I was born writing. All my mother’s side of the family ran a weekly newspaper in Connecticut, the first ever of its kind, starting during the Depression and continuing through the 60s. My mother then went on to be a Food Editor in a local Baltimore newspaper, and after that, free-lanced for the rest of her life. Though not a budding journalist, in 7th grade, I first started keeping a journal of my deepest, darkest secrets. I wrote about my insecurities, and desire to date, my hideous braces, and my lack of confidence that kept me home on Friday nights. From there, with the help of high school teachers, I branched out to writing fiction. Stories for children, for teens, and first person memoirs. Pretty soon, I was literary magazine editor, and then year book editor. All I ever wanted to be was a writer, but I lacked the confidence to write for a living, and tucked my stories into drawers and trunks. I didn’t want to go to college, I wanted to hole up with my typewriter and write the great American novel. My parents, conniving together, told me to “try” college and if I hated it, I could quit after a year.
I am nothing if not adventurous, both inside my house and out. True to form, after dropping out of college, I traveled all over the world, unknowingly gathering ideas for future stories. And then came love, marriage and a baby in a baby carriage. The first Apple computer that hit the stores was mine, a gift from my husband to do what I did best. Write! After 6 weeks of all-nighters, my first book was born. Called “Imperfections,” I got 500 copies printed, but without a distributor, the book went nowhere. It was a complete flop to consumers, but to me, cherished. I kept writing, got published twice in one year, and then put my computer aside to tackle an addiction to computer games. And then I went to work, real work, for money.
A lot of new writers straight out of college who wrote for the school paper, or won accolades right and left, think that they’ll set the world on fire with their short stories. Not only that, they assume they’ll be the next JK Rowling, a millionaire by age 30. Let me tell you, don’t quit your day job. Writing is a reward for the true writer in you, but don’t count on making money right away. There are plenty of Jodi Picoults and Dick Francises out there – to me, going to a library is proof of the competition I face. A litany of questions plague my ears. Why do I think others want to read what I write? What’s the point? There’s so much involved after writing the 1st, 2nd , and 3rd drafts. Procuring an agent. Finding a publisher. Distribution. Book signings. I swear, it’s overwhelming.
So my paid jobs led me to all sorts of adventures. Real world adventures where I was tied to a paycheck to edit, to perform PR, to freelance, and finally, tired of the crazy work hours of an editor or something in the publishing world, I dumbed myself down and became the best damn executive assistant in a private school system, learning all sorts of good traits like 2010 word processing, importing and exporting, and excel. That work made me more organized and detail oriented. I make lists both on paper and on my iPhone. I multi task in everything I do, from work, to grocery shopping without a cart, to making phone calls at stoplights, to working 2 jobs to pay bills. Somehow, I manage to keep my shoulders straight and my sanity intact. During all 38 years of my marriage, I was the worker bee, keeping my husband, son and self to task. Every minute of my mother’s last days on earth, as heartbreaking as it was, I somehow found the time to turn that event too, into a story.
Now, with our economy tanked, non writers have come out of the woodwork to pretend they’re editors, proofreaders and copy writers. The competition is stiff. At age 62, most employers see me as a liability, not an asset. Prior work skills matter nothing when they can hire college grads for $10/hour.
For the past 4 years I’ve been working on a NYA novel and am all ready to start querying literary agents. But a year ago, I started a blog. Kind of like the journals I kept as a child, a blog is so much more. It’s great practice for writing, for getting your name out there as a pre-requisite for PR for your novel, and people who like what you write about offer constructive feedback. Then, you have a following. Not stalkers, but people who might quote you during a conversation, and tell their friends where to locate your blog. At first I offered sneak previews of my book, but now my blog is about adventures I have in my life, and memoirs of my childhood.
Growing old in a society that finds you too expensive to hire is a reality check. I can’t say that I sailed through it unscathed, but I did have unemployment benefits, which allowed me to take at least a month off from committing myself to another job I didn’t want. Unemployment enabled me to rest, rejuvenate and re-write a killer resume. I networked like a banshee, spruced up my LinkedIn page, as well as set up a URL website through About.Me. But the best thing I did was keep writing. I ventured into poetry, and business writing, publishing several articles in PULSE on LinkedIn. And guess what? I got published in an anthology last month! My photo made the cover!
Writers always have to take the good with the bad. Like life, nothing is perfect all the time. But writing, and new friendships, good exercise, will keep my mind clear. I never could have predicted that losing a job would be a good thing. Of course, a little more money would be icing on the cake…but what has happened so far is good for now.
What’s next, Doc? A movie starring Rupert Friend as my lover would be good. I mean, one can dream, can’t they?