Author Dorothy Francis is back makes a return trip to Book Club Friday today. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, Short Mystery Fiction Society, Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators, and the Key West Writer’s Guild. Dorothy’s latest Key West Mystery is Daiquiri Dock Murder. Four books in that series are now available as Kindle ebooks. To learn more about Dorothy, visit her at her website. -- AP
My First Steps in the Publishing World
One September many years ago, school was starting WITHOUT ME. I was no longer a student. Or a teacher. I was about to become a stay-at-home mom. Only such women didn’t rate that title back in those days. Housewife was the word. My husband had recently been discharged from the army, and we were lucky that he had a teaching job. So far he had no paycheck. This fateful day I’m writing about, he was at school, and I went to the only place I could afford—the public library.
I picked up a magazine from a reading table. The Writer. I’d never seen this magazine before and I glanced at the articles telling would-be writers how to write. I’d never considered writing until I read an article concerning Richard Armor. I recognized that name because my parents for years had subscribed to The Saturday Evening Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The American Magazine. I’d grown up reading humorous quatrains by Richard Armor.
And that day in the public library, I learned that people WERE PAID for writing this kind of light verse. Hamm, I thought. I can do that. I won’t say I memorized that article, but I read it very carefully and I copied the market listings that the article mentioned.
That night after supper I started writing.
“What are you doing?” my husband asked.
“Writing a poem,” I replied.
He sighed. “As soon as I get a paycheck, we’ll buy a TV.”
“Really?” TVs were in their early stages of availability, and although I was impressed with his promise, I continued writing my quatrain.
We did own a typewriter, so I typed my quatrain double spaced. That was one of the rules I gleaned from The Writer. Writing on only one side of the page didn’t apply to my situation.
So I mailed the quatrain to The American Legion Magazine. In a short time (really, that’s true—a short time), I received an acceptance letter and a check for $10. I thought that was the way the writing world worked. You sent something in, and soon you received a check. No getting half of the $10 upon signing a contract. No waiting until publication to get the other half of the $10.
I hurried to the bank and cashed that check before the editor changed his mind.
My husband’s comment was “hmmmm. Better write them another one.”
And so I did. But although I never received another $10 for just 4 lines, I did receive $5 for 4 lines from The Wall Street Journal. When I told my dad, he said, “Hmmm.” Don’t think he believed me until I clipped one of my WSJ quatrains out and showed it to him. He said, “Hmmm.” Don’t think he’d ever bothered to read the Pepper and Salt column.
Lack of family interest didn’t dissuade me. I continued writing, giving up quatrains as I took tenuous steps into children’s short stories for Sunday school papers, and then took a major step into book publishing. But that’s another story.
Please let me add that the writing world has changed since I began back in the
1950s. So far, I’ve never received total payment for anything upon signing the contract. And now my Five Star Author’s Handbook tells me to promote my own books. The author of that handbook had never met my mother who said, “Dorothy, you never need to brag. It’s unbecoming. It’s an embarrassment. If you’ve done something wonderful, people will notice without your telling them.” I hope Mother never learns that I PAID for a website to call attention to the published books in my Key West Mystery Series.
But that, too, is another story.
Thanks for joining us today, Dorothy, and giving us a glimpse of how it used to be. -- AP