Series: On becoming a professional writer by Bonnie Toews (Part 3)
3. Look Beyond the Compulsion
Before I told my parents I had left Teacher’s College, I looked for a job, anything at the ground level in newspaper or magazine publication. At first it looked as if it was going to be easy. I answered an ad for a publisher’s assistant for a publisher of medical books and magazines—Seccombe Publishing House. I had no idea what to expect for the interview, but I walked in with the confidence of one who doesn’t know any better.
Even though I probably should have felt intimidated by this very educated and learned man, the publisher, Patrick Lyndon, challenged me in a way that I naturally gave him my best answers. I immediately respected him and wanted to work for him. My collection of newspaper articles in the Varsity newspaper impressed him. He gave me five long sentences to edit and asked me to create a short essay in response to a medical ethics issue. He tried to stymie me with spelling medical terms, but in addition to English and History, I was also fascinated with medicine. To satisfy that interest, through university I had served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve as a medical assistant and learned everything leading up to a medical technician including the St. John’s level of emergency first aid. I spelled every word he threw at me and gave the correct medical definition. At the end of our lengthy interview, he shook my hand and said, “Welcome to Seccombe’s. You have the job.”
I beamed I was so pleased with myself. As I was turning to walk out the door, he asked, “By the way, I forgot to ask you. What is your typing speed?” “Typing?” I turned back to him. “How fast do you require?” “A minimum of 60 words per minute.” Crash! The only typing I had done was for the university newspaper and it was hunt and peck. He surmised that from the expression on my face. “You’ll need to return in two weeks to do a typing test before you start.” I gulped. “Typing isn’t my strongest suit.” He studied me and nodded. “Let’s say if you can type 50 wpm, I will send you to night school to take a business course. University doesn’t give you the practical background you need in the business world.” “That sounds more than fair, sir. I’ll see you in two weeks.” I left his office filled with hope. I didn’t doubt that in two weeks I would be typing 50 wpm.
On the way to the apartment, I rented a typewriter and picked up Coles Notes on typing. Through the next two weeks I did exercise after exercise in typing, but I couldn’t do it properly and get up to the speed Mr. Lyndon set. Eventually I memorized a sentence and, looking at the keyboard, typed as fast as I could. On the day I returned to Seccombe’s, I walked into Mr. Lyndon’s office with much less confidence. Despite an herculean effort, I couldn’t type fast enough to meet his personnel manager’s satisfaction.
And so I spent a year trying to get into an entry level position in journalism. It didn’t happen. Eventually I got tired working for $45 per week, and I walked back into Teacher’s College a year to the date when I left. My parents were happy and I felt like a dog with her tail between her legs. I made a pact with myself, however. I would never make my students regret teaching was my second choice. I would do everything within my ability to make learning an exciting and inspiring experience for them.
Do you hear my reasoning? I still did not think to ask God what He wanted for me. I was too busy rebelling against what my parents wanted me to do, and then I ended up doing what they wanted anyway because I didn’t realize I had other choices.
Author’s Bio: Through a career that has ranged from teacher to editorial director of 30 business magazines, Canadian journalist Bonnie Toews has covered significant events such as the 20th Century’s international humanitarian relief effort following the Rwandan genocide. As a result of this experience, the plight of children in war is a recurring theme in her novels. She has published hundreds of articles and won five Canadian business press awards. Her website, HEART TUGS . . . at the crossroads of humanity at http://www.bonnietoews.com, explores the passion and research behind her novel writing. Currently, she is a member of the Military Writers Society of America, American Authors Association and American Christian Fiction Writers.
Bonnie Toews Email: email@example.com