As a budding corporate marketing specialist, some 40 years ago, I lived a screaming, stress-filled life of early rising, getting the kids off to school, freeway madness and the thorough nonsense of a job that didn’t fulfill me.
I began the search for the quintessential writing tool. It was a board to fit across the bathtub to enable me to have a wee glass of wine and write. My daughter, seven years old at the time, found the perfect match. This board supported my glass, journal and pen. Both of my girls knew that this time in the bath was MINE. Aside from the return of the Apocalypse, I was not to be disturbed.
During that healing time, I realized something profound: it helped me heal all three: mind, body and spirit AND I did not punch into somebody else’s time clock. Lord, I hated that time clock!
Sometime that year I started a “Be Do Have” workshop. It was pretty much the beginning of what came to be known as the New Thought Movement. Heck! This kind of stuff was ancient. We robot humans had simply forgotten. It ignited my longing for change.
So I soaked my sorry backside while I balanced the board and wrote whatever I pleased. Wow! No more stunningly boring reports on chemical processes or biomedical white papers. I now have come to suspect anything that has to do with white papers. They signal pontification and falling asleep after the third paragraph.
So I wrote poetry, free-lance anything that came to my pen and it was delicious.
When I had enough of time clocks, I escaped to the orient and eventually to Kathmandu.
As the water was draining from my current bath, I realized that the precious board enabled me to write without getting water spots on my pages, so I am now putting out a call for someone with a board of precise dimension (29 inches x 7 inches, x 1 inch width). Looking back, I have no idea how my daughter found that exact dimension which fit perfectly across the enamel enclosure. I even wrote a resignation letter from that board. It was time to move on and explore other options.
What I then remembered was a wish I have always harbored: to be a syndicated columnist…you know, one that writes pithy stuff that is quick to read. Abby made a ton of bucks advising folks and she was the queen of pith. I’ve never really done the Dear G stuff but I’m kind of a fantasy historian story teller hybrid.
When I was twenty-four, I got bored with a research position at UCLA. It was prestigious but also hideously repetitious. I looked to the horizon and asked for co-ordinates to the best escape route I could find. Since a friend was signing up for “Project Hope”, a hospital ship that cruised (do ships themselves cruise?) to parts unknown, I applied as well. All I knew is I didn’t care about the somewhere. It was pretty much anywhere.
So I interviewed and when my walking papers arrived, they said Nicaragua, Central America. My boyfriend and I had to take out a map to find Nicaragua. So much for U.S. Citizens and their knowledge base of even the Americas.
At that time, the Sandinista revolution was on the back burner. The esteemed Anastasio Somoza was running the country. That year was what I call my before and after year. I came back changed forever. I would never be happy with North American status quo again.
And as for the after, I’ve continuously longed for far away places. I have become the High Priestess of frequent flyers. I’ve written in the dead of winter on an island in the outer Hebrides. I’ve sat behind mosquito netting in Kenya and read to a local tribal woman. I’ve also been accused of a certain addiction to travel when I hopped on a plane to go do a video documentary on a pig farm in Uganda. That is the gig that had my wings clipped for awhile.
But back to Nicaragua. My mom and dad bought me one of those fancy reel to reel recorders. I would sit out on deck at night and dictate letters. There was no email or Face Book then and it was either dictate or write a letter and still chance it getting lost.
When I returned stateside, my mom handed me the letters I had written home. Without telling me, she had contacted a journalist with the newspaper and yes, he had a syndicated column. He shared my stories word for word and never gave me a byline.
Mom told me that when I went on hiatus for a while, this same journalist called frequently for more stories. Readers had loved the pieces and wanted more adventures of the wild dame in the tropics.
As I write this today, that journalist is likely 6ft under, (turkey that he was and is). He stole my credit, my byline.
But hey, I still somehow qualified a “syndicated columnist.”
Reading the day to day of that year is now priceless. A girl friend honored me by mixing her famous margueritas and asking me to read those letters aloud. It was my birthday somewhere in my sixties, and well, she loved the stories. It was magical as I stood and read them, sipped the marg and shed a few tears.
So I’m calling for the board. I just found a shelf I could improvise. besides, who needs more doodads on a shelf when I just might write the Great American Novel with that shelf in the tub.
I’m also packing a mini laptop and sorting through my frequent flyer options and still valid visas. Before I escape, however, I’m going to gather all my stories in one place and honor them.
Time passes far too quickly and Emily Dickinson, eat your heart out. I’m not dying with my boots on with a trunk load of writing to be honored posthumously.
Get out of the way snooty agents and publishers. I’ll do it myself and yes, I’ll take the by line.