Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hey you bum! Get a job!

I write full time. I have a minor part time job that literally only takes 4-8 hours of my life per week right now. I have three cats, but no children. I have a supportive husband. It was one of the hardest, but most gratifying, decisions I had ever made. So many people in this culture are judged based on what they do for a living. Successful writers are fine, but the struggling writers? Well, those bums should get a job!

This January, I took a three week trip to Italy with a small group from my school. It was an amazing journey that really changed me on a fundamental level, for many reasons. But while I was there, I paid nearly five American dollars to check my email for fifteen minutes every day. One of the emails I received was from Liquid Silver Books. They accepted my first novel, “New Frontier.”

I was a published author.

My first act as a published author was to go to the Keats-Shelley museum and read all of their letters that were displayed, before watching the sunset at the Spanish Steps. I was high on my own success. My first novel. And I was sitting on The Spanish Steps! Life couldn’t get sweeter than that moment.

When I returned home at the end of January, I began my last semester in college. Somewhere around the middle of February, I hit the ground. Hard. It occurred to me that I was graduating in five months and I had no goals, no plans, no prospects. Nothing. I had assumed that stuff would come to me while I was in school, and now time was almost out. To make matters worse, I had been rejected from all but one graduate school. I suppose I could have moved out to Palm Desert…but…well…I didn’t really want to live in Palm Desert. It’s hot, for one thing.

I started looking for jobs, and realized in the current economy, even with my degree, I was under qualified for many, many things.And over qualified for everything else.

My depression and fear deepened. I stopped writing. I stopped sleeping. May loomed like a monster in an old fairy tale. Meanwhile, I’m getting New Frontier ready for publication. Editing, approving the cover art, writing the blurb, etc etc. It was the small bright spot in an otherwise bleak spring.

Then my professor took me to lunch one day. I did a lot of work for him—proofreading his manuscripts, helping him with complicated formatting, or just listening to him talk about his favorite subjects (himself and Shakespeare in that order). I told him what I was experiencing He said. “Look, do you want to write?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Does it have to be an MFA program? Aren’t you capable of writing by yourself?” I said, “I am.” He said, “You know, this decision isn’t that big of a deal. You’re not the President. What you do isn’t going to affect the whole country…” I said, “I know, but it’ll affect my husband.” He said, “Ok, what does your husband say?”

So, I asked my husband, Jaime. Jaime said, “I don’t want you to go to the working world yet if you can help it. I know what it’s like. I know what it did to me. I don’t want you to experience that yet. You should write.” See, Jaime never doubted that if I had the opportunity to devote myself to writing full time, that I would succeed. As far as he’s concerned, it’s just a matter of time. It wasn’t a risk at all.

I decided that I would take a year off to devote myself to writing. I got a job with a private tutoring firm that promised enough hours per month to pay a few bills, but more or less, I would have all day every day to write. Which in and of itself is a daunting task.

I’m applying to graduate schools again this month. Hopefully, my life will get back on the track I planned for, but I don’t regret this year-long diversion. Since “New Frontier” came out in May, I have sold another full length novel, “The Zebra Wore Fishnets” and a novella, “Passenger Side” (coming out next month in the Naughty and Nice Anthology!). I also have four sales to other publishers, and I am waiting to hear on about six more submissions!

Still, I push myself every day to write at least five thousand words, if not more. I usually don’t feel like a real author. I worry that people are judging me because I don’t have a “real job,” because my husband works long days, because we have to make so many sacrifices and live on a tight budget. Because rejections are hard and demoralizing…

If I don’t get into the graduate schools I want this time around, will I continue writing full time or seek full time employment? I imagine it depends on how the rest of this year plays out. I have until August to launch my writing career. Right now, I love doing it, but I’m not making any sort of living off it. I’ll get back to you a year from now and let you know if things have changed.

But ultimately, I am happy. I love writing. I love my characters and their stories and their worlds. It’s an honor to act as a conduit, to channel their words, to bring them to life. I could have chosen a different path this year, and I would have a bigger bank account to show for my efforts! But I never would have had the gratification of an acceptance letter, I never would have met some of my favorite people (the characters of “The Zebra Wore Fishnets” seem especially real to me).

I know for a fact that people with full time jobs and children write and publish all the time. I don’t mean to imply that it’s impossible or unlikely. In fact, I tip my hat to them, because they can do something I know I can’t. And oft times, do it better.

So that was my first blog post. I hope you enjoyed it :)


Blogger Vanessa Hart said...

Hey, Pepper, enjoyed the post. Writing is a job. Of course, it's a wonderful job for us who love writing!


