By Jen Karuza Schile
“I used to be a writer.”
That’s how I answered each time someone asked what I “used” to do. And there was always the follow-up: “Well, what did you write?”
“I was a correspondent for a national trade magazine,” I said in an off-handed and breezy way, like it wasn’t a big deal. “A bit of a travel writer. I took photos and traveled to distant ports. I also published a couple of personal essays in anthologies. Stuff like that,” I’d mumble, determined to get off the topic entirely.
Because the truth was, it had been a big deal. I felt wistful when I thought of my abandoned writing, like a glorious summer fling that ended too soon.
The thing was, though, my writing hadn’t been a summer fling. And I was growing tired of the implication that I was a has-been writer. I still loved to write. I still had things to write. In fact, now that I was a wife and a mother, I had more things to write than ever before!
One morning, I saw a notice in my local paper for a reading of Writer Mama that very night. “How to raise a writing career alongside your children,” read the description.
“Hmmm,” I thought. “Maybe I can’t steam out to sea or travel the Coast right now, or even spend hours interviewing subjects on the telephone. But perhaps there is still a way!”
I went to that reading seven months pregnant and stood in the back with my one-year-old on my hip, listening to Christina as I bounced both of my babies for an hour. I left after the reading was finished, feeling hopeful and determined.
A few months later, I developed a revised version of my former platform and launched my blog. When I saw that Christina was offering a class on how to write a non-fiction book proposal, I dusted off ten years of notes for my book and paid my tuition five months in advance to safely secure my spot. I followed that class up with Platform 102 to make sure I had a handle on how to succinctly leverage my past writing experience and clear the path for new opportunities.
I’m happily moving forward now with both my writing and my beloved babies. It has required a huge reshuffling of outside activities and an enormous amount of work. However, I recently pitched a monthly column to a former editor, who is seriously considering the idea. I wrote and sent off an article last weekend for publication (and for which I will be paid well). I have two more articles in the works that have already been accepted, and a few essays circulating for which I’m awaiting responses. My website will launch in 2009.
I’m amazed at what opportunities and people have walked through the door now that I’ve finally opened it back up. Most importantly, I no longer mumble about being a has-been writer. I’m a rebuilding writer. A writer again.
Jen Karuza Schile has been a correspondent for National Fisherman and was published in Pacific Fishing magazine. Her personal essays were published in the anthologies A Matter of Choice: 25 People Who Transformed Their Lives and Steady as She Goes: Women’s Adventures at Sea. Jen, who is the mother of the fifth generation of her commercial fishing family, documents the challenges and rewards of all things related on her blog, Highliners and Homecomings.