Friday, 18 October 2013

Late Bloomers Are Never Too Late To Write

A person whose life is well-lived is someone who both recognized and fulfilled their personal goals and didn’t allow age, time or circumstance to hinder their opportunities for happiness.


Naomi Wakan, a poet, author, journalist, editor, publisher and artist, is a living example of this philosophy. She shares her honest and often humorous teachings in her new book, Late Bloomer: on writing later in life, which is directed toward an age 50+ audience who have always sensed a creative streak but haven’t yet tapped into their powerful, dormant energy. After many years of being immersed in the creative lives of both her ex and current spouse, she also began to reawaken to her own creative needs from childhood. She embraced fully the importance of play.


Naomi resides on Gabriola Island with her sculptor husband, Elias Wakan, in a studio/home setting called Drumbeg House Studio, where she draws on inspiration from her surroundings. Elias makes wood sculpture and Naomi writes, paints, and does fabric art. For 12 years the couple ran a small publishing house called Pacific-Rim Publishers, which focused on educational resource materials for teaching English, inspired from their time spent in Japan. 


Naomi yearned to be writing full time and Eli wanted to see what his ‘paper sculpture’ would look like in wood, so they breathed in deeply and jumped from downtown Vancouver to Island living. She counts herself fortunate to be able to cultivate such a creative and open life, but it took her awhile to realize her needs and bring them to fruition.


“My first husband was an artist; my present husband is a sculptor, Elias Wakan, so I have been living with others' creative lives for a long while.  The creative process has always been a mystery to me, but I did come to realize how much hard work has to be put in to make the inspirational moment a reality in three dimensions,” said Wakan.


After years of supporting the creativity of others, and then honoring her own artistic pursuits, she felt it was a natural step to encourage the same creativity through workshops. The classes she gives for ‘Late Bloomers’ are crammed with ideas to ‘jump-start’ creativity.


“When I started exploring forms for my creativity it seemed natural to go on supporting and encouraging others. As for myself, I had written verse as a child, but then had turned to university, motherhood, etc. and what creativity I had came out in those channels.  I started writing somewhat intensely in my fifties, but didn't devote myself to it full-time until my mid-sixties,” said Wakan.


Every artist has their own creative process, and Naomi is no stranger to the fear, doubt and exhilaration felt in taking the first steps towards completing a literary project of any size. Whether it is a poem or a book, there is a need for it and a craft to be learned.


When asked about creating the spark for people who want to explore their creativity later in life, Wakan replied, “My advice to 'Late Bloomers' is to realize that time is passing and that if you are ever going to write, there is a certain urgency that you do. Also discard all non-supportive friends and family members - that doesn't mean stay with folks who praise you, but folks who help you with their criticism.”


Naomi is a prolific writer and has published books in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. She embraces many interests, including cooking, gardening, books of quotes (7): Artworks, Gardenworks, Designworks, Bookworks, Foodworks, Loveworks and Musicworks, art, music, love, travel, design, and health – evident in her works Healing Bag and Memory Bag.


“I love reading in public and sharing my writing.  My publisher said I would 'Wow' any audience that didn't have body piercing and I try to stick to that,” said Wakan.  “I go to other writers’ book launches knowing how much we all need a supportive public and also just how much energy goes into the production of a book; that energy should be acknowledged, even if one doesn't particularly appreciate the form the writing has taken.”


Naomi Wakan read from her latest collection Late Bloomer: on writing later in life on Sunday, October 15th at the Oak Bay Library, and is taking registrations for her Late Bloomers workshops held on Gabriola Island. Information about her workshops can be found at


Her book launch was held in a small breakout room, yet packed with a keen audience. This was telling of the need for a book to encourage people to discover their creativity later in life. Her reading was sprinkled with humorous anecdotes about the process of writing and getting published. Writers must be armed with a sense of humor and thick skin to survive rejection letters and persevere with the act of more writing and submitting their work.


Wakan’s new book introduces the reader into the world of a writer and the interviews in the second half frankly show the process that 13 folk went through before they started writing.  These open and wise interviews provide a supportive atmosphere so that the reader can say “Well, if they can do it, I can.”


Late Bloomer was well-received, as she struck a chord with an appropriate audience. I am not a member of her targeted audience, being in my thirties and at the beginning of my writing career, but I was equally appreciative of her efforts to spark an older generation with the magic of writing – a joyful challenge at any age.