2:45 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

Hey, Pepper!

I enjoyed hearing your story and finding out a bit more about you.

Once upon a time, a friend of mine said something like what your prof said to you. The circumstances were slightly different. I was thinking of leaving a job as an assistant librarian and going trucking with dh. It meant getting rid of our apartment and everything we owned--we literally would be nomads. I was scared to take the leap, but a lady I worked with said, "What's the worst that can happen? You might fail. If that happens, you come home, get another job and apartment and start over--it's not the end of the world." That advice was what I needed to hear and we took the plunge. It was great.

Wishing you lots of luck with your writing!!

2:47 PM  
Blogger Tiffany Aaron said...

Good blog, Pepper. :) You're right about people looking at you as a writer and thinking you're not doing 'real' work. But hey, you're entertaining people all over the world.


3:08 PM  
Blogger Jenna Howard said...

I enjoyed the blog, Pepper.

I think we have the best darned job in the world and then people want to pay us for it? Well...okay!

Yay on the support and success. Hurrah!

Jenna;) who once took a year for writing and, well, she spent a lot of time shopping and cursing the cursor

3:49 PM  
Blogger Pepper Espinoza said...


Did you go trucking with your husband? Cuz that sounds awesome.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Hi Pepper,

Sounds like you've had an interesting year so far. Congrats on the successes and I know there are many more in your future.

As for the 'get a real job' crowd. They also tend to slap that label on stay at home mom's, which I was for a lot of years. Let me tell you a little story.

One day my husband was laid off, because the company he worked for was closing. At the time we had a six month old daughter and a two year old daughter and I had been out of the work force for over two years.

That night we talked about options and it was agreed whichever one of us found a job first would go to work and the other would stay home with the children.

Well, much to my husbands dismay, I made a phone call and had a job, starting the next morning. (I called an old boss who'd called me once a month and asked if I was ready to come back to work, so I knew I could get a job...fast.)

Needless to say, I went to work and dear hubby became Mr. Mom. A job I might add, he kept for three whole months. When my husband decided to go back to work, he had me update his resume. In the space where you put why you left your most recent employment, his stated:

Looking for easier work!

After that my husband never doubted that I worked very hard and told anyone who made the 'get a real job' statement, that my job was harder than any real job out there. The same applies to writing.

My fortune has been that in both cases, I've been able to do something I'm passionate about.

Michelle Hoppe

5:41 PM  
Blogger Dakota Cassidy said...

I'm here to tell you you CAN make a living doing this. I;ve seen it happen firsthand. Luck, hard work and determination are the key.

Being prolific helps too. LOL

Good blog, doll!

Dakota :)

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Rae Morgan said...

Hey Pepper --

I never doubted you could do this from the first word I read. Just take one day at a time. I truly believe that if you keep your eyes wide open and are receptive to the world around you, you'll recognize the opportunity you need when it appears.


Rae Morgan

6:00 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

Pepper, we did drive together--for eight years. it was a fabulous experience.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Robin49 said...

Pepper congratulations for being an author! I'm glad to hear you have the wonderful support and encouragement from your husband. I wish you big book sales and many more published books!


10:42 PM  
Blogger Cyndi Redding said...

It took a while before my dh became supportive. Thumbs up to Jaime! I knew you were a fabulous writer when I read "Frontier" and hope you will stick with it. Your success is inevitable...I can feel it.

My Yankee work-ethical in-laws give me the blank stare when I talk about my writing. When I toy with the idea of getting a part-time job they get all excited.

Now I volunteer for the Red Cross to asuage my guilt. The in-laws really can't wrap their minds around that. "Giving away time and time is money equals "What are you crazy?"

Probably, but Jaime is right. The working world can take your soul. Best you put it into a novel where it can be enjoyed by many and kept for posterity.

7:38 AM  
Blogger ellen said...

Congrats on having so many supportive people around you, especially your husband. And writing is a real job, just ask any of us who wish we could write..........or any of us who love to read! Keep up the super work!

8:08 AM  
Blogger Pepper Espinoza said...


Thank you! :) My family isn't the Yankee-work-ethical sort, but they are very, very disdainful of anybody who "leaches" off her own spouse. They haven't said anything ot my face, but they're a gossipy bunch...And I'm paranoid.

Man, eight years? God, that sounds so nice. Maybe when I'm done with this writing thing, I'll get my trucking license and whisk my husband away...

Rae, Dakota,
Thanks for the encouragement...it's especially nice to get support from people in the business. You know what you're talking about :)

2:11 PM  

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