Bored, twenty-one, living in Sunnymead, California- when there was nothing there but the Riverside Raceway and Naugles… and I had a baby. I was a brilliant parent. After all, I’d been a mother for all of nine months, had a perfect baby, and had gotten married at nineteen instead of going to college. I was more than qualified to give parenting advice to other people.
So, I decided to write a parenting column.
I wrote several sample columns, and without even thinking that I should call and make an appointment, I dropped by the office of our local newspaper, The Butterfield Express and asked to see The Editor.
Yes, I did.
The Editor came out, quickly reviewed my samples and said “Sure we can use this.” Well of course she did! The newspaper paid $5 a column. Wow, they were actually willing to pay me!
A few years later I’d returned to school, divorced, and decided I wanted to be a lawyer. And, I’d started dating a lawyer. Obviously, the smart thing to do was to write some sample law columns, take clips of my parenting column from the Butterfield Express, and march straight into the offices of the brand-new Moreno Valley News…without making an appointment. Yes…I did.
The Editor did see me, he looked over my samples and said he’d get back to me. When my lawyer boyfriend heard what I’d done, he thought it was hysterical, and made sure that I knew that I’d never get that law column. He told me I wasn’t qualified, and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. He was right of course.
But one Monday morning bright and early the telephone rang. It was not The Editor of the Moreno Valley News. No, it was my lawyer boyfriend.
“What have you done?” I had to hold the phone away from my ear. He ranted for several minutes before I figured out what had happened.
Apparently, The Editor at the Moreno Valley News had decided to publish my column, only he didn’t tell me. He’d published a sample column on Planning a Will. The problem was that I’d cleverly added a note to the bottom of the article that said “for a free will planning guide, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the Law Offices of H & B”, my boyfriend’s law office. Mr. H had come in to work that morning to find a pile of envelopes all requesting his non-existent free will planning guide.
Don’t tell me that I can’t write a law column.
So, I wrote a Will Planning Guide, and the Moreno Valley News paid me $20 a piece for my little law column.
I’d gotten a raise!
A year later, while working full time at a car dealership as a cashier in their service department, I mailed a query for an article on ‘how to get people to listen to you’ to The Toastmaster. Keep in mind, writing was a hobby. I never considered it a career. I hated numbers, and back at the car dealership, my register never balanced. It was never off more than some change, sometimes over, sometimes short…whatever it was, the numbers didn’t add up. Of course, there came a day when my manager who liked me and knew I was a single mother, reluctantly called me into the office and told me he had to let me go.
The phone rang insistently as I arrived home that night with my little boy. It was the editor of the The Toastmaster. Could I could get my article to her by Friday? It just so happened the theme of her current issue was ‘listening’ and all of the article submissions she’d received were on improving your listening skills, but Toastmaster’s is, of course, a public speaking organization, and she loved my idea to write an article on how to get people to listen to you. The assignment paid $75 for an article that took me about four hours to write, and I didn’t have to pay for child care.
I never looked back. I wrote articles and columns, press releases for products, for magazines, newspapers, catalogs and more. But it wasn’t a job. I never considered myself a writer.
In fact, when I met my Hunky Hubby- no, not the lawyer, that didn’t last long- and he asked what I did, I told him I was a student (I had returned to school) and that sometimes I wrote freelance articles. He said “Oh, you’re a writer.”
I said, “No, I just write to earn a little money.”
We fell in love, got married, bought a house in the Antelope Valley and had two more little boys. I continued writing my little articles, though not as frequently and then one day the phone rang. The editor of the food section for the Antelope Valley Press Enterprise was looking for a Lori Jewett. Now Jewett is an unusual name, and when she asked, I assumed it was me she was looking for because when I write Tari in handwriting it sometimes resembles Lori.
“Did you submit a recipe for Cook of the Week?” She asked.
Now this was weird. I had NOT submitted a recipe for cook of the week, in fact, I wasn’t much of a cook, but I had one good recipe, Flemish Beef Stew, and I’d filled out the form for Cook of the Week, including that recipe and stuck it to the refrigerator with a Thomas the Tank Engine magnet. I turned around to look. It was still there.(FIND THE RECIPE FOR FLEMISH BEEF STEW HERE)
After a good laugh and a long conversation with food editor, Lisa Messinger, I ended up with my recipe and a half page article about our ‘wrong number’ phone call in the Antelope Valley Press…and a new cooking column. Later, I used those clips to get a cooking column in Quick ‘N Easy Country Cooking Magazine. Did I say I couldn’t cook?
Although I wasn’t ‘A Writer’, I wrote freelance for magazines and newspapers for over fifteen years.
My boys are all grown, and things have changed. I would never show up at an editor’s office without an invitation, I’ve raised three boys to adulthood and know that I’m not qualified to give parenting advice, and I have more than one decent recipe. But more importantly, now I’m writing because I want to be a writer. Yes, I write because it’s my passion, but I also take it seriously. It’s a career.
So, I guess I’m no longer an accidental author.
I’m an intentional author