Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Tiffany Retrospective

Today is my 42nd birthday. This is a comfortable place for me, because I've always thought of 40 as sort of the last landmark. I'm comfortably past the midpoint now, and no more concerns. I've been blessed with the ability and opportunity to do almost everything I ever aspired to--even the things that once seemed outrageous.

Of all of those amazing opportunities, there are four things that stand as corners of my life: motherhood, social services, teaching and writing. Today, I'm looking back, and since this is a writing blog, I'm thinking about writing here. I'm going to share a few words from my past and present. They're not necessarily the ones that paid the best or were highest profile or anything like that, but just a handful across the spectrum that I'm glad to have as part of my history.

None of them will include my adolescent poetry or college fiction writing. (I know how disappointed you are, but I'm firm on this.)

Who Stole My Phone Booth? I've always been partial to this piece because I wrote it about the phase of my life when I was doing the most high profile (and in some ways, most exciting) writing of my career--and discovered that it didn't change a thing. I think that anyone who has ever tried to wear multiple hats simultaneously can identify with this. It appears in a newsletter, so you have to scroll down to see it.

Math Made Manageable is one of my favorite pieces about my daughter--and about the quick and easy little things we can incorporate into life that make a big difference.

The Most Profitable Thing I Ever Wrote for Free : This was my first in-depth bio of Rick Springfield. I wrote twelve drafts, spent more than fifty hours on it, and obtained photo permissions from numerous people/organizations, including Buena Vista International and Rick himself. If you're a regular reader here, you know where that ended and how profitable it eventually became (which is part of the reason I come down so hard on the case-by-case basis side of the writing for free debate).

The File Folders in Your Mind Are Filled With Information You Can Sell! (As evidenced by the rest of this list) If I've had a thought, chances are that I've written an article about it.

Just a Bunch of Newspaper Articles - But these hold a special place in my heart because after many years of digression into things like practicing law, the editor at the Aurora Beacon News took me on as a stringer when I didn't have a clip that was less than ten years old and not a single one that was relevant. Without that foot in the door, I might still be working in another field. (Thanks, Char!) McGruff the Crime Dog was the first one, and it took me HOURS to write and rewrite.

Why Web Writing is Different: This three part series helped me land my first full-time, salaried writing job. It's several years old, but still useful as a basic primer for print writers making the shift to web writing.

PayDay Loan Stores - In the two years that I worked full time as content manager for a legal internet marketing firm, I wrote hundreds of articles and pages of consumer information about the law and legal issues: collections, bankruptcy, DUI, divorce, consumer protection, personal injury, insurance companies, tort reform, criminal defense, constitutional rights and more. The really great thing about it was that I had the opportunity to get paid to write and promote information that benefitted the public.

Although they're not available online, I wrote a number of articles for Austin Family Magazine, which I wanted to mention purely for personal reasons: my very, very, very, very dear friend Barb Cooper was editor of the magazine at the time, and more than once she wrote one of the lead stories and I the other; I just loved seeing my name and hers side by side in that box, especially given that we'd met in a writer's group back when both of our credentials were quite a bit lighter than they are today.

I'm beginning to think this list could go on forever, because there's some reason that every piece of my writing career holds a special place in my heart, whether because of the subject matter or the relationships or the stepping stone it provided or any of a dozen other associations. Here's the important point, though: very few of those publications were huge and dramatic; very few paid large sums of money. But together, they've added up to a career in words. It can happen to anyone, if you build it piece by piece.