“So, you’re a writer?” The voice faked interest in an attempt to make conversation. “How many books have you published?” As a young Navy wife, I had taken up writing, not just as a personal passion, but because it was an easy-to-carry-along type of job. Moving every couple of years, from one coast to the other, hadn’t helped my career development. And, in the early 1980s, there was no such thing as a virtual job.
Social gatherings were full of idle chitchat. Topics ranged from “What do you do?” and “Where do you work?” to “How many children do you have?” There were plenty of questions for new members of the ship, a young officer and his wife. I was not a social butterfly at the best of times, and I found it overwhelming. “I write, I work from home, and I have two children.”
When I mentioned I was a writer, the other wives were stumped. They really didn’t know what to say. A writer wrote books. A writer published books. At the time, I was writing articles and short stories. I hadn’t yet launched into my first big project – THE BOOK! So, was I a writer? I often left these social events wondering if I was just fooling myself. According to other spouses in the ship’s Wardroom, being a writer wasn’t a real job. It was just a pastime. I was met with comments like, “I like to garden” or “My hobby is my embroidery”.
I didn’t give up though. In spite of the put-downs along the way, not to mention the numerous rejections all writers receive, I persevered. Some years were better than others. I believed in my writing and I believed that writing was a real job. I began my career writing book reviews and interview pieces for local publications. In light of my passion for food and cooking, I then wrote food stories for local and national magazines (Recipes Only Magazine and Home Cooking regularly printed my work). I also penned historical interest pieces for various publications.
When print shifted to online media, I continued writing these types of stories, but my interests grew to include family stories, memoirs, and creative nonfiction, with a bit of fiction thrown in. The Curious Tourist Guide, a print and online publication, has been my regular publisher for the past few years. I started writing my first novel and my first book-length memoir in the 1990s — it took me ten years to complete these two big projects.
Somewhere along the way, I returned to book reviewing. It didn’t pay well — not like it did in the 1970s when newspapers made regular use of freelance book reviewers — but it did pay (with the potential added bonus of free books). Now, I am a regular reviewer for Prairie Journal, both the print and online editions, and Readers’ Favorite. I saw this niche as a means to further promote myself, to promote my own writing (it’s satisfying to see your name and book title on the cover of someone else’s book), and to learn more from the work of others (both good and not-so-good).
Writing is my passion. It is also my job, perhaps not always a well-paying job, and it’s definitely not a hobby. Don’t forget, it’s a 24/7 commitment. After all, some of our best plots unravel in the middle of the night — our minds never really disengage from a writing project in progress.
The satisfaction of writing goes far beyond seeing one’s name in print. The art of writing makes us who we are and also more than we are. It makes us eternal, everlasting and, just a little bit full of ourselves. As poet and author Diana Raab writes in Dear Anaïs, “I live to write/ so I shall never die.” Through our writing, the written word, writers are eternal.
Note: The opinions expressed by guest bloggers at the Submittable blog are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Submittable.
Emily-Jane Hills Orford is an award-winning author of several books, including Gerlinda (CFA 2016) which received an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, To Be a Duke (CFA 2014) which was named Finalist and Silver Medallist in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. She writes about the extra-ordinary in life and her books, short stories, and articles are receiving considerable attention. For more information on the author, check out her website.
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