Page last updated at 09:58 GMT, Monday, 8 February 2010

Campaign encourages 'silver scribblers' to write books

Frank McCourt reads from his book Teacher Man during the International Festival of Literature in Dubai on 27 February 2009
Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes was published when he was 66

A campaign to encourage older people to join book clubs and even write their own novels has been launched.

The Bookbite project is run by reading charity Booktrust and has the backing of leading writers such as Sir Andrew Motion and Marina Lewycka.

The government-funded campaign will offer advice and competitions through its website and magazine.

It comes after research on behalf of Bookbite pointed to a generation of "silver scribblers" on the internet.

Former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion said Bookbite was a "terrific idea".

"To encourage the over-60s to discover and develop their interest in creative reading and writing reminds us that the life of the imagination offers its rewards at all times of life," he said.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

Older successful authors are not without precedent - Marina Lewycka was 59 when her first novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, was nominated for the Orange Prize.

Mary Wesley, famous for the Camomile Lawn and Jumping the Queue, started writing novels in her 70s and Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes came out when he was 66.

Family trees

The Bookbite survey of 1,162 people over 60 suggested they were increasingly confident with the internet and they were using it to find information about an older medium - books.

Our experience suggests that older generations aren't just learning how to use the web - they're taking advantage of it like never before
Mark Johnson, HarperCollins

More than 55% said the internet was a crucial part of their lives, while 31% were keen to go online to publish short stories and join book clubs.

In addition, 29% of those surveyed said they wanted to research their family tree online - rising to 40% among those aged 76 and over.

But 66% said there were major barriers to surfing the web, such as cost, confidence and lack of access.

Publisher HarperCollins has found that a "very high number" of aspiring writers over 50 are contacting their authonomy website, a new community site for writers, readers and publishers.

Mark Johnson, digital producer for authonomy, said: "Perhaps this is because age and experience can offer a clear advantage to anyone hoping to write engagingly or perhaps older people now have more time, and are more confident, to share their passions online.

"But our experience suggests that older generations aren't just learning how to use the web - they're taking advantage of it like never before."

Bookbite launches on Monday, and more than 100,000 magazines will be distributed throughout England via the charity WRVS, other organisations such as Age Concern and local libraries.

It will also be available to download from the new website from next week - www.bookbite.org.uk



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