Scream “Plot twist!” and move on …

At few months ago, my good friend Liz Mugavero—author of the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries (and one of Connecticut’s loveliest people)—offered me the opportunity to contribute a guest post to the Wicked Cozy Authors blog.

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Humbled by the invitation but not wanting to appear too eager, I halfheartedly negotiated my fee—and then we happily settled on a mutually agreeable rate: free.

Liz and I met years ago at a Seascape Writers Retreat led by authors Roberta Isleib, Hallie Ephron, and Susan (S.W.) Hubbard. We really hit it off, and have kept in touch ever since. (Social networking is a beautiful thing when done right!) She went on to overachieve by writing a critically acclaimed cozy mystery series with wonderfully punny titles like Kneading to Die while I contracted with Examiner.com to pen a local book column.

With Liz Mugavero

For whatever reason, the trials and tribulations of a lowly online journalist appealed to her, and she kindly asked me to share my experiences.

So I did. (Even ran it by some friends for feedback before putting it aside, well ahead of a deadline for once in my life.) And then, already down and out with a nasty summer flu, I happened to scroll across the news that Examiner.com had gone defunct. Translation: my gig was up. Say whaaaaattttt?  

Realizing that this unexpected development rendered my guest post entirely irrelevant, I asked Liz if I could submit a short essay on a completely different topic: starting over. Perhaps pity led her to say yes—after all, we writers tend to be a needy bunch—but I was entirely okay with that. And so I set about capturing the intricacies of my “next chapter” in 600 words or less. That piece went live today, and the generous outpouring in response has been truly heartening.

But here, exclusively for your reading pleasure, is that “lost” blog entry:

I can’t believe you get to do this for a living.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these words, or some iteration of them, expressed with outright awe by other bibliophiles who think I’m living the elusive dream that they’ve envisioned for themselves. You know the one; it sounds good in theory but lacks any concrete plan for actualization.

The truth, however, is far less glamorous than you might imagine. (Isn’t that always the way?)

To be able to live this dream and pay (some of) the bills, I also work a full-time job. All the book stuff is done of my “off” hours. Which means there aren’t a lot of “off” hours. This is not a complaint; it’s simply a statement of fact.

The irony, of course, is that my gig as the Hartford Books Examiner is quite possibly the one job that pays less than a career in non-profit human services. Had you told me that was even possible, I wouldn’t have believed you. Seven and a half years later, I know better.

And yet I still do it because it’s enriched me in countless other ways.

Books have been friends of mine since my awkward, lonely childhood. To surround myself with them—and to have a legitimate reason for doing so—is to surround myself with infinite options for mind trips, where I can visit people and places that will forever live in my heart. In addition to the dozens (hundreds?) of titles I buy per year, countless others show up on my doorstep unsolicited, quite possibly delivered by storks. Nice problem to have, right? And let’s face it: Who else can claim reading as “work”?

Remember those lonely days that I spoke of? They’re gone, gone, gone. This community of readers, writers, and reviewers is unfailingly supportive. I’ve got more friends now than is polite to say publicly (but you can hit me up on Facebook if you want to see for yourself). And I get to see them more regularly than I do family (not boasting, honest!), either visually or virtually: book discussions, conferences, crafts fests, signings, writers groups, oh my! I’ve become the proverbial social butterfly that my teenage self couldn’t handle.

Another perk of the job is that it has broadened my reading habits infinitely. While I’ve always read prolifically, I seldom strayed from mystery/thriller fare. And while a good whodunit (or even a mediocre one) is still my book of choice, I have to consider that my audience might have more diverse interests. So I read a little bit of everything—business, current events, history, psychology, romance, self-help, women’s fiction, etc.—in the hopes that something will appeal to them. I’d be willing to bet this has helped me as much personally as it has professionally.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to mention what an honor and privilege it is to have a forum in which I can share my love of books with others. While it’s daunting to know that my opinions can influence whether or not somebody decides to check out a particular author or title—after all, reading is a very subjective experience—there’s no greater joy than knowing that I’ve played some small part in bringing book and reader together. It’s not exactly the work of God, but it’s still divine!

There’s an old saying—I’m sure you’ve heard it—that goes: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’d say the real truth is this: If you do what you love, you’ll love what you do—and you won’t mind if the payment fattens your heart rather than your wallet.

You can take that to the bank. Or the bookstore.

The moral of the story? When life delivers unexpected complications, scream “Plot twist!” and move on …

***

You can read my “official” contribution to the New England Wicked Cozy Authors blog here. Big thanks to these mavens of mystery: Liz Mugavero, Sherry Harris, Jessie Crockett, J.A. Hennrikus, Barbara Ross, and Edith Maxwell.

4 comments

  1. John, you’re one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met – it’s me who’s lucky to know you! Thanks for sharing your experiences with the Wickeds. I loved reading your “lost” blog post! You are doing great things….xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am catching up on the Wicked Cozy blog posts from my trip, which is why I am just now seeing this. Great post there, and great post here. I understand exactly where you are coming from as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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