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While Waiting To Sell The Great American Novel
by Willma Willis Gore
It is rumored that every person has "at least one great book"
in her or him. Most writers who come to my workshops want to write
books. Several are working on self-help books, a couple working
on novels, reading a chapter per meeting to the assembled workshop
members. But are books the only published works that can allow one
to claim distinction as "an author?"
That's what I thought when, at age 12, I was reading and loving
the fiction I found in mother's issues of Good Housekeeping.
I believed then that only publishing stories and novels would bring
me the coveted label, "Author."
However, at age 19, I got a surprise. I had submitted a short profile
to an auto club magazine my parents received as a part of their
AAA membership. At the time I couldn't have defined what a "profile"
was in the "writerly" sense.
The next piece sold a year later to the same magazineWestwaysan
account of a bicycle trip taken with my college girlfriend. I was
"smitten." The "carrot in front of this donkey"
was a sale. I began to write travel, humor, profilesarticles
pertaining to whatever I was doing at the time. Nobody told me:
"Write what you know." I just discovered that I could
sell what I knewor could learn.
As young newlyweds my husband and I loved to hike and fish. We
teamed uphis photography and my writingand sold travel
articles and photographs to Westways Magazine. When our
sons came along I added Parents and Boys' Life
to my markets.
During this time I was a volunteer publicist for a local philharmonic
society, learning "at the knee" of a woman who needed
a substitute during her two months in Europe. This work (the musicians
gave monthly concerts) improved my writing skills and later when
I decided to work out of the home, led to a job as Manager of Publications
at the local Chamber of Commerce.
At the library one day I met a children's book editor. She was
seeking writers for a planned series of nonfiction "About"
books. With my recent experience in publicity fresh in mind, I suggested
a title, About News and How It Travels. This was the first
of a total of seven children's books I wrote for Melmont Press,
later affiliated with Children's Press of Chicago. A few years later
two other women and I wrote a series of twelve career education
books for Children's Press.
When my children were grown, I was newly married to a British expatriate
who wanted to move to a mini-ranch. We chose the San Joaquin Valley
of California. More than 250 commercial crops are grown there. I
began to write profiles of farm women for magazines such as Farm
Woman News (now Country Woman), and articles about
raising everything from artichokes to zebras. California Farmer,
Farm & Ranch Living, Landhandler, and Western
Fruit Grower, among others, published my work. By that time
I was doing my own photography. Before I left that area I had sold
profiles of 100 people connected with the farming industry.
Following the death of my husband I moved to a little town in the
San Bernardino Mountains of California. In the daily San Bernardino
County Sun, under a 400-word profile, on the Family Living page
was a small item: Do you know an interesting family you might photograph
and write up for this page? I didn't yet know a soul in the community,
but my new hair dresser knew many interesting families. I profiled
her for the paper and about a half dozen of her regular customers
who had interesting, creative lives. Within two years I photographed,
profiled and was paid for stories about 65 area families for that
newspaper. By now my articles have been published in more than 80
national and regional journals.
Did I ever get around to writing adult books? Yes. My first adult
book, Just Pencil Me InYour Guide to Moving & Getting
Settled was published in 2003. My first novelhumorSomething's
Leaking Upstairs; was published in 2004. My most recent book,
Long Distance Grandparenting, was released by Quill Driver
Books/Word Dancer Press (Sanger, CA) in November 2007. The second
novel is in the hands of an agent. All my booksfiction and
nonfictionare based on personal experiences. Back to the
wisdom I stumbled upon at age 19: "write what you know."
© Copyright 2008, Willma Willis Gore
At age 87, Willma Gore is still writing daily (having sold her first article
at age 19) with her most recent book Long
Distance Grandparenting, released by an advance/royalty publisher in
Nov. 2007. She welcomes visits to her blog and website: http://willmagore.com/blog/
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