Getting My Sparkly Back


That’s how I’ve been feeling lately.

Maybe it’s my age. At fifty-six (fifty-six!), I’m feeling what everyone probably feels at this age—past my prime.

Everything is harder.

Sleep is a challenge most nights. I used to be an excellent sleeper, falling asleeep easily and remaining out until I woke without an alarm clock at 5:30. Now, I collapse into bed and fall asleep after just a few pages of a novel, only to awaken sometime between 1 and 4am. For the rest of the night, I toss and turn and pull covers off/on, while my mind scrolls through every worry or regret, task to remember tomorrow (today?), social media post from a random ‘friend’ I didn’t realize was a friend, or book idea (that I’ll inevitably forget by morning IF I ever fall back to sleep).

Eating is also an ever-increasing challenge. Almost every week there’s another food that doesn’t agree with me anymore. I’ve eaten peanut butter every morning for breakfast for the better part of thirty years, but a few months ago, I began having an allergic reaction to it. It took a lot of bendryl and a little bit of trial and error to zero in on the cause. Peanut butter wasn’t nearly as hard to give up as cheese.

I’ve fought hard against my body’s rejection of cheese. I love cheese – it’s been my main source of calcium and protein since giving up red meat and pork. I grew up on the ‘finish-your-glass-of-milk’ plan, so I’ve never been a big milk drinker, but cheese and I have had a lifelong love affair. I used to make hour long round trips to the cheese monger on Fridays when I lived in Pennsylvania. Coconut gouda became an addiction.

Now, though, it’s getting impossible to ignore. Without my consent, my body (maybe my soul?) has decided I should be vegan.

My trigger finger is locking more than ever. The result of breaking that finger multiple times falling off horses in my early twenties and never getting it set because I didn’t have health insurance. It’s a lie that youth is wasted on the young –I enjoyed my youth, but now I’m paying for it.

Once upon a time I was that young….

I’ve got an annoying floater in my right eye, and while my hair has weirdly yet to go gray, it’s as uncooperative as ever. In an effort to get some sparkly back in my life, I joined a new friend to get ‘fairy hair’. I was thrilled with the glittering copper gold ‘hairs’ woven into mine, but within three days 20 of the 25 strands I’d gotten had fallen out leaving a glittery trail through our house. So, now it’s clear I’m shedding too.

But it’s not just physical. Mentally, I’m feeling much less-than-dazzling.

You’ll note I haven’t posted to this blog in months. That’s because my writing life has been ho-hum. There’s nothing to tell.

My most recent manuscript, which was the most emotionally expensive book I’ve written, has yet to sell. I’m afraid to even ask my agent what the latest response has been from the publishers she’s pitched.

I’ve started two novels that have petered out midway, and I can’t seem to find my way back to the story line, or get the gumption to finish.

The publishing business the way it is, it’s hard to get excited about spending thousands of hours on a manuscript that is unlikely to sell. I’ve given serious thought to simply giving my next novel away. The money is not worth it. In fact, the only thing that makes writing another story worthwhile is the idea that others will read it and enjoy it and maybe even learn something from it.

There was one bright spot in my literary career this week. It’s probably what drove me back to this blog and inspired me to go back to one of my manuscripts.

I joined a local book club for dinner and a discussion of my book, Blind Turn. We talked about the book and about publishing and about book clubs and of course detoured to my nonprofit, Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

It was such a wonderful experience to talk to this group of smart, educated, fun, joyful, inspiring women. And all of them are likely older than me, yet they were anything but lackluster. In fact, Lucy, who is 90 years old, was possibly the sparkliest.

I’m carrying that evening around with me now, letting it guide me to my desk to open my laptop and get back at it.

Writing is not about money or success or fame, it’s about connecting to your reader’s heart and your own.

And while the publishing business may be more challenging now than ever, it does not get to decide if I will tell my stories or not.

The publishing business is not the boss of me.

And I will not let the challenge of publishing steal the joy of writing away.

Maybe the problem isn’t that I’m not eating or sleeping well, or that my body is rebelling, maybe I’m no longer feeling sparkly because I’m not writing. Writing has always been the way I right my soul. And yet, I haven’t been leaning into the creative magic that is available not just to me but to all of us.

Today I will write. And not just what I’m supposed to write, but what my soul is asking to write.

I hope you are finding ways to create and sparkle no matter what age you are.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.



My latest novel, Blind Turn is a mother-daughter story of forgiveness in the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident. Learn more about it and find out how to get your copy here.

If you’re curious about what else I’m up to, check out my website,, and subscribe to my (rarely) monthly e-newsletter, here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog. And if you want to know what is really happening in the animal shelters in this country, visit, Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at

My book, 100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues was released July 2020 from Pegasus books and is available anywhere books are sold, but if you’d like some help finding it (or want to read some lovely reviews), click here.

Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live in the darling town of Woodstock, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and three rescue dogs (who rescue me on a daily basis). Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at

9 thoughts on “Getting My Sparkly Back”

  1. This is true, “And while the publishing business may be more challenging now than ever, it does not get to decide if I will tell my stories or not.”

    Now I’m 70. At 56 I already had a hip prosthesis. I ejected the Evil X. I lost my favorite aunt. I did a road trip with my niece. I was getting my life back from hip degeneration and a very bad man living with me. I think our metabolisms change over time — I hate the smell of beef which never bothered me before. I’m not a big meat eater — like you I’m a cheeseatarian — but once in a while. No more. The economy went far south around then and so did my personal economic situation. Problems at work. I pulled out my novel — Martin of Gfenn — and saw it was grotesquely overwritten. I went to the Truman Capote school of editing because I dreamed of Truman Capote. It was a good decision. I published the book, it won awards, I got fan mail from Switzerland! I knew I was nearing the end of my career, but I didn’t know when or how. There’s more, but it’s boring…

    My point is that for me the mid-fifties were a kind of “adolescence” — a life changing transition and a redirection of energy toward something unknown. SO I think what you’re feeling is totally normal. My advice? Carpe the diem and fuck the publishing industry. They are not about good writing. They are about writing that people want to buy. Those things are not always the same. I do public readings around here every chance I get and it’s the greatest thing in the world just to see one of my neighbors FEEL what I have written. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, I know what you mean. I think about 30+ years ago raising two kids and running around, dinner on the table every night (really) while working a full time job at a global spice company. Now retired, I moved south to – get away from the snow! I’m single now, have been for almost 13 years, so the house and whatever it needs is on me. Somethings I can do, some I cannot so I have to hire someone. I ache when I get out of bed, need to move around a bit for it to get better. I let my hair go completely grey and I can’t handle the wine like I used to. Don’t like to “drive at night” – that really put me over! Anyway, don’t sweat it, Cara. It’s all part of life.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep. I found that a lot of stuff I did as a matter of course I never even liked. I couldn’t think about whether I liked it or not; I had to do it. When I finally had the chance to choose? Nope, not doing that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You have been an inspiration to many even if you feel lackluster. Yes It is partly the age, partly the way of today’s world. Be kind to yourself. Do what you can, enjoy what you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve always been an inspiration- even by being open about feeling lackluster!
    You’ve had a lot of transitions lately.
    I have faith that you will put one foot in front of the other into something amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

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