How A Fictional Character Convinced Me Not To Write “For Free” By William Pepe

How A Fictional Character Convinced Me Not To Write “For Free” By William Pepe
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My experiences as a sportswriter for my college newspaper encouraged me to aspire to become a journalist but my academic studies trained me to teach history. Upon graduation, I accepted a full time teaching position and I unsuccessfully experimented with freelance writing.

I wanted to write short, historical articles of local interest. I submitted a few such articles to my local newspaper to no avail.

I thought I had found a modicum of success when a startup, weekly newspaper hired me, on an hourly basis, to write local sports. I submitted my first week’s work and the newspaper included my writings in its first issue. When I submitted my second week’s work, I asked when I might get paid.

“We’ll have a check for you tomorrow,” the editor told me.

The next day, I returned to the newspaper’s office only to find the office completely vacated. There was no furniture and no personnel. The office was “broom clean.” The newspaper had published one issue, gone out of business, and disappeared. My disappointment reigned supreme.

It was about this time that Grace Metalious’ book, Peyton Place, came to my attention. I read and enjoyed the book but a passage in it made the book memorable to me. Allison MacKenzie, a main character in the novel, wanted to be a journalist. She, like me, was willing to write for her local newspaper “for free.”

Allison applied to her local newspaper editor for a position, and even offered to write “for free.”. The editor, Seth Buswell, politely informed her that if people were unwilling to pay for her writing then she shouldn’t write. His advice struck a chord with me and I stopped offering to write “for free.”

Oh, I continued to write for enjoyment, but only for the newsletters of clubs where I was a member, our family history, and biographical sketches of family ancestors. For almost 40 years, I did not submit a manuscript for publication. I supplemented and ultimately replaced my teaching income with fees from income tax preparation.

Upon retirement, I visited the local senior citizen center. There, a writing workshop quickly re-invigorated my interest in writing. Now, a dozen of my age mates and I write weekly for each other – we quite enjoy ourselves. And, now I do submit a manuscripts for publication – and only to publications offering compensation, such as WritersWeekly.

William Pepe is retired from a career divided between teaching on the high school and college levels and preparing income taxes. He has taken up freelance writing as a retirement avocation.