January 2014 through December 2014 - Page 14

by Kathryn Starke Y ou are at a cocktail party and about to introduce yourself for the first time to someone. You know they are going to ask you what you do for a living and your answer is totally prepared. Which of the following do you say? • • • • • • A writer A published author A sales rep In marketing A public speaker Or do you mention an entirely different field that has nothing to do with your love of writing? If you want to be an author, your job usually includes all six of these points, even the last one because chances are you studied a profession besides the craft of writing. Upon any initial meeting, you must carefully define and portray your work status so others understand exactly what you do. People will not infer. Like many of you, I knew exactly what career path I would take. I had worked with children since I was a child myself, so I went to college to study elementary education. At twenty-two, I was hired for my first job in a public elementary school in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia and ended up teaching first, second and third grades. While I was teaching full time, I even went back to school to better myself as an educator and earned a Master’s degree in Literacy and Culture. My passion for education was undeniable, so imagine my feeling when I no longer introduced myself as a teacher, which had been my identity for over a decade. During the twelve years I spent in multiple school districts in various positions, I recalled my love for writing, which never went away. I took a free creative writing class when I was just seven-years-old, took journalism in high school, and even wrote articles as a guest contributor for my school newspaper. In college, my English professors urged me to add a minor in English because of my writing skills, but I was only focused on my education classes. As an educator, I wrote songs and stories for my students to learn concepts in math and science. I also wrote articles for professional newsletters and trade magazines, but I still never considered myself a writer. 14 Southern Writers Writing makes you more credible in your industry. Writing for a blog, an op ed in a newspaper, or for an online publication puts you in front of a brand new audience. The members of this reading audience are now looking to you for ideas and guidance in a particular field, whether it is in education, health care, law, or parenting. Other people are recognizing you as a writer in our trade, so you should too. I encourage you to seek out the top trade publications that match your niche and find out how to submit an article for a future issue or post. While a lot of amazing writers exist, there are fewer published authors. Once you become one, you should tell people about it. I’ve met so many people who tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book and are so intrigued by talking to a real published author (which you are or may be very soon). I wrote and published my first children’s book, Amy’s Travels, when I was teaching second grade. I decided to write this multicultural picture book to tell a story my students would connect to about an objective as broad as diversity and global awareness. I wanted to teach this standard in an engaging and educational book that children would enjoy and understand. Even though I was presenting my book at literacy conferences and participating in book signings, I still referred to myself as a teacher who happened to write a book. Why did I do that? If you’re like me, you sometimes feel like you’re bragging or “tooting your own horn” when you mention such a great accomplishment as being published. I have learned though that other people don’t see it that way at all; they are delighted to say they know an author. And if you don’t say it, no one else will so add the word to your vocabulary and resume today. Would you consider yourself a natural born salesperson? Having both a successful father and sister in sales, I know I definitely am not. When you write or publish a book, however, you are officially a sales rep. You are representing a book title, and you have to sell it for people to buy it. Start with people who can’t say no (your parents, siblings, aunts, best friends, and neighbors) and never forget those first customers. They paved the way for your success. Ask local bookstores and gift shops