British author P.D. James didn’t start writing until she was nearly 50, and she didn’t stop until she died last Thursday at age 94. She rose to fame for her series of 14 detective novels starring police commander and poet Adam Dalgliesh – who she named after one of her teachers at Cambridge High School. All told, she wrote 18 crime novels with a remarkable 15 being made into movies.
The winner of many, many writing awards, she was also selected by her peers to lead The Society of Authors – a post she started “temporarily” in 1997 and reluctantly left due to failing health in 2013. Forced to leave school at age 16 because her family did not have much money and she needed to work, and because her father did not believe girls needed an education, she finished her life as the holder of 7 honorary doctorate degrees from some of the world’s most prestigious institutions.
On learning to write, she once said: “(You) learn to write by doing it. Read widely and wisely. Increase your word power. Find your own individual voice through practicing constantly. Go through life with your eyes and ears open and learn to express that experience through words. Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer, however happy, however tragic, is ever wasted.”
This great writer will truly be missed, but her words and her wisdom will never die.
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