At a recent writers' conference I met some very interesting fellow writers, most of them women over the age of 40. Whilst chatting about each other's work, we discovered that we're all writing something similar - that is, upbeat stories for women who are past the first flush of youth.
The younger market - 20 to 35 year old - has a wonderful selection of authors to choose from, all producing fun, exciting, hopeful stories that cheer the heart. For women beyond this market, available literature is sparse and, where it exists, often tackles issues like a husband leaving for a younger woman, problem teenagers, decrepit parents or depression over the empty nest.
Speaking as a woman of 50+ I find that these novels might reflect a part of women's lives but they mostly leave out the fun, energy and ambition we all still possess. Of my contemporaries, two have recently embarked upon happy new relationships; another has started a successful business; one has achieved promotion that takes her all over the world and another loves the fact that an empty nest gives her and her husband time to travel when holidays are cheaper.
A completely different picture to that painted by much contemporary literature. The fabulous Jane Green is one of the few writers that has made the transition from chicklit, aging beautifully with her readership and giving us satisfying, complex stories relevant to women over 40. If she can do it, why can't more authors be given the chance?
This is therefore a plea to publishers and agents. There is a HUGE demand out there for upbeat, interesting stories pitched at women who've outgrown chicklit and moved on from finding Mr Right. If you ever receive a manuscript about older women having fun and doing something fulfilling, please give it a chance. Move on from the misery memoirs and celebrity biographies and create a new genre specifically for that massive readership with time on their hands, money in their pockets and very few great books to choose from.
If you're a reader or fellow writer, please leave a comment - I'd love to find out if you feel the same.