Mar 27 Written by 

Scary Me: I Get a Clue

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Yesterday spoke to a roomful of women over 50, my favorites, interested in starting to write. Advised them, as I would advise anyone:
  • 1. Take a writing course, in person, not online. You will have an instructor and deadlines and meet other writers, leading to--
  • 2. Have a network. Join writers' organizations. You are never too much of a beginner or a pro. Don't shun a support system. Especially if you begin to write in mid-life your family will freak out.
  • 3. If you want to publish and make money, learn the business end. It's very complex. Learn it anyway.
  • 4. Do not give up.
  • 5. Buy reference books on "How to Publish," "How to Write a Novel," "How to Format a Manuscript.," "Be Happily Self-Published." These will answer so many of your questions....
I wore my current Sunday best: a black long-sleeved dress (I gained a few pounds over the winter and nothing with a waistband comfortably fits.) Black nylons. Black low-heeled pumps. That's a lot of black, but I wear a lot of it because it all matches. Big pendant of smoky quartz (a stone that gives me great power) on gold chain. Pearly earrings my mom gave me. Of course my glasses. But this is the thing:

A participant told me afterward, "Your presentation was so informative. You were so funny and delightful! So glad I stayed for it!" (The people who come up to me after a talk are almost always representative of the whole audience.)

Thanks, I said, secretly surprised because I thought my presentation had been insufficiently linear and organized. And I worried because I had said I liked my writing more than I had liked my husbands. (This generated laughter.) I didn't want the audience to think they had to jettison their husbands to become writers. Knowing I had to be vulnerable so they could connect with me, I also had given them a list of secrets I don't tell anyone.

She added (This is my CLUE): "When you walked in and I first saw you, so overdressed, I thought, 'Oh no,' it's going to be a dull presentation,' but you surprised us! You were so funny and delightful!"

My CLOTHES? I have heard "overdressed" before. On occasions where I'm looked at, I want to look good, not as if I'm about to clean my bathroom. I honor my work and respect my audience by dressing for it. (Or is that an olde-fashioned or working-class notion?) Furthermore I like the contrast between how I am dressed and what I say, particularly when I do literary readings. My usual business-casual pants I might have worn yesterday temporarily do not fit. I need a red or pink or yellow dress for these occasions! If I buy one I can write it off as a business expense! Golly, I don't want people to dread me when I walk into a room.
Catherine Rankovic

Writer, with 30+ years' writing and publishing experience, 20+ years' teaching experience. Last book read: Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton.