I make my income exclusively from writing from our family’s rural home in Indiana. This meets my personal definition of success.
My husband hopes I will make more money as I meet further challenges. So far, that has been the trend. Today, my writing pays our mortgage, and when my daughter goes to college, I believe it will pay her tuition as well.
Heaven knows I’ve tried everything else. Either because or in spite of my mother’s success as a non-fiction author, I took a long time to believe I could be a writer.
My first seven career starts were in food service, bartending, catalog sales, secretarial science, temporary clerical work, personnel recruitment, and insurance underwriting. One day, living in Los Angeles, I answered a classified ad in an insurance trade magazine in Santa Monica. Writers wanted. Will pay for a way with words.
Since I had one published clip, from an essay I’d written totally on a lark, I sent the clip and got the assignment.
The Merritt Publishing Company was in the process of making insurance textbooks more “reader friendly” by turning their prose into snappy one- or two-liners suitable as educational filmstrip captions. Re-writing a couple of chapters a week paid my rent. I didn’t need big pay. I did need to mess around with words. I wasn’t anyone’s employee. Honestly, it was idyllic
It didn’t take long, though, to write myself out of a job. I created more scripts than the company had budget to produce. Since I had no bachelor’s degree, the editor was unable to hire me and there was no more freelance work. I let that rejection haunt me for a long time.
By the time I went to college, I had tried my hand at legal secretarial and paralegal work and part-time singing and songwriting. One paid the bills, the other fed the soul. Mom always said I could always write for a newspaper, no degree required. She was right but I was stubbornly scared to make the leap.
I managed to get my bachelor’s in communications from a small liberal arts college, and at the same time wrote a weekly column for another university’s newspaper. I was later offered an editorial position with the paper, for the magnificent sum of $75 per week. Other editors asked me to write for their local magazines and I did. I even got fan mail, which I filed with my clips.
When I was graduated, my husband’s work took us 100 miles away from Richmond, Virginia where I had editorial contacts. I had up-to-date clips from both the Virginia Commonwealth University Times and the local magazines. I was also pregnant for the first time.
When my only child went off to school all day, I looked to other more “secure” ways to make a living. I tried four, five, or six, but who’s counting?
At the end of a brief and terrible time in public relations, my slightly-yellowed clip files made their way to a local newspaper publisher.
I was hired to write features at a living wage. I live to write my weekly column and the rare opportunity to stretch out and write a good feature article. My duties have expanded to beat reporting, photography, and pagination, and now too little of my time is spent writing. So now, neither stubborn nor scared, I’m just doing what I need to do.
I’ve recently begun submitting work to larger markets. The rewards have always come on the basis of my last clip and my first submission.
I’m a writer.
Tracy Ebbert Revalee is a staff writer for an independent newspaper chain in the Midwest. Her log home in Indiana houses books, photographs, and musical instruments gathered during a lifetime of learning, traveling, singing and writing. She holds a degree in Communications from a small southern liberal arts college and is the proud parent of one extraordinary child, step-mother to three adult children, and a grandmother.