Going Back To School By Sandy Siegel

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In the ’90s, as my television career faded into the sunset, I started to think about switching writing gears. With no degree, experience or connections in other fields, I decided to go back to school, not to get a degree, but to use my college alumni association.

For several years, as an alumna, I had participated in the association’s career network. Students and recent graduates with an interest in TV writing could find me in a database and call me for information and advice. When I suddenly became the “aspiring” one, I figured I could use the network in reverse.

My first alumni contact was a reporter at a local newspaper. Over lunch, after she filled me in on the grim realities of the newspaper biz, I mentioned a humor piece I had been formulating about networking in Hollywood.

She promptly said, “We would probably publish something like that,” and gave me the appropriate editor’s contact information.

The next day I placed my first call to an editor. The next month I had my first byline, my first paycheck as a “journalist,” my first clip — a 700-word essay — and the push I needed to start submitting to other publications.

Several months later, I stumbled upon another way to use my alumni association. I had noticed an announcement by a friend — a mystery writer with an interesting background — in the Class Notes part of the association’s magazine. I thought she would make a good profile subject for a back-of-the-book section. I queried the editor — with only first-person essays as clips. She happened to have my friend in a file of potential subjects, so she decided to take a chance on me.

It’s worked out rather well. I just turned in my fourteenth alumni profile. And I sold a piece to the same editor for one of the university’s other Publications, just by “going back to school.”

Sandy Siegel has been a professional writer for more than 25 years, with credits in television, journalism and fiction. Her essays, humor pieces, features and profiles have appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Writer’s Digest, Emmy Magazine and Westways, and her short story, Dying to Exhale, is in the mystery anthology Murder by Thirteen. Some of her work can be viewed at her Web site: Why I Made a Web Site by Sandy Siegel, Writer, Humorist, Olympic Gymnast (http://sandysiegel.homestead.com).