Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Youth is for the young…and so are literary prizes


I just won a Pulitzer!


I can relate to this author, who bemoans the fact that there are so many literary prizes thrown at writers under forty, or thirty-five, or thirty, or… ten. And it’s true. Because our culture worships youth, we seem to have this need to anoint young writers before they’ve had a chance to develop fully. Or have a few experiences to write about.

The writer of this article published her first novels at 48 and 52. My first came out when I was 45, and I knew right out of the gate that I never had a shot at a Young Writers To Watch award. I couldn’t be described as emerging. I’d been emerging for decades. Maybe I was fermenting, but not emerging.

Anyway, it’d be nice to have a prize that’s geared toward older farts who’ve been slogging away in the trenches for years. And getting better. We are fully formed, we’ve found our own voices, and we’re stubborn enough to keep doing this because, God damn it, we deserve some attention!

Sour grapes, perhaps, but when I hear about anyone under thirty who has won a prestigious prize, I go, “Talk to me in twenty years, you little twerp.”

Usually they’ve come and gone by then.

15 comments on “Youth is for the young…and so are literary prizes

  1. Charles Yallowitz
    April 28, 2015

    I wouldn’t say sour grapes since you’re right. We seem to be routinely amazed that the young accomplish things. Not sure why. I would think it’s equally impressive that a person accomplishes something through hard work and not giving up.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 28, 2015

      Absolutely. Young lions are, at least in part, lucky — lucky to have been given an opportunity to shine, lucky to be discovered early, lucky to have something that seems fresh going for them. Older writers might get lucky later on, but they believe in their craft and they carry on.

      • Charles Yallowitz
        April 28, 2015

        Luck is a big part of it. We seem to ignore that factor. So many things involve being in the right place at the right time.

  2. John W. Howell
    April 28, 2015

    Good rant Kevin. I published my first novel at 72. Can you see me struggling up to the podium to accept the Young Author to Watch award? I’d hit those punks with my cane. (Well, if I had a cane) Maybe do seventy-Two one-armed push-ups.

  3. ericjbaker
    April 28, 2015

    48 and 72 eh? You mean there’s still hope for me?

  4. kingmidget
    April 28, 2015

    Yep. You gotta be new!! And exciting!!! And breathtaking!!! And young to win a writing award. There’s a bias against people who don’t start writing or get published until later in their life. I mean what were we doing all those years. Oh, that’s right, making a living.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 28, 2015

      Right! Making a living. I guess we didn’t want it bad enough, eh? 😈

  5. 1WriteWay
    April 29, 2015

    The thing is most writers under thirty aren’t writing what I even want to be reading …

  6. Phillip McCollum
    April 30, 2015

    Hear hear. It’s hard to write well about a life not even halfway lived.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 30, 2015

      Ain’t it the truth. I like writers who know more than I know…

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This entry was posted on April 28, 2015 by in Writing and tagged , , .
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