Wouldn’t it be great if the corner convenience store sold roadmaps? Not the kind for planning vacations, but the kind that tells you how to go from a wannabe to a successful published writer in a few short years? I didn’t have that luxury – nobody does! But perhaps the roads I traveled will help guide you toward your goal.

At 40-something years old, my inner voice overshadowed my dream of becoming a published writer. “You’re too old, you’re not good enough, yadda yadda yadda.” Then in 1999, I attended a workshop sponsored by the local writer’s group and was naive enough to believe the women at the podium who said, “If I can do this, so can you.”

On the speaker’s advice, I bought a computer, went online, and read everything I could about becoming a writer. Entering contests (and winning cash prizes!) was a huge encouragement, and it didn’t take long for me to land my first assignment. With a publication credit under my belt, I began sending out query letters, answering advertisements, and networking with fellow writers. The result? I’ve received hundreds of assignments paying anywhere from 5-50 cents per word, sold photographs, judged national writing contests, and doubled my income every year.

Rather than end with a warm fuzzy statement such as “never give up,” I’ll share one of the most important tips I provide to participants in my workshops: develop an Internet presence. Teach yourself how to create a web site (like I did!), hire your nephew to do it for you, barter with a coworker, whatever. Prospective editors appreciate online access to your bio, resume and samples of your work. In fact, one recently found my site ( and promptly handed me a $750 assignment!

So get busy drawing your own unique roadmap, and enjoy the trip from wannabe to successful writer. Oh – by the way, never give up.

Rita Hess is an Oklahoma freelancer who prepares three weekly health articles for a Veterans Administration newsletter and writes extensively on career and workplace issues, human resources, and business management. She is scheduled to speak at a September 2002 workshop in Enid, OK (USA) and GUARANTEES participants that they will become published writers by following her plan. For more information or to inquire about having her speak in your area, email