After college I started submitting personal essays to freelance newspaper columns that receive anywhere from 200 to 500 entries a week. In one, I wrote about a relationship falling apart as if it were a divorce. Another was a tribute to my family doctor on his retirement. A couple of my articles were published, which gave me hope that I might have some talent.
With my English degree, I found work as a technical writer. I continued writing on the side, though. I did one type of writing because I loved it, and the other to pay the bills. I submitted to freelance columns from time to time, and every so often I’d hit. I started attending writers’ conferences, read everything I could about the writing field, and studied other writers for technique.
Once I wrote advertorials for a weekly paper to get practice interviewing people. Finally I got up the nerve to send my clips to one of the business section editors for a national paper. They weren’t exactly right for the section — OK, they weren’t even close — but it probably didn’t hurt that I had an M.B.A. and had worked for some major telecommunications and networking companies. The editor actually gave me an assignment, to interview a hotel concierge.
That was more than two years ago. I’ve written over 50 articles for this paper, and at least two people besides my mother recognize my byline. Two magazines contacted me to write articles, and I’ve written for web sites and other papers as well.
Recently, a literary agent called to talk about expanding one of my newspaper features into a book. After my husband revived me with smelling salts, not only did I say yes, but I also mentioned the memoir I’ve been working on. She’ll look at that, too.
I know it’s a cliché, but with a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, anything’s possible.
Patricia Hensler’s 20-year writing career spans technical writing, marketing communications, and journalism. She’s written corporate policies and marketing materials, computer manuals, and full-length features and essays. Currently she’s a regular contributor to The New York Times.
Many of Pat’s features and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Newark Star Ledger, The Asbury Park Press, The Red Bank Register (now defunct), The Two River Times, and other publications. Additional credits include The Saturday Evening Post and Board Room Reports. She’s a frequent contributor to WEB magazines as well, including IntellectualCapital, learningcircuits, csmonitor, oxygen, and neighborhoodamerica.
Pat got married at forty–a subject of one of her published essays–and had a child at forty-one. Some years later she is still recuperating from both events. They’ll be detailed in her memoir, which she’s working on.