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Some writers are born, and others are made. Then there are those who stumble into it like me.
I don’t remember writing much as a child. There was a report on squirrels in third grade, and an autobiography in fifth – an assignment that was more about binding and illustrating a book rather than writing. There was a play about taking an airplane flight, and a script for a children’s pants commercial.
Writing wasn’t my passion. Art was. I loved to throw pots, paint pictures, and draw. I eventually ended up in art school at California State University, Long Beach then Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. After four years of fine art with an emphasis in advertising, I realized I was never going to get a job. Not because jobs were hard to find, but because I wasn’t a good enough artist. In art school, you weren’t graded on your ideas, but how well you could illustrate them. (This was before computers, Photoshop and Illustrator.) My work always got a “B” while the students with beautiful hand lettering and drawing skills received an “A.”
There was no way I could stand up to the competition, so I switched majors. I ended up moving back to my parents’ home in San Diego. Perusing the San Diego State University catalog, I saw that I could still get an advertising degree – in journalism. So I applied and started attending classes.
I fell in love with journalism and the Associated Style book. I liked the feeling of writing down to the bone. I got a thrill when I wrote copy about grass seed and found marketing and public relations theory fascinating. I was finally home – and I never drew or painted again.
After graduation, I worked in the financial, insurance, and software industries writing direct mail pieces, brochure copy, newsletters, and press releases. I learned about UPSs, ERP, supply chain, data centers, and the metal industry. I wrote marketing plans, translated British idioms into American plain speak, and edited engineering white papers into sales pieces. I wrote web copy for my employer’s North American website, and trained their clients on how to use the customer website. I even prepared a daily intranet bulletin on industry happenings way before there was ever such a thing as a blog.
Then like so many corporations, my employer was bought by a firm who quickly laid off the marketing department. I started collecting unemployment and looked for a job. While there were many good opportunities available closer to home and with better pay, there was one problem – I was six months pregnant. I went on many job interviews but received no offers. Who would want to hire me in my condition? I finally got a job through a temp agency doing technical writing at a health care/pharmaceutical company.
An early delivery…or two
Two days before I was to start my technical writing job, I gave birth to my son Nathan. He was seven weeks early, weighed under four pounds, and had medical problems and developmental issues. So much for the job search, I was home with the baby and busy with Nathan’s therapy and doctor appointments.
Three years later his sister Lucie was born, also premature with some mild health and developmental delays. Around this time Nathan, who was doing much better, started preschool. I saw a chance to start working again, at least part time. Yet how was I going to jump start my stalled career?
Work 2.0 – starting to freelance
In 2004, I went back to my roots – journalism – and started writing stories for my local newspaper on community volunteers. I started freelancing by producing my mom’s club monthly newsletter and writing an e-newsletter for MOTHERS. I did the mom’s club newsletter for two years and continued to do the MOTHERS e-newsletter and MOTHERS Book Bag until October 2008.
I also started blogging as a way to start writing on a daily basis, first on my mommy blog, A Mama’s Rant and at group blogs like DotMoms. After realizing that I was blogging a lot about food during Thanksgiving 2004, I started my cooking blog, This Mama Cooks!, which is now a healthy lifestyle and healthy cooking and recipes blog. This Mama Cooks! On a Diet and a few years later, This Mama Cooks! Reviews. Talk about your middle-aged spread.
My other career – public charter school founder
From 2004 to 2006, I helped start and govern a public charter school, Carbon Valley Academy (CVA) in Frederick, Colorado. Like all good things in my life, like my husband and kids, this just fell into my lap. I wasn’t happy with my neighborhood school, so when I heard of a meeting to start a new one, I went. Excited about not having to drive my kids “into town” until Nathan got his driver’s license, I volunteered to help. First, I found myself editing the charter application. Then, after missing a meeting, I found myself elected to the board of directors. I went from assistant secretary, to secretary, to president.
As a founding board member, this volunteer position soon turned into a fulltime job. Not only was I conducting board meetings, but I was meeting with the public and the press. Initially I had to cut back on my freelancing because I was writing a great deal for the school – everything from meeting minutes to school policy and the volunteer handbook. I helped create marketing pieces for CVA including a mailer, a brochure, and several press releases. I was also creating content for and updating the school’s website 10 to 20 hours a week.
Finally, I had to choose between volunteering for my children’s school or continuing to build my freelance business. I resigned from CVA’s board in December 2006.
Getting back to The Write Spot
Starting in June 2006, I was professionally blogging – yes, getting paid to blog or earning money by running my own blogs. Again, this was something I stumbled into. I never consciously set out to be “paid to blog” but the money and jobs kept finding me.
First, it was a mass emailing to join other mom bloggers at ClubMom (now CafeMom). I applied and pitched my idea for a new blog – either a cooking blog or a children’s book blog. On the advice from my editor, I combined the two, which became A Readable Feast, a blog where I show how reading and cooking can bring families closer together while encouraging literacy. ClubMom ended their blogging program in December 2007, so I moved the content over to a new blog, My Readable Feast (since shut down).
Then an editor found me through my now defunct mom blog, A Mama’ Rant, and wanted me to write stories of my daily life with kids for an online magazine blog called Citizen Mom’s Family Journal for DuPont, which has now disappeared into the internet ether. I eventually won two awards for the blog, a 2006 webaward and 2006 Silver Davey Award.
Getting paid a competitive wage to blog was exciting. Blogging wasn’t just a cute hobby, I was now a professional. While I continued to work with copywriting clients in creating traditional marketing communication pieces like brochures, web content, mailings and press releases, I soon realized that blogging and social media was where my future was headed.