Back in the 1990's, someone asked my friend Larry Deaton how long it takes to transition to retirement. Larry responded, "Let's see... how long does it take to drive home?"
In 2011 I turned in my keys and left behind thirty years of public education. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so for a few weeks I walked. And walked. For hours. Every day. Robin grew concerned. Our dog Chloe hid whenever I put on my walking shoes. That was my transition period. Longer than Larry's, but just right for me.
Then, opportunity: Proctor and Gamble was looking for a merchandiser, someone to set displays, align shelves, and check inventory. Part-time, which was perfect, as I was wanting to try some writing. For five months, I visited stores and did what merchandisers do. It was enjoyable work, until P&G announced it was outsourcing its merchandising.
At the same time, a help-wanted ad appeared in our local paper - Reporter Needed. I shot off an email and... was a day late. Still, the editor asked if I'd consider freelance feature writing. What a blast! I wrote articles about interesting locals like my friend Bill, a small-engine mechanic who jumps from airplanes and prepares award-winning barbeque that gets featured on the Food Network. Like merchandising, it was a great job until it wasn't. Within a few months, the Pointe was no more. Profitability can be elusive for small-town newspapers, and my second job came to an end.
You're probably starting to see a pattern here. Paul gets hired, company runs into trouble. I had to disprove that theory, and the best way was to go to work for the Kansas City Royals. They were already in trouble. Twenty-seven years without a playoff appearance, players leaving left and right. I couldn't hurt them, right?
Fortunately, the Royals’ fortunes turned for the better. You can read my account of the Royals years here. In addition to being around great people, I got the chance to do a little writing for Royals' Baseball Insider, the in-stadium magazine. Human-interest stuff, mostly. No player interviews or anything like that. Still, it was writing.
Along the way, I had this idea for a book. It started with Chan Manning. He'd been in my head for years, trying to find his way out. In 2012 I let him out. Unbeknownst to me, Chan had friends who came with him. Harvester Stanley, Miss Bertie, Theresa Traynor. The more I wrote about Chan, the more I wanted to know about him. Out came his father Earl and grandfather Levi. I basically wrote Harvest of Thorns in reverse, not something I recommend.
There were plenty of fits and starts. I stopped writing Harvest for a few months in 2012, moving on to the manuscript that became Shunned, my next release. A book should never take four years to finish, but Harvest did. There probably isn't another Harvest of Thorns in me. 130,000 words in one book is too much. I hope my future books, mostly in the 70-80,000 range, continue to tell stories people want to read.
The lessons have been many. I thought I knew how to write. Ha! There's still plenty to learn and I'm into my third book. Still, I wouldn't change a thing, even when my characters wake me up in the night, telling me what they're going to do next. Even when my thumb drive breaks in half and I have to pay $200 to retrieve my manuscript (Save to the cloud, folks!). Even when I attend a writer's conference and get shot down by publishers. And shot down again. And again.
So here we are. It's January, 2017. Time for resolutions. Mine include publishing two more books and completing the manuscript for a third. I also plan to visit Europe for the first time. If you've been to Greece and Italy and have recommendations, send them. Oh yes, I want/need to lose the same fifteen pounds I resolved to lose in 2016. And 2015. And 2014.
How about you? Resolutions? Schemes? Big ideas? Share 'em if you got 'em!
Happy New Year!