Being an Author Isn’t Something I Planned.
It’s the Hardest Job I’ve Ever Had!
There was never a time in my life when I dreamed of becoming an author. If anyone asked, I’m sure my answer would have been, “Are you crazy?” I was never cut out to be an author. Life stepped in and eventually threw me into the world of words and deadlines.
Back in the sixties, girls were expected to become teachers or executive secretaries.I originally chose to attend AIB Business School in Des Moines for two years and found a job. That’s what a friend did, and she retired recently from a Vice-President position at one of the biggest banks in the country.
My parents were determined to put me through college, so off I went to the University of Northern Iowa. They decided I needed to go to a smaller school, so I used the scholarship I won at the Miss Washington County Pageant and signed up at UNI (it was the State College of Iowa back then).
I did well in the English classes, but I had the most fun in the business courses. Never once did I dream of becoming an author.
I eventually landed a job at a small firm in my hometown. They hired me to do filing, but within six months events brought me to the position of credit manager. When I married and moved to Des Moines, I worked at Bellas Hess Department Store as the executive assistant to the Store Manager.
Off to Minnesota
Life again took a turn, and we ended up in Minnesota. Some bad experiences with babysitting services convinced me to find a job which would allow me to be at home before and after school. Real Estate seemed like the perfect choice. My career path continued to take one sharp turn after another.
I worked hard to pass the state exam and eventually worked my way up to become Sales Manager for a Century 21 firm in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis. As a matter of fact, I did so well that I began to win quarterly awards for the entire state as the top listing realtor or top selling realtor. Things couldn’t have been better.
I still found time to read the thrillers and mysteries I loved as a child. My love of books didn’t provide any hint I might someday become an author. There were far too many things involved in being a wife, mother, and employee to think about writing books.
My broker also owned a construction company. Mr. Tillges was aging and wanted me to purchase the real estate end of the business so he could retire. We began making plans. I couldn’t believe my life had taken such a fortunate turn. Without warning, I was earning four times what the average female worker did back in the 1970’s. Life couldn’t get any better.
Reality Throws Another Curve Ball
My life took another miserable road when a truck came across the center line and hit our car head-on. The concussion, skull fracture, neck and back injuries were more than enough to sideline me. Within a week of the injury, I collapsed. I have no idea how long I was in a coma, but the diagnosis was meningitis of the brain lining. The doctors believed one of my little boys probably had a cold, and the virus entered the brain through the fracture.
There was no way I could control my left arm and left leg. Words came out scrambled, and I could barely function at home. Work was impossible. My dream of owning the company went up in smoke overnight. (People with brain injuries don’t ever dream of becoming an author!)
I spent the next five years going from one specialist to another. They eventually sent me to Sister Kinney to learn how to cope with my disability. Every doctor I saw tried to convince me to sign up for social security. The message was clear: “You have a disability we can’t fix.”
I’m sure you’ve read the story of the “I Can” here on the website. When God finally brought me to my knees, I begged for help. Somehow, I managed to pull myself up with an attitude that if Sister Kinney could teach me how to live like that, I could work doubly hard and learn to live better.
Disability Can Create Opportunity
Five years of my life disappeared. Those years consisted of constant migraines, pain that never ended, and an inability to do the smallest tasks to take care of my home and family.
I remember the day my husband came home with an electronic Simon Says Game. He thought I could use it to reprogram my brain. At the time of the accident, Doctors didn’t know how to deal adequately with brain trauma. Concussions were a part of the Gulf Wars years later, but technology had not advanced in the years following Vietnam. I was on my own.
Determined to change my fate, I played with that stinking game for hours each day. My anger and tears did nothing to help me remember the simple sequences of color and sound. Then one day, I remembered a short series of tones and colors. Later that day I was able to reproduce my results. Eventually, I could play the game and remember thirty sequences.
I continued to have some trouble with the left leg and arm when I got overtired. Stress would, and still does, make my words come out scrambled at times. My stubborn nature allowed me to become once again resilient in the face of overpowering odds.
Newspapers Created Many Opportunities
The Dakota County paper carried an ad for a credit manager. I remembered I’d been one back in the sixties, but I had no memory of what the job might entail. Their advertisement targeted a full-time employee. To this day, I have no idea why I thought it was possible for me to do the job, but I applied for it regardless of my faith in my abilities.
Not only did I apply, but I told them I could do the job in the thirty hours per week my doctor demanded. (The doctor didn’t believe I could do a full forty hours, and I couldn’t disagree.)
