In class, I still see professors in their thirties get walked over by adult students, so I guess it’s something I will have to deal with until I get the senior discount. My main thing is: praise people for the talent and ambition, not their age. Whether they’re twenty or eighty, their talent and hard-work should always come first.