Wild and Wooly Path to Success

In 1 on January 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm

In April I’ll be giving a talk to the California Writer’s Club. I’ve decided to title it “My Wild and Wooly, Stumble and Bumble My Way to Success Story. Or: How anyone can get published if you keep saying yes.”

My path to publication has never been a straight line. The only constant in my journey has been that I always loved to write, from the moment I learned how to read and string letters together and I sought every opportunity to do this, both private and public.

My parents who were not winning medals in that department for a long time, somehow managed to ply me with journals, typewriters and trips to bookstores that fed this spark in me to wild proportions. They always said, “Try.”

When I changed high schools my Sophomore year from one horrible high school (where my “caste level” was so low, and the popular kids treated us in it so badly it would have made a great John Hughes movie) to one where I found instant acceptance and life-long friends, it also came with an opportunity to be on the school paper, the Jolly Roger, Sir Francis Drake High School’s long-running school newspaper (since the 1950s, I believe).

Today, a good friend of mine, who was also on the paper with me, sent me this link: detailing a history of the Jolly Roger. I laughed and swooned proudly at this early sign of my intrepid (haha) journalism path:

“Not so surprisingly, the Jolly Roger did not cover any controversial issues in the beginning, but that would change over the next few decades. In the Febuary 28th, 1992 issue, the topic on the feature page was “Sex and Sexuality.” The most interesting articles were by Jordie Rosenfeld. To prepare for her stories, she went into the community to look at abortion and then wrote her stories based on her experiences.”

I went “undercover” at age 16 to Birthright (religious pro-life counseling agency) and Planned Parenthood, pretending to be pregnant. While I probably was a little biased toward the pro-choice side (I believe Birthright sent a letter suggesting this after my article was published), who knew then that someday I’d be doing this stuff in earnest? I was the only one in class brave enough to raise my hand when the assignments were being doled out (and bravery is not exactly my thing, either).

And that’s been my story all along. Everything I’ve done along the way has been an experiment, because it sounded good (my labor-of-love Literary radio show, Word by Word, or my literary salon, LiveWire), because I knew I’d meet other writers, and because I always figured it couldn’t hurt on my journey to being published.

That’s my advice for anyone in this New Year. Say yes more often to opportunities, even ones that may not pay at first, but offer some other reward. Take chances. See yourself in a new light (radio host, broadcast journalist, literary agent).

Sitting at your desk, waiting for success to come find you is the least likely method of achieving it. We don’t need Tony Robbins to jump up and down with his big white teeth to tell us this, right? Take it from a 16 year old girl who embarassed herself by pretending to be pregnant on her journey.


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