Series: On becoming a professional writer by Bonnie Toews (Part 4)
4. The intoxicating lure of printer’s ink
I taught elementary school eight years, and in every class, I taught English by creating a classroom newsroom. To proofread well, students had to learn basic Grammar and Punctuation, but in the context of producing newspaper stories, applying the rules made more sense to them. We had great discussions on how using punctuation in different ways changed the meaning of what was written. What did we really want the reader to understand from what we wrote?
During those eight years I also dabbled in writing fiction. So many times I ended up writing something that was really the first chapter to a full novel. In one, I ended up with a dead body and didn’t have clue who killed him. These efforts went on the shelf, forgotten.
In the eighth year of teaching, I was asked to substitute for a vice-principal on sick leave, and my frustration with the educational system reached an all-time high. On the most annoying day, I saw an ad in the local newspaper where a TV news publisher was looking for a freelance writer/editor and applied. I don’t remember how I convinced the publisher I could do the part-time job, but he engaged me. Within two months I was writing five columns under fictitious bylines so it looked as if we had more writers than we actually did. When I started, reader circulation was only 8,000, but as our ‘additional’ columns invited more reader participation along with our weekly TV listings, the circulation grew to 22,000 and became a major threat to the city paper’s TV magazine.
Escaping into this weekly publication helped me thrust aside my frustrations with school. I would have carried on working the two jobs quite comfortably too, but the publisher called me in to explain that he had cancer and he wanted me to take over producing, selling and writing so “his paper” could carry on. It was June, the best time to resign from teaching. This made my decision even easier.
Did I pray for guidance through this period? No. Did I consider I was giving up job security and benefits? No. I welcomed the challenge and marched in where angels fear to tread. Now I had to sell advertising as well as manage the publication’s distribution and write the columns under my pseudonyms. Because of these circumstances, I learned to wear all the publishing hats, and it gave me a greater appreciation of how all the functions interact and the needs of each department. I learned to respect deadlines because of the impact it had on the printer to deliver the paper on time. Circulation brought me face-to-face with our subscribers, who expected personal and effective service. Advertising introduced me to the needs of the local merchants, and I often worked in partnership with them to create advertorial opportunities that plumped up each issue and gained TV Showtime advertiser loyalty. In this way, the little ‘pub’ flourished.
For the first time since working on the university newspaper, I loved my job. I not only had fun with it, I believed in it. Every day was a brand new experience, and I could see myself doing this for years … until the publisher died, and his widow decided to sell TV Showtime.
Next: Learning to accommodate to survive
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 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.
Blog 1: http://bonnie-toews.blogspot.com