Wisdom of the Ages: Journalist Marni Jackson on Turning 70

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Here, Kim Izzo chats with Marni Jackson about life, love and making her fiction debut at 70-years-young.

Marni Jackson, 70, is a journalist and non-fiction author (and frequent contributor to Zoomer).

In September, her first book of fiction, Don’t I Know You?, will be published by Flatiron Books in the U.S. and Canada. Why did she wait so long to try fiction? “I once interviewed a man who published his first book (of two!) at the age of 103,” she says. “So I feel very comfortable making my fiction debut at 70. The older you are, the more experience you have to draw on. And you’re less worried about ‘making it.’ You can just enjoy the work.”

What advice do you wish you’d given your 25-year-old self?
Relax, sweetheart. You’ll be fine.

What advice would you give your 80-year-old self?
It’s time to finally tackle the basement.

What do you know for sure?
I know for sure that I’m lucky to live in this country with health care, a sane leader, a peaceful citizenry, good friends and a loving family. Because these days, as Ray Charles sang, “The world is in a uproar/The danger zone is everywhere.”

What have you learned?
In my 40s, I took up playing the fiddle. I was pretty good at it when I didn’t know anything at all. Then I took lessons and realized how much I didn’t know. With every lesson, I sounded worse and worse. So I learned when to stop learning, and put the fiddle down.

What will you never learn?
I will never learn the last half of the Bach Partita No. 2 in D minor.

What was the best advice you’ve had?
“With a little revision, this could be publishable.”

Did it work?
Eventually. With a LOT of revision.

What inspires you?
Careful, honest, brave writing in any genre inspires me. So does peaceful protest against gun violence.

The moment that changed everything?
The birth of our son Casey.

Happiness is…
Getting a foot massage from my husband on our yellow couch while watching The National and hurling insults at Rex Murphy.

A version of this article appeared in the September 2016 issue with the headline, “Wisdom of the Ages,” p. 37.