Sunday, January 17, 2010

Guest author Connie Keenan: Just Another Material Girl

Connie Keenan, who also writes under the pen name of Consuelo Vazquez, is the author of nine published novels and over eighty short stories.She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Bill, and their two teenaged sons, Joey and Brandon. Both boys were just little guys when Suburban Vampires was first created—and told to them as a series-style bedtime story. It’s Connie’s hope that those fun-loving vampires, Dylan and Jesse, will find their place in the hearts of other kids, too . . . and kids at heart!

Life didn’t choose me to become a full-time writer. Naturally, I’m in good company, since a lot of us can say that. Early on, though, that briefly became something of an obsession.

One writing friend actually laid out the blueprint for how I could accomplish my goal. If memory serves me right, I would have to complete (and sell—gulp!) about seven novels per year, plus several non-fiction articles and/or short stories. Handcuffing myself to the PC would probably do the trick, no? One of my kids could always slide my meal trays under the door. Of course, there’d be bumps in the road, meaning our family could rely on my husband’s paycheck. And, hey, maybe he could work two jobs! Oh—and selling our modest little abode would work, too.

That was a plan that certainly has worked for others. There was only one little problem.

Life got in the way. The same life that chooses some of us to have day jobs also amuses itself by throwing us curve balls.

Husbands, like wives, sometimes get laid off from jobs. Over the years we both got our shares of pink slips. Publishers start romance novel lines with the enthusiasm of a Fourth of July celebration and months later those same lines die with nary a pffffft. I know; I had not one but two lines do that. Kids need hockey equipment and braces and money for college. Pipes break, cars break, every blessed thing breaks, but usually just all at once. The vet wants plata, silver, like we Cubans say, and so does the dentist. Here I was, trying to make a living as a writer while staring at a blank page on the MS Word screen, and all I can hear is the O’Jays in my ear singing “For the Love of Money.”

That’s no way to create. Not for me, at least. Besides the fact that there was a loving family and friends beyond the door of my home office, none of whom I’d ever see if all I ever did was write. Life happened outside that door, too. The same life filled with fascinating people, situations, places and experiences, all of which I needed as fodder for stories.

So all these years later I’ve collected a paycheck from day jobs. Like most writers who work, I’ve toted laptops or old-fashioned notebooks and pens to the office with me. I’ve written before work and at lunchtime; in my car; in a Starbucks or tea house within walking distance from my job; at home at night until right around the time the birds come out; on the weekend in between trips to the gym or dinner at my son’s home or after baby-sitting my granddaughter; on vacation, on a beach, while sipping Diet Coke and gazing out at the rolling Atlantic. It hasn’t always been easy finding time to write but I’ve been able to create freely, seeing my work as something other than a means of keeping the wolf from our door.

Here is encouragement to all those writers struggling with day jobs: Stories always have a way of getting told. Cheers for all those full-time writers—and cheers for us, too! Whether you have one hour per day to work with or eight, all it really takes time-wise is consistency. You have to make time for your characters and their world. It may take longer, but you will get to kiss that baby goodbye and shipped or emailed off to your editor. Getting a paycheck from a day job isn’t such a bad deal at all. If anything, that’s a little extra money for the promotional end of writing! (And shhhh, it’ll also come in handy for those God-they’re-cute ankle boots you’ve been lusting after.)

So these days, this clinic clerk by day/writer by night has Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet haunting her in her home office. Only they’re singing, “It’s Five o’Clock Somewhere!”

Connie Keenan


Liane Spicer said...

¡Hola cubana! ¡Otra caribeña!

I think many of us begin the publishing journey with delusions. Wouldn't it be great to stay at home and write! To make our living this way! The reality checks come fast and furious. I find it passing strange that everyone who works in the publishing industry makes a living at it - except the people who create the product.

Still, it's wonderful to dream, and fiction writers are dreamers by definition, wouldn't you say?

Getting a paycheck from a day job isn’t such a bad deal at all. If anything, that’s a little extra money for the promotional end of writing!

Absolutely! I mentioned in a newspaper interview that I work to support my writing habit - and the darned people made that the headline for the piece. :-/

Stefanie Worth said...

My life also pegged me as a part-time writer -- at least for now. Writing brings enough pressures of its own.

Despite Michigan's awful economy, at least my day job frees me from insurance and steady pay worries. And because I still have young children at this point in my life, I value my safety net.

Rah-rah to those who choose to work and write! Thanks for stopping by.

Phyllis Bourne said...

Welcome Con!!!!

You're my super woman writing hero!!!!

You've wrote some pretty amazing stories in those snatches of time.

Connie said...

Oye, que muchachitas mas chevere!! Liane, yes--and we writers are even more creative when we dream! Stephanie, my children were young, too, earlier on in my journey. We moms, as you know, are also an energetic bunch . A mi amiga Phyllis, carino y abrazos!