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Book offers wisdom for those turning 50

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ATLANTA -- If you're one of the 50 million boomers who will turn 50 in the next decade and are dreading this milestone, you can relax. Not only will you have plenty of company, but there is a wealth of advice awaiting you from those who have already passed the half-century mark.

Fifty of these semi-centenarians offer their thoughts on dealing with the next few decades in a new book, "Fifty Things to Do When You Turn Fifty" (Ronnie Sellers Productions, $14.95).

The essayists cover topics such as putting the past behind you (by "A Prairie Home Companion" creator Garrison Keillor), escaping the beauty trap (by author Erica Jong), wearing comfortable clothes (by designer Diane Von Furstenberg) and managing your money (by financial guru Suze Orman).

Publisher Ronnie Sellers got the idea for the book when his significant other, Leslie, turned 50. He decided to hire a 10-piece salsa band for a big party and invite 150 of their friends.

"As the night progressed," Sellers said, "I noticed that every 50-something guest felt obligated to pull Leslie aside and offer advice. The doctors named the tests and procedures she should have done. The lawyers advised her about tax and estate planning. The artists recommended exhibits to see or specific masterpieces to view. The professors encouraged her to read specific books, while the financial professionals scribbled stock tips on napkins and told her how to restructure her portfolio."

In the midst of the revelry, Sellers realized that while there was a tremendous amount of information available, no one had gathered it into one book. As he mulled over the idea after the party, he remembered reading that 13,600 boomers would be turning 50 every day until the year 2015.

Sellers' editorial director liked the idea but pointed out that it would cost a fortune to pay 50 people to write essays on each subject.

"I realized she was right, so I decided to ask them to do it for free. We would pay what we would normally pay for one author and donate it to organizations fighting and preventing cancer. We hired four or five freelance editors from different fields and asked them to contact people. We got positive responses from almost everyone."

The result is a collection of essays that are helpful, humorous and encouraging. In addition to Keillor, Orman and Von Furstenberg, the contributors include Rabbi Harold Kushner, former poet laureate Billy Collins, America's Cup winner Gary Jobson, beauty expert Bobbi Brown and financial advisor Bill Gross.

The topics are diverse, but the reader is left with one very positive message by the end of the book, Sellers said. Accept and take care of yourself, put your affairs in order and the years that are ahead of you will be the best years of your life.

"If every one of the people turning 50 each day reads this book," he adds, "the market for black balloons will collapse."

Don O'Briant writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail:

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