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Guest Post: She Published Her First Book at Age 75!

I'm excited today to present a guest post by Joy Neal Kidney, who published her first book at age 75. Since that time, she's published two sequels to that first title, and she's working on more to come. Her example is proof that age and physical problems need not be a hindrance to those who have a compelling story to tell.

Joy is the chronicler of her family's history. Her first book, Leora's Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family during World War II, told of five of her uncles who served during World War II. But only two of those men lived to return home. (Since today is Veteran's Day, this would be a good book to read now!)

Joy's other two books tell the stories of the family before World War II, pioneering stories and stories of perseverance during the Great Depression.

In the following post, Joy tells us how she, starting at the young age of 75, did it. And continues to turn out those books. Her experience and example remove many of our own excuses for not writing our stories.

Enjoy her post. Learn from it. Then act upon it by writing your own stories!


Those of us who have garnered several decades of living and gained perspective are valuable carriers of family stories and history. It's never too late to begin sharing them.

If you have something that needs to be written and shared, you can do it. Age doesn't matter.

Until I had a story that needed telling, I didn't get serious about writing, but I knew that my writing technique needed an overhaul. I began taking Writer's Digest magazine, reading books about writing, and attending the Summer Writing Festival at the University of Iowa several summers.

Meanwhile, I was researching World War II. Five brothers, uncles of mine, served. Only two came home. When their mother, my Grandma Leora, died, I didn't even realize that two of the brothers aren't buried in the family plot at Perry, Iowa. I didn't know what New Guinea had to do with the war. I didn't know the difference between a B-25 and a B-29.

I joined reunion groups in order to correspond with men who knew one of the brothers, or at least had served in the same unit. During the 1990s, I began writing essays for newspapers and magazines. When I was paid for them, I knew I was on the right track!

I've dealt with fibromyalgia for two decades. The worst was when I couldn't write because of the brain fog. As it began to lift, I started a website and attended writing conferences, still with the goal of eventually telling the World War II story of the five brothers. A website is a wonderful way to begin to share one's stories. My early posts usually started with an old photo.

I also joined an online writers' group where I could "meet" people and ask questions. That's how I met Robin Grunder, who became my coauthor on the first book, Leora's Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family during World War II. By then, I could afford to hire an editor and someone to design the cover and do the formatting.

I didn't publish that first book until I was 75 years old. That was three years ago. The third one came out this fall. [Joy's other two books are Leora's Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression and Leora's Early Years: Guthrie County Roots.]

Leora Wilson was an ordinary woman who became remarkable because of the tragedies she survived and who flourished as an older woman. I've been so blessed by working with her stories and am thankful to be able to share them.

Agewise, I'm an older woman, too. I grew up among the family members, not thinking about their elderliness. Grandma Leora, my mother, and her sister all lived to the age of 97!

But something in me is not old. The writer in me still flourishes. My fourth book is under way, with notebooks for three or four more others started, as God allows me to keep at this writing thing.

If you write, you're a writer. Tenacity trumps talent. If you have a story that needs telling, get busy with it. Regardless of your age or physical difficulties.

* * * * *

Thank you, Joy, for this inspiring post! Now we readers need to act on it by writing our own families' stories.

You can learn more about Joy and her books by visiting her website at

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