Sunday, August 26, 2018

Career U-turn? by Brenda Chapman

This week's question: If you weren’t a writer, would you still be in the book business? (bookseller, agent, editor, publisher) or would you do something completely different?

Intriguing question.

I'm not certain that I'd be in the book business if I wasn't a writer, but I do know that I'd be working in the literacy field in some capacity. My degrees are in English literature and education. The first fifteen or so years of my working life were spent as a special education teacher at a private school started by two psychologists, working with kids as young as six right up to adults who'd never mastered reading. While I taught every subject, my forte was reading. These were rewarding years and ones I wouldn't have missed, yet, as those years went along, part of me regretted not pursuing a career in writing.

After spending several years home with my daughters while tutoring in the late afternoons and evenings, it came time for me to go back to work full-time. It was at this point that I made a conscious decision to get into the writing field. Living in Canada's capital city, I didn't have many choices in publishing but there were opportunities in the federal government. My first six-month position was at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency as a writer/editor answering mail about pesticides and editing scientific documents. Yeah, not my dream subject, but I learned to speak in acronyms and got lots of training on the computer.

I went on to several more jobs in the government over the next couple of decades, mainly at the departments of Health and Justice, and mainly as a communications advisor with stints in speech writing. It was during these years that I began writing for publication, beginning with a series of four young adult mysteries inspired by my daughters and teaching. So all this to say, my entire life has revolved around reading and crafting words into various products.

If, however, I had it to do over again, and the future was wide open, I would change my university education slightly. Instead of an English degree, I'd take the creative writing program, but this again would lead me to a writing career. If this wasn't possible, I'd probably get into the book business as an editor although publicist looks like it might be fun. Working with authors, going to launches, going on book tours ... what's not to like? 

Owning a bookstore is also enticing but knowing what I know now about the difficulty staying solvent with the advent of the big bookstore chains, I'd reluctantly not go this route. The other deterrent would be the need for a business background, something that was never going to happen. Still, the dream of starting a cozy little neighbourhood bookshop à la Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail never really disappears

So, the short answer if I couldn't be an author - I'd be working with books and words in some capacity, whether in the book industry or another field because the written word has been my lifelong passion.

Twitter: brendaAchapman
Facebook: BrendaChapmanAuthor


Dietrich Kalteis said...

I agree, Brenda. It would be hard to be away from books altogether.

Cathy Ace said...

How have followed such a winding path, but it seems the destination was always set :-)

Susan C Shea said...

We who write always write, don't we, be it pest management or university annual reports (me)? I agree with Cathy's observation that however winding the path, you found your way to where you were destined to go. I also agree with your thoughts about owning a wee little bookstore. It's the kind of daydream that appeals even as our reason tells us it will never work! Welcome to Minds....

7 Criminal Minds said...

Thank you for your comments Dietrich, Cathy and Susan! And thanks for the welcome, Susan - I'm delighted to be a contributor to Criminal Minds :-)

Anonymous said...

As a reader, I am very grateful that you followed the path to becoming a writer of fiction (as Cathy Ace said). Your books have provided, and are still providing, such enjoyment to readers. You are one of the lucky ones, whose career seems to have given you fulfillment as well.
the ever-anonymous Nancy R in Ottawa

7 Criminal Minds said...

Thank you Anonymous Nancy R for all your support!