Last Saturday morning, I hit the freeway and headed west for my very first book fair as an author. While nervously rethinking all my gear (DVD player for book trailer, books, small bills for change, pens, etc.) I suddenly realized I was living my dream, returning as a published author to the town where I’d spent most of my corporate career. No matter how much my day job beat me up, I had never stopped dreaming of becoming a writer, and now, I was one! I stopped fretting about my equipment and indulged in some memories:
- I was 26, newly divorced and living in a bad part of town in a tiny (780 sq. ft.) house with my eighteen-month-old son. Working full-time (with side jobs selling Jafra and bartending), and mostly exhausted. Writing was a very distant dream. Like never.
- I was 36, living in the high desert and commuting down the Cajon Pass every day for my HR job at Jurupa Unified School District. On my weekend morning walks, I carried a little tablet and a pencil in my pocket, and worked out solutions to scenes in my head. Those scenes went in a box, awaiting the day I could shape them into stories.
- I was 38, sitting in my car at the Cedar Springs Dam, overlooking Lake Silverwood. The car was rocking, buffeted by an incoming squall, while I wrote in a tablet. My second marriage was on its last legs, and I was dying a little bit inside as I watched storm clouds engulf the distant shore. I felt incompetent as a grown-up, let alone the fact that I would never be a writer.
- I was 48, and my son was independent. Now that I was finally able to work part-time and write, they told me I missed my shot. The publishing industry had changed. Agents and publishers now asked that you first develop a platform (i.e. thousands of ready customers). So while I learned how to put together a novel, I also built a website; I created and discarded three blogs before finding one that felt like home (this one); and learned about Facebook, Twitter, and many other social networking sites.
- I am now 58. Dakota Blues is published! My novel has become a reality, and like the Little Red Hen, I did it all myself. That is, if you discount the three editors, cover designer, book trailer developer, and publishing and marketing services. Not to mention several mentors, my beloved friends, and a supportive family.
So, on Saturday I arrived at the book fair, got set up, met everybody, ate a couple cookies provided by our thoughtful hosts, and waited for the doors to open. It was September 15, what would have been my dad’s 88th birthday, so I looked heavenward and asked him for luck.
When it was over, I’d invested six hours (if you count the drive) on this mission to tell people about Dakota Blues. If you measure the day in human terms, it was a ten. I enjoyed the company of my fellow authors, the library staffers and volunteers, and the people who dropped in to see what was for sale.
In pure commercial ROI, however, it wasn’t so great. I sold five copies, which was more than most of my fellow authors. I donated to the library, swapped copies with another author, and when you throw in a few more bucks for gas, I broke even.
When I got home, I sat with my husband and a glass of wine and evaluated. There are other activities that would bring in better results. Like sleeping late and not going anywhere. You know I’m babysitting all week and my weekends are precious. How I would have enjoyed the time off.
Why am I telling you this? It’s kind of embarrassing.
Because I want to show by my example that it’s rarely easy to chase after your dreams, no matter what your age. Many younger people slave away in the wee hours to build the foundation for their dream. It’s not easy for them either. In my case, I sometimes feel foolish to be so obsessed. Us older peeps are encouraged to relax, slow down, smell the flowers, and all that, but I can’t. This is my dream, and I’m going to see it through. I have two more full-length novels in my head and two collections of short stories. I’ll be attending the Southern California Writers’ Conference this weekend to find inspiration and information. I love the company of creative people, and I enjoy thinking of myself as a businessperson, with a storefront on Amazon.com and in the trunk of my car. This is my American Dream. I hope you have one, too.
Dakota Blues, a story of midlife reinvention, our immigrant roots, the sweetness of the American Heartland, the bonds of friendship, and the wisdom of our elders, is available at Amazon.com. If you’ve already read it and enjoyed the experience, please rate it on Amazon, Goodreads or your favorite book site.