Archive for the ‘Guest Posts’ Category
“My story, like so many others, has numerous turning points. An artist by nature, growing up in the middle class America of the ’50′s and early ’60′s, it was drummed into me that “artists starve.” That meant there were only select careers available to me as a woman…teacher, nurse or nurse/stewardess, secretary.
I tried to break the glass ceiling by majoring in TV production in college in Los Angeles, but the unions were all male. No chance.
Out of my choices, I took secretary. Did pretty good at it, too. Took the “pleaser personality” to its highest and for 35 years was an outstanding executive assistant to many CEO’s, CFO’s, Presidents, VP’s, etc.
Imagine my surprise when, in my 50’s, after an interesting detour into urban farming and farm stand ownership for about 10 years, I went back to find a “real” job as an executive assistant and found I was “overqualified” in every case. Probably 500++ job applications and interviews. Interesting.
Trolling the landscape for something that might pay the mortgage, I discovered that “mature” women were respected and valued in the real estate business. So, I invested the time and effort in a real estate license right around the turn of the millennium.
Things went well – for a while. Could’ve been better if I hadn’t married that abusive husband who managed to spend all the money I earned and defeat every success I set up to create. Divesting him cost me everything I had. Financial ruin. Leaving behind all the contacts, the network and everything it takes to promote the real estate business.
Start all over. Well, at least I had achieved my Broker’s license. But, oops, that was just about the time that the real estate market in San Diego started to stall and no matter how many lead generators I subscribed to or how many cold calls I made every day, I just couldn’t get revved up again. And, by that time the previous years of real estate boom had inundated the market with agents – you couldn’t open your car door without smacking a real estate agent.
The competition was vicious.
Still sticking in there, I opened up my territory to the entire San Diego, L.A. and high desert areas in an attempt to maximize the possibilities. Then came the blackest. The big dump. The market changed radically. Short sales, REO’s, foreclosures became the order of the day. Big banks, “settlement” companies, and unscrupulous agents took over the market. (The stories I could tell!)
So, here I am, back at a turning point. Wonder where I’ll go next??? Hmmmmm.”
Do you have a story of your own to tell about career loss, turning points and making new starts?
OMG, should I lie?
I shot back, “I’m sixty. Is that a problem?”
My agent is younger than my children, and I wanted to fit in.
I considered emergency plastic surgery—a facelift? Liposuction? A chin implant?
After I calmed down, I realized I needed to be exactly where I was in life to write the book I wrote. I had panicked because, frankly, I’m shocked to be over sixty. I feel like I’m thirty-five, only smarter. For forty years I wrote and collected rejections—and I have the emotional hide of an armadillo to prove it—but I also lived.
I’ve had jobs, marriages, lovers, friends, children and grandchildren. I’ve traveled and lived in on two continents. I’ve survived divorce, single parenthood, life-threatening illness, and even teenagers. And through all those heaving life experiences, I wrote and wrote without ever publishing a word.
By fifty-five I had an epic collection of rejection letters, but I couldn’t stop writing. I needed to write. At fifty-six, I finished my third novel, and I remember the surge of elation when that book caught the attention of a reputable agent who said, “This is a gold mine.” It was finally happening!
Then it didn’t.
After six houses rejected it, my book was dead and I couldn’t get another agent. One black day, I accepted that my work would never be published. It was crushing, and I spent weeks wallowing in the tragedy of my crucified ego.
On my 60th birthday, I sulked on the sofa in rumpled pajamas and ate cold pizza. Then I got angry. By following the rules, I’d given away control of my destiny, and those I gave it to shrugged and gave it back.
Fine. I’d do it myself. I’d take the humble route of self-publishing, because I thought just holding my book in my hands would be enough. I risked money, went through endless edits, and risked more money. Finally, my literary baby made its debut to a shrieking silence and a riot of apathy.
Friends and family bought a few copies, and the book languished on Amazon. That’s when I understood that it wasn’t only about holding a book but knowing that other people, even strangers, were reading it. Damn!
One night, slumped in front of the TV, watching a glitzy book launch party on Sex and the City, I got an idea.
I gambled on a do-it-yourself website, spent thousands on an Internet marketing course, and threw a virtual book launch party. It would be designed to generate a surge of sales on Amazon and catapult me onto the bestseller list. But I needed to reach 500,000 people to make a few hundred sales. I don’t know 500,000 people; I needed partners.
