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Elizabeth, first Novel published at the age of 72

Article by Fabafterfiftyfirst-novel-at -70

Its Never Too late to Follow Your Dream !

When I discovered Elizabeth Egerton Wilder had her first novel published at the age of 72, I just had to include her as a ‘fabwoman’. What an inspiration  Elizabeth is to all those who dream of writing a book.

Although Elizabeth has said she has always enjoyed writing, it is only in her 70s that she has found the time to dedicate to write seriously.
Now living in Pennsylvania, Elizabeth thoroughly enjoys her life with her very own Romeo (her husband  belongs to a group of Retired Older Men Eating Out!)

Why did you wait so long to write your first novel?

Writing a book was always a dream for me but it never seemed to be the right time to take the time needed to do it. When I slipped into my 8th decade, I felt it was now or never. I just wasn’t ready earlier in my life.

How long did it take to complete the story?
It rattled around in my head for many years while I researched. The Aroostook War was a surprise to me; the idea that there was an impending conflict between America and Britain seemed a secret gem of New England history. The fact that the US government allocated $10 million for the possible war was such a lot of money for the early 1800’s. It must have been very important. I made notes and visited northern Maine, spent a lot of time on the Internet and gleaned whatever information I could from 2001 through my move to Pennsylvania in December 2008. I started writing seriously in January 2009 and completed my manuscript a year later.

Since this novel took so long and you started it later in life, would you do more writing?

Now, I cannot think about not writing. Ideas keep popping up in my mind. I think the tap has been opened and as long as I am able, I don’t think it will be turned off. After all Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 76. I have a head start on her. Her first breakout show was when she was 80!

Was writing a book on your bucket list?

Not at all. I view a bucket list as things to do before the end. I hope that finally writing a novel for me is a beginning, not an end of a new adventure. One where there is so much to learn and complete. As for my bucket list–it would include a visit to the Grand Canyon.

What gave you the idea for your story?

I became curious about the Aroostook Valley and the early “pioneers” when my husband and I went to northern Maine to trace his family ancestry. Despite the fact that I lived in New England my entire life, prior to this I never knew that this area in Maine was still disputed so many years after the Revolutionary War. The more I researched the history of the region, the more I wondered about the earliest settlers. The lumbermen first claimed the wonderful forests along the river, then the farmers began to clear land. I wondered what it must have been like, especially for families. My imagination took over and the story unfolded.

What is a Spruce Gum Box and why did that become your title?


The logging industry in northern Maine in the early 1800’s sets the stage for my story. Back then, a crew would go in to the forests before the rivers froze, and it would be months before they came back out when the thaw came and the river ran so they could move the logs to the sawmills. Since the lumbermen did not work on Sundays they found busywork to help fill the hours. Some played cards, others worked on repairing their equipment, and many whittled. One item that was very popular to whittle was a box to hold spruce gum; the globules of resin the men collected in the forest from spruce trees. Chewing spruce gum was a treat. The loggers would take a solid block of wood and carve it in to the shape of a book. Then they patiently hollowed the piece leaving the top open. A thin piece of wood was formed to slide along a slot in the top so that the “book” could be opened and closed. While working in the woods, the men would find pieces of spruce gum, put them in the carved and decorated boxes, and take them home as gifts in the spring. There are many references to spruce gum boxes throughout the story so the title felt right.

Never give up on your writing dreams

So what’s next for you?
First, I’m going to enjoy promoting my novel and hopefully have the opportunity to enlightenothers on the northern Native American Tribes and life in early northern Maine in the lumberingcommunities. I would really like to spread the word to other would-be authors to never give upon their writing dreams, even if they have to wait until their 8th decade to make them come true. But I do have plans for another story and have already started to plot out my next research project. Stay tuned!


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