Desperation, Determination and Dumb Luck By Beth Rubin

Little did I know when my marriage broke up–actually, down–that writing would become a lifeline, drawing me out of depression, or that my freelance career was about to take off. My success since then has been due to desperation, determination, and dumb luck.

In the mid-’90s when the marital ca-ca hit the fan, I had logged 15 years as a “part-timer”: churning out features for Washington, D.C. area newspapers and magazines, working on a community newspaper, running a small business, Rhymes For All Reasons, and writing a 300-page guidebook to Washington, D.C.

I used to sandwich work between cooking, kissing boo-boos, and walking the dog. On a good day I got to wash my hair and shave my legs.

Born and bred to be an in-the-kitchen wife, I had cut my eyeteeth on “The Donna Reed Show” and “Father Knows Best.” A full-time career had not entered into the equation. I didn’t even consider myself a real writer because of my part-time status.

Suddenly, as a middle-age divorcee, I found myself facing the future alone-and with a hungry piggy bank. Reality didn’t knock; it beat down the door.

During the dark days, when getting dressed was a major effort, I began to journal. Re-reading the entries weekly, then monthly, I gauged my progress.

When the veil lifted, I joined the Maryland Writers’ Association, attended writers’ conferences, and networked like crazy. I also took part in career counseling and workshops for “Displaced Homemakers” at the YWCA. I was overjoyed when, after taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I saw “writer” on the list of occupations suited to my type. Determined to remain my own boss, I told everyone within earshot that I was looking for assignments.

Before you could say Divorced Over-the-Hill Female ISO Work, things started happening, first in dribs and drabs. Then I authored two more guidebooks. The money was hardly pouring in, but I’d achieved independence and won my self-respect.

One night, out of the blue (probably no good movies on), I decided to fictionalize portions of my journal. For years I had dreamed of writing fiction but had nary a clue as to how to begin. So I pored over how-to books, unearthed my notes from a writing class and took off. To keep myself honest, I told friends that I was working on a novel.

That was seven years ago.

The journey has been long and frustrating. I won’t tell you otherwise. But I did it! In April 2001, my novel, Split Ends, won a 1st prize for fiction. The book was released as a trade paperback in September 2002. Sales are strong, reader response is off the charts and I’m out there stumping–book signings, speaking engagements, radio interviews.

I’m taking care of business–and myself–and working on a second novel. And, yes, I still dream. But now my fantasies include a multi-book deal, appearance on Oprah, and Split Ends, the movie.

Beth Rubin is the author of Split Ends (at, and by special order from booksellers nationwide), Frommer’s Washington, D.C. With Kids, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Washington, D.C. and Washington, D.C. For Dummies. A seasoned journalist for 23 years, her features appear in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet. Beth also edits manuscripts and writes ad copy. Between assignments, she’s working on a new novel. Visit Beth’s web site at Send freelancing questions to: