Sixteen years ago my dream job screeched to a halt. It was Tuesday, Nov. 13, and I was at my desk as a senior editor at one of the top newspaper syndicates when our human resources person came to my desk and asked me to go with him to my boss’s office. A half-hour later I was walking to my car, stunned and in tears. When my sons, then 16 and 14, came home from school, they were surprised to see me and even more shocked when I told them I was out of the job I’d loved for 17 1/2 years. They hugged me and said it would be okay. Nevertheless, I was depressed from losing both my editing job and my girlfriend, who had moved to the Pacific Northwest.
I was more fortunate than many single mothers without a job because I had 37 weeks of severance pay. After attending one session at the “find another job” place, I decided to get to know my sons better. For more than three years, we road-tripped all over during their school breaks – from Kansas City to D.C. to Yellowstone and the Canadian Rockies. We had teatimes, we hiked, we caught falling leaves, we kayaked.
In 2005 I realized I had to go back to work and did, as an adjunct English instructor at our Jesuit university and as a medical editor for clinical pharmacy books and materials. After a few years of that, I started applying elsewhere, but at age 55 I knew my chances of landing a full-time job as a copy editor in the field of journalism were remote.
A friend told me there was a copy editor position open in rural Missouri at a huge trade association. I was dubious that it was a real job, but applied, was invited for an interview, and was asked to join the media department as the copy editor for magazine, radio, and daily news. The reporters had come from newspapers, and we followed Associated Press style. It was the ideal position for the last 10 years of my full-time career.
In my off-work hours I didn’t speak much of my years at Andrews McMeel Publishing in the syndicate division, editing famous newspaper columnists and cartoonists. It was the bittersweet past, and I shelved it for about 14 years.
In early March 2015 Sandra Moran asked me in a Facebook message what I knew about book launches because her novel “All We Lack” was newly published. I had hosted some small readings, but she was thinking something bigger and asked if I had any ideas. I did, but I realized I would have to divulge my editing history or I would seem delusional. So we set up a breakfast meeting. She told me about her future plans as an author, and I told her about my editing experience.
I asked Sandra afterward why she approached me of all people about a book launch. Her answer: “Because you seem to know a lot.” I treasure that answer.
Out of that meeting came three things (because there are always three): 1) An event with Sandra and author George Hodgman on stage at Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City in May 2015 with both authors signing their books; 2) months of editing together informally, which was a blast because she was already a gifted author and was eager to improve; and 3) our friendship, which changed my life.
Sandra was a believer in connections, as am I. Because of her I have my dream job back. She encouraged me to return to reading LGBT literature. I had founded a Literary Lesbians book club in 2002, which ran for almost 10 years, but I wasn’t reading much literature at all for four years. Her presentation at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in November 2014 was energizing and inspirational.
Our friendship was brief, but we talked books and future plans and ideas and connections and also a radio show she was planning. The intention was for her to continue hosting once she moved to North Carolina, probably with me as a co-host in the Kansas City studio and her on the phone, but also with her taping some segments to send in. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she asked me to host her radio show, and she introduced me to other authors. There is no doubt in my mind that the almost 30 book club shows that have aired in the past two years are what she hoped for: intelligent discussions of well-written LGBT books by talented authors.
A little over a year ago, Bywater Books asked if I wanted to copy edit and proof for them. I had limited time, mostly evenings and weekends, but said I would love to. I retired this past August and am now reading exceptional books by incredibly talented authors. I have my dream job in retirement. Below is the Bywater gang at the Golden Crown Literary Society annual conference in Chicago this past July (I was challenged to dress as Emma Peel).
I’m in my sixties now, and life is good. My adult sons are funny, smart, and delightful. With Sandra as an example, I am more of a hugger, I take chances on social media with opinions and self-revealing anecdotes, and I am more open to new friendships. I feel more “me” than I ever have, and that is a gift.
*I was contemplating titles, and Summer Osborne’s powerful anthem popped into my head. This song closes every WomanSong radio show. You can hear it here: As I Am