Much to my surprise, they hired me for a part-time position. On a wing and a prayer plus a lot of help from the Minnesota division of the National Association of Credit Management, I pulled it off. I went from a salary of over $50,000 per year as a realtor down to a paltry $8,000 per year as a part-time credit manager.
Intuitive Reactions Gave Me The Needed Edge
Because I couldn’t remember what you’re supposed to do as a credit manager, my techniques grew as intuitive responses to each situation. And you know what? It worked. I reduced the past-due receivables so dramatically that the President of the parent company flew in from Cincinnati to meet the ‘little lady’ who turned the company around.
Several years passed and I received an invitation to join the staff of the National Association of Credit Management (NACM) as a sales rep. I hadn’t made any sales since my days as a realtor, and I certainly couldn’t remember those days. My ‘can do’ attitude won out, and I accepted the job.
What I discovered was that there was no adequate place to go to find the information my firm was teaching credit managers to search out. What I’d done at my previous job was learn how to solve my problems through research. It seemed that others weren’t as intuitive. Most of them were checking the three best references and the best bank that came back on their credit applications, making it really easy for disreputable firms to cheat a firm out of payments.
As a final check, businesses could pull a Dun & Bradstreet report. I’d been the one who had to fill out the D&B report at my previous company. Perhaps the controller thought I’d do a better job because I was the credit manager, or he was just too busy to bother.
There was another major lesson I learned during the annual review and audit of that previous employer. I watched as they moved outdated and unused materials into railroad cars offsite when the auditors arrived. It was unbelievable how they maneuvered the financials to make the firm appear to be a much stronger financial risk than they really were.
Money Became My Incentive to Publish
My income increased at NACM, but not enough to make up for the years of lost income. On a lark one afternoon, I went to the Minneapolis Public Library to research the resources businesses could use to make credit decisions. There wasn’t much.
The internet allowed us to check public records and often find news articles on potential customers. It was time for someone to create a reference guide to help credit managers nationwide and I convinced myself I could do it.
At the time, I’d just attended a seminar on biorhythms. The concept states that you have an uptick each twelve-hour period where you are capable of a tremendous increase in productivity. I began to check my results and realized I was the most productive between the hours of eleven and two each day at work.
Dedication to A Goal
To become an author, I needed to cut out another high productivity period each day. To test it, I went to bed around 9:30 pm each night, at about the time the kids went down. My decision was to set the alarm for eleven and get up and start writing on my computer in the home office. My second work day ended at two in the morning, and I’d go back to bed.
I finished the book and all the edits within four months. Mother was elated. Her daughter was now a bonafide author. It didn’t take long to figure out how to fix my copyright and secure an ISBN number. The class I took at the local junior college to learn how to find a publisher? It couldn’t work.
Going with a traditional publisher would take too long. I needed to make some money or take the chance we might still lose the house because of all the bills that piled up when I wasn’t working.
The national offices of NACM added my book to their “Book Shelf” immediately, and started selling copies. I marketed the book by sending letters and publicity sheets to controllers and credit managers nationwide. The book’s popularity soared. I made over $50,000 in profits in the first year of publication.
Life Turns Around
We finally caught up on all our bills, and I thought my days as an author were over. It wasn’t until I retired that I started writing again. This time, it was for the lake association in our new retirement community. I found I was writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and newsletters nearly full-time. The topic was the blue-green algae which clogged our man-made lake every summer.
Eventually, I was interviewed by the Associated Press, and my name appeared in newspapers throughout the country. That’s not a bad platform for a ‘wanna be’ author. But, that’s not what I was. I never dreamed I’d be writing books again. It wasn’t part of my thought process.
Providing Inspiration – One Child at a Time
One morning I woke up and knew I needed to start writing. This time, it wouldn’t be about the green cockroach that slid across our lake each summer. No, this story would be about the little girl I imagined myself to be when I was a kid.
My book is a story about a little girl who has the courage to stand up to abuse and bullying, unlike me.
I knew I had to share this child who helped me survive each day during one of the worst periods of my life. Kids everywhere will read about this girl and be empowered to stand up to the social injustices that still plague our playgrounds and unfortunately some of our homes.
These books will inspire kids to be kinder to each other and provide help to those who need it.
The journey isn’t complete, and I imagine the road will still contain twists and turns. My goal isn’t to make money. The ultimate goal is to empower and inspire the next generation. It’s time we all stand up to the injustices that continue to stain the lives of too many children.
Have you ever dreamed of writing a book? Tell me what kind of book you’ve been dreaming of writing.