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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 magazine—Westways—an 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, profiles—articles 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 knew—or could learn.

As young newlyweds my husband and I loved to hike and fish. We teamed up—his photography and my writing—and 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 In—Your Guide to Moving & Getting Settled was published in 2003. My first novel—humor—Something'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 books—fiction and nonfiction—are 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/ www.willmagore.com

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