Success Breeds Success through by Mary Cook

Certainly you may have my autograph – but no pictures, please! brought me fame and a mailbox bursting with fan mail. Okay, there were eight e-mails, but when you consider that until then I’d only had two fan letters in my 15-year writing life, that was riches indeed. Andy Warhol predicted we would all have our 15 minutes of fame, but mine lasted almost a week.

I’d drifted through life taking low-grade jobs and supplementing my income through my writing, using a manual typewriter. The first time I had anything to do with a computer it occupied an entire floor of a building and was housed behind double fire doors. I was employed as a clerk and never got to see it, though I worked on the massive printouts it spewed out daily.

The word “technophobe” must have been coined especially for me as I tiptoed past the doors that concealed this electronic monster. It wasn’t until I’d reached middle age that I decided to become a writer in earnest. After a few years of freelancing, I took a job as editorial assistant with a regional newspaper. For the first time I was expected to handle a computer of my own. That was really scary.

I was promoted to reporter and as I gained in confidence my computer skills improved. But I never learned to do more than I absolutely had to. Computers were intimidating for someone with one foot in the Steam Age and another on a roller skate.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks but it might be persuaded to try a new brand of dog food. I ditched the typewriter and my husband and I invested in a home computer with Internet access. I began to see the possibilities of writing for the Web and decided to return to freelancing. Subscribing to a number of writers’ newsletters, I found they opened up a world of new markets. interested me most as it featured writers’ success stories. I was intrigued by the way some contributors measured success. It was the optimist/pessimist, glass half-full/half-empty syndrome. I was only moderately successful, but I’d spent years as little more than an animated shovel so a modicum of success meant my cup was positively overflowing. I submitted an account of my own success, such as it was, and it was accepted straight away. That was my first Internet sale.

The first e-mail from a writer in the US landed in my mailbox even before I’d seen my article online. Over the next few days there were four more e-mails from America, one from Germany, one from Wales and one from my home county of Lincolnshire. “Inspirational” was the overall verdict.

One writer, a comparative beginner, asked for my advice and I was happy to give it. It was humbling to note that some of the mail came from writers who were more successful than myself. But I’ve made numerous sales off the back of that first venture into Internet writing.

My computer is still bristling with ‘what-ifs’ and I’m still a complete dummy at computer terminology. I thought URL was an abbreviation for the Ural Mountains. But writing for the Internet has brought me the feel-good factor of having helped fellow writers along the way. People around the world can review my work at a single click. In fact they can have my autograph if they like. But no photos, please – not until I’ve been to hair and make-up.

Mary Cook has been writing for most of her life, turning professional about 6 years ago. She lives with the three great loves of her life – her husband Nick and their cat Lotus and dog Brucie. Now aged 60 and a very new “Old Age Pensioner”, she combines freelancing from her home in rural England with gardening and home improvement projects, which she then writes about.