OCTOBER 2021 SECOND ACT OF THE MONTH AWARD
Each month, we give the 50PlusToday SECOND ACT Award to an individual who made an intentional decision to change gears in this phase of life. It’s our goal to recognize and support people who reinvented themselves at age 50Plus and we choose recipients who are creative, innovative and inspiring to others. Their pivot might involve a new career, business, community effort or lifestyle. A successful, happy and meaningful life means different things to different people; reading what others did might start you thinking about your next journey! The bottom line is that your second half of your life can be as good as, if not better than, the first! We hope to inspire our readers with success stories from others. (Is there someone you know that created a wonderful second act that you would like to nominate? Complete this form to submit their name for consideration!
The recipient for October 2021 is Leah Weiss
Leah Weiss is the bestselling author of If the Creek Don’t Rise: A Novel (August 2017) and All the Little Hopes: A Novel (July 2021). She published her first book at age 70.
50PlusToday asked Leah Weiss questions about why and how she chose to make her career change. Here’s what she told us:
50PlusToday: What did you do before starting your entrepreneurial journey?
LW: My last paying job was as Assistant to the Headmaster at a private school. For twenty-four years, every day was different and challenged me to utilize my skills: the job required organization, efficiency and the ability to meet deadlines. I retired in 2015 and signed with a New York agent that same month. What a welcome to retirement!
50PlusToday: Tell us about what you are doing now (and for how long):
LW: I started writing in 2004 beginning with my mother’s life. She was one of fifteen children raised on a tobacco farm with no running water or electricity. I thought I was doing this only for family to remember, but a few of those memoirs were published. Then I segued into writing fiction stories, a first novel that never found an agent, and, finally, a novel that was published when I was seventy. That debut novel, IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE, is a national best-seller, and sold over 100,000 copies. My second book, ALL THE LITTLE HOPES, released July 27, 2021, sold out of the first printing in twenty-eight days.
50PlusToday: What are the unique skills that contribute to your success?
LW: I am a perpetual student who loves to learn new things. When I began to write in 2004, I knew very little about the craft. I joined a critique group, haunted libraries and dissected my favorite books. I submitted early work to short story contests and literary magazines. Though these outlets did not choose to publish my work, I studied the stories that were chosen. Eventually, my writing began to be published. I credit my tenacity and patience to rewrite and polish to finally succeeding.
50PlusToday: What passion led you to start this new endeavor?
LW: My mother died in 2005 and my longtime love, Jim, died ten months later. Those pivotal events gave me blocks of empty time to fill. Afternoons after work and on weekends, I chose to immerse myself in writing and take on this challenging craft as a form of therapy. Two factors led me to write – First was intrigue about my mother’s humble life that inspired my second novel, HOPES. And second, spiritual conversations with a friend who commented I wrote well and peppered our emails with humor. Writing got me through hard times and gave me a much-needed goal.
50PlusToday: How does your age and experience help in your success?
LW: Over the seven decades of my life, I’ve accumulated skills, experiences and quirky characters who were made for storytelling. They are a well for my creativity when I’m seeking fictional characters to drive a plot and grab a reader.
50PlusToday: What unique skills did you have from previous jobs/businesses/lifestyle that help you in this new position?
LW: Though I worked many different jobs over my lifetime, I attribute two professions to making me a better writer: my years as a classical pianist,
50PlusToday: What advice would you give someone in this age group searching for their meaningful second act?
LW: Don’t try to take shortcuts to a new profession. Set the bar high. Become an invested student and let the learning be part of the journey. Although writing is done in isolation, it isn’t learned in isolation. Enjoy the process and seek sound advice along the way.
Three random facts about Leah:
- I was married for twenty-one years and had one son
- After my divorce, I was on my own for twenty-six years
- I unexpectedly found love at age 70 and married for the second time in 2017 – the year I published my first book. Neither the miracle of becoming a successful author nor marrying again was on my horizon until I opened myself up to possibility. Both were wonderful surprises!
About Leah Weiss
Born in North Carolina and southern by grace, author Leah Weiss grew up raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She graduated from Dunbarton College in Washington DC with a degree in music and received an education degree from Kent State University. She retired in 2015 from a 24-year career in education, and published her debut novel, If the Creek Don’t Rise: A Novel two years later.
IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE sold over 100,000 copies. Selected as a Library aReads and an Indie Next, the novel was #5 on the national Indie Picks for winter 2017-2018. It was also nominated for the Southern Book Prize and was a 2018 finalist for both the Library of Virginia’s Literary Fiction and People’s Choice Awards. Her second novel, ALL THE LITTLE HOPES, released in July 2021, holds traces of her mama’s Carolina life.
To learn more, take a look at Leah’s website!
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