Terri Kirby Erickson is the award-winning author of two collections of poetry, Thread Count and Telling Tales of Dusk. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, anthologies and publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, JAMA, Verse Daily, Pisgah Review, and many others. In 2009, her work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net Award. For more information, please see her website at TerriKirbyErickson.wordpress.com. Terri agreed to share some of her story of success after 50 with Fifty Is The New Forty:
Since school started in the fall, I’ve been lecturing to creative writing classes at R.J. Reynolds High School in North Carolina, the same school from which I graduated. One of the English teachers there is a fan of my work, and asked if I’d come in and talk about poetry for a few hours, to every “rotation” of her creative writing students.
Well, it’s good to know that teenagers don’t immediately think, “Grandma,” when they look at me, but even if they did, I have to say that NOW is one of the happiest times in my life. I’ll be 52 in May, and for the past five years, have been pursuing a long-held dream that has culminated in the release of my second book of poetry, Telling Tales of Dusk. I’ll never forget the moment when the founder of Press 53, Kevin Watson, told me that he wanted to publish my manuscript. It felt like Christmas, New Year’s Eve and my birthday, all rolled into one!
Although I’ve been writing poetry since I was 10, I didn’t start writing “seriously,” until I was forty-five and standing in the middle of my empty “nest.” Suddenly, it dawned on me that I could do anything I wanted!
So, I began writing with the goal of publishing. And I kept writing until I had enough poetry for a collection, at which point I published my first book, Thread Count, through AuthorHouse, a self-publishing company. I thought perhaps a few friends might buy one, but that’s about it. However, that book is STILL selling! After that, I started sending out poems to literary journals and since that time, have had over 70 poems published in various journals and anthologies, some of which have been prize-winners.
Then in September, 2009, my new collection, Telling Tales of Dusk, was published as I said, by the prestigious small press, Press 53. I am thankful that all the reviews have been wonderful, and in February, (after syndicated columnist Sharon Randall recommended the book in her column), it hit #8 in poetry book sales on Amazon.
But you know what? Success doesn’t mean dollars to me. It comes in the form of letters from readers whose lives have been positively impacted by reading my poetry—and in the faces of the young people at R.J. Reynolds High School, to whom I can honestly say it is never too early or too late to begin pursuing your creative dreams. And then, of course, I jump on my stegosaurus and ride off into the sunset!
~Terri Kirby Erickson