I brazenly asked droves of website owners to participate in my promotion. I sent letters, homemade cookies, and signed books marked on the page where those cookies appear in the novel. The cookies are called bones of the dead and so, with an aching back, I spent long days at kitchen counter, shaping bone cookies —fifteen hundred of them.
I blogged and talked up my book on message boards. I got a few Internet partners, baked more cookies, begged, pleaded, flattered, cajoled, bargained and got more partners. In the end, I had enough support to reach 500,000 people. Yes! I would hit the Amazon bestseller list.
Two days before my virtual party, my son said, “Mom, why not invite agents to your party?” Well, that would be a ballsy move indeed, but I figured I had nothing to lose. The night before the launch, I wrote personal invitations with a link to the party site to 400 agents.
By noon the next day, agents were clamoring to read my book. An editor from a major house flat out offered me a hardcover deal via e-mail. Agents asked me to overnight books to New York. Within 24 hours, I had offers from several impressive agencies—including William Morris, with whom I made an agreement at whiplash speed.
I did hit the Amazon bestseller list. Not that it mattered anymore.
It seemed all of New York was talking about The Book of Unholy Mischief, and two weeks after my virtual party, my book went to auction. Bidding was due to start at 11:00 a.m. EST, but at 8:00 a.m. my phone rang. My agent said, “Are you sitting down?” I said yes, though I wasn’t. She said, “Two book deal, Simon and Schuster.” Then I sat down.
In the following heady days, the foreign sales started. It was a global feeding frenzy. As of this writing The Book of Unholy Mischief will be published in a dozen languages.
The Book of Unholy Mischief was released in December 2008 in the United States and Canada. I went on a national book tour, then to Venice for the Italian launch, and on to London to meet my UK publisher and editor. It was every writer’s dream.
In all the excitement, I remembered a famous quote from Winston Churchill—With the sky over London littered with falling bombs and the city in rubble, the sixty-eight year old Churchill growled, “Never, never, never, never give up.”
I didn’t give up. That’s really all I did. I spent my life pursuing what I love, and every word I wrote was necessary to find my voice. And I honestly believe success is better later than earlier. Can you think of anything more depressing than peaking at the age of 25? Then what? Also, I feel profound gratitude that I probably wasn’t capable of twenty or thirty years ago. No question about it, being older makes it sweeter.
But here’s the ironic part: Now that I’m published, I see that the deepest satisfaction is in the writing itself. The greatest joy is not having other people reading my book; the greatest joy was writing it. Real success is finding something you love, and then doing it.
The Book of Unholy Mischief is a national bestseller, and my new book, The Sandalwood Tree, will be released early 2011 to an audience already waiting for it. And then I get to write another. Thankfully, I’m old enough to appreciate the hell out of that.
Read more about Elle Newmark and The Book of Unholy Mischief at www.ellenewmark.com/
I didn’t actually fall into a pit or was drummed out of an envied job. I was a design engineer in the aerospace industry. I won’t attempt to define what that is. Let’s just say I designed gizmos for the government.
My fall from grace was self imposed, because the industry stopped designing things. What they wanted me to do was government paperwork. Designing is just a word they like to use. We buy stuff and stick it together. It’s inefficient, ineffective, and fails a lot, but it makes money – not for you, but for the CEO. I had to leave to keep my dignity.
What I found was there were no jobs for older men. This is a young man’s/woman’s game, but we run business with rules. No one uses his head, no one judges his decisions. We only act by regulation, process descriptors, or directives. That keeps accountability at a minimum. Old guys reason. We can’t have that.
Here’s my point. I wouldn’t go back to that goofy world of business shackled by Harvard, Yale, and Princeton MBAs for all the money in the world. They simply don’t have a clue how to run a company that has human beings in it.
Starting your own business, reinventing yourself, is going to be the best choice for the future. You can’t rely on any of these large corporations. You want to be far away when they fall so as not to be hit by the debris. If I were a younger man, I would have no trouble picking up and moving forward with a truck load of ideas of how not to run a company. And that may not be in this country. That has to be useful in creating a new beginning.
If the only goal in the business model is to fill the pockets of the executive, eventually all the talent leaves and the company fails.
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