Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mother’s Occupation: Freelance Writer

In about twelve hours from now, I will be standing in my college professor husband’s feature writing classroom to discuss freelance writing. In another lifetime, I taught reporting with a decided features emphasis. Along with my writing partner/mother, I have co-authored 28 novels aimed at women with number 29 due at the first of the year.

Despite my ‘resume’ and doing tons of research and talking to my mother, who sold her first story to Highlights for Children in 1965, I have no clear idea of what wisdom I’m going to impart to these bright shiny faces.

My husband said he simply wants me to talk about how to find a niche and market articles, using the same principles I have always applied to writing and selling novels.

I still got zip.

When I was in elementary school, students had to fill out index cards at the start of each new year stating the occupation of each parent. I can vividly recall sitting in a second grade classroom in Three Rivers, Michigan and printing in block letters FREELANCE WRITER instead of ‘housewife’ following Mother’s Occupation:

My mother, Barbara Andrews, attended the University of Michigan in the 1950s. She realized journalism was not really her forte so she went home to Kalamazoo College. There she could ‘dabble’ in her interests such as writing and theater. She met my father in a play. They fell in love, got married and she decided not to attend law school in Indiana. Instead she taught junior high and eventually along came me, then Joan, Steve and Mark.

My father, a school personnel director, always wanted my mom to go back to teaching. However, daycare was non-existent in those days, she hated teaching and she’d have to drive to another district since nepotism policies prevented him from hiring her.

So she became a FREELANCE WRITER, turning out material for Sunday School magazines, crossword puzzles, true confessions, antiques publications.  Then one day my Aunt Marge, who owned a flea market near the shores of Lake Michigan, gave my mom a big bag of used Harlequin Romances. My mother studied those stories and went on to write numerous romances under her own name. When I was pregnant with my first son, he of the wandering nature, she suggested we team up. I’m plot, she’s character.

This month marks the 16th anniversary of the publication of our first co-written book. On the day we sold that partial manuscript, we got a rejection letter back on another proposal.

Kinda puts things in perspective.

In the morning, I’ll be able to pull stuff together and go in and tell my husband’s students that if they want to be FREELANCE WRITERS, more power to ‘em.

And then I’ll tell ‘em how.

Not that I have all the answers by any means… in fact I’ve been soliciting help from my writer friends…but it is the family business.


  1. I don't think WHAT you tell the students matters as much as the fact that you have actually DONE the very thing they want to learn more about! I'd love to someday be a successful freelancer. Whenever I start thinking that it's an unattainable goal, I think about living examples like YOU!

    P.S. -- Your mom sounds as awesome as you are. Thanks for sharing her story, too!

  2. Great post! Can't wait to hear how your talk went. I responded to your request for info, but didn't hear back from you, so I know you had it all covered. You're a pro, after all! Don't doubt your knowledge and abilities!

  3. Great post, Pam! Your mom is an inspiration!


  4. I enjoyed this, Pam. Thank you! To hear my daughter Arabella tell it I spend my workdays typing stories, playing Bejeweled (blush!) and whining because I miss her while she's at school.