Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Imagine ...

Ever since I left journalism to defect to PR, I have felt the occasional pang of regret. Now, I am not a regretful person, generally speaking. But those first months after I left the newspaper, I would sit at my desk on the 23rd floor of Grey Advertising's headquarters in Manhattan and shed a tear at 1 p.m., the deadline for the Daily Jefferson County Union in little Ft. Atkinson, Wisconsin. Because I missed it so much. That's how pathetic I was ... am.

At the time, I was a newly minted college grad, stuck in a small town in Wisconsin, working for $11,000 a year (with city council and school board meetings at night, I managed to earn $3,000 in overtime to bring my total to $14,000! $14,000!), and I wanted to see the world. Or at least Manhattan. So I ditched journalism and grabbed the miraculous PR internship that was on offer.

Honestly, though, I think journalism and I were the best career match. Journalism is instinctual to me; PR was learned. Have you ever felt that way about a job?

So I find it heartening that many years later -- 22 to be exact -- there is a potential journalism job in the offing. I can't jinx myself by writing more. Suffice it to say that if it happens, it would be hugely satisfying and the fulfillment of a long-time dream.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Power of Half

When you're writing a novel, it's interesting to see where ideas appear. The other day I was watching TV and a father/daughter duo was on the Today Show, promoting their new book, The Power of Half. They are an upper-class family from Atlanta who sold their gigantic mansion and downsized, giving half to charity and getting involved in a project in Africa. That was interesting, but what was more interesting to me was their affluent lifestyle and how they threw money at everything, and how harmful it was to their kids. That is exactly the situation of the family in my novel when the story opens. And, they also describe how telling their affluent friends caused them to be socially rejected. Perfect. This is exactly the type of situation I'm writing about. So now their nonfiction book has become inspiration for a talking-mixmaster novel. Funny how one seemingly unrelated idea feeds into another.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Crime Doesn't Pay, and Neither Does Writing

Things are going really well with Make It Better magazine (www.makeitbetter.net). I love the editors, they keep giving me interesting assignments, and I keep coming up with good ideas for stories. It would be a dream job to be able to write for them full-time, but as it stands, at $150 an article a month, how is that supposed to work? I keep hoping that somehow a full-time position will appear there, but since it's a start-up, and a magazine, in this economy, that's a pipe dream. And the novel is going well, but who knows? At best, and I mean absolute ideal best, which is to say I get an agent and it gets published (that only happens to about 5% of all novels written), it will be published in 2 years and for not much money.

All of this is to say that I am in the market for a full-time job and it will likely be doing marketing writing or PR or something that is actually valued (somewhat) and therefore paid (somewhat). It's depressing, but I keep telling myself this will be good for me and I need to suck it up and stop being such a baby. Who said you should be able to make a living doing something you love? Oh yeah, only every new agey life coach out there who happens to have a (very highly paid) monthly column in Oprah Magazine. Yes, I'm talking to you, Martha Beck. But being paid for your work IS good for you, and that's where I get frustrated with writing. Why is it that people working with numbers are valued more than people working with words? My worst fear is that it's a gender issue, and that is beyond depressing but SO typical.

But back to my novel. I am writing a scene in which the 45-year-old mom heroine goes to a funky local bowling alley to meet a psychic to help her locate the talking mixmaster, which she has sold at a school rummage sale and only later realized she has made a huge mistake. Now, this is fun.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

When Treasures Find You

Since I launched this misguided, silly, potential time wasting effort of writing my new novel (all negative thoughts that my internal self-critic has thrown around in my head on every possible occasion), several interesting items have found their way to my library.

My new roommates include:
1960s sewing machine. Sears Roebuck catalog, winter 1931-1932. Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. Coats and Clark's Sewing Book. A hat box circa the 1950s or 1940s from The French Room at Marshall Field's.

As a child, my mom made it very clear that inanimate objects have a life. I pass this along to my boys whenever I can, pretending that their Hot Wheels cars, sweet peas on the plate, pillows on their bed, anything, have a life and feelings of their own. So it's not surprising that I feel that the 1960s sewing machine now taking up residence in my library came here for a reason. In fact, it was offered to me out of the blue by an 80-year-old friend of my husband named Marge. And why is it that, while having my first writing session with my new writer friend, she revealed that she was a home ec minor?

You can call it sheer random chance, or serendipity, but I know better. Every one of these little coincidences, to me, points the way down a path. This is how novels are born. People, don't break the spell for me: The creative idea is very fragile at birth.