Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I need a haircut and I need a real job

...if I had the real job I could afford the haircut

When I was about 17 or 18 years old and still "wet behind the ears," I dreamed a dream of owning a little white house, with a little white picket fence, a few chickens and a garden for food. The chickens and the garden would be necessary because I dreamed of being a poet. I dreamed I'd be published one day but that I wouldn't make a lot of money because poetry books don't sell that well. I dreamed I might write a few childrens' books in order to supplement my income and, being the loner I always was, I dreamed I'd live in that little white house with that white picket fence all alone, except for the dog, of course, always gotta have that small house-dog in the mix, preferably a terrier.

In 1977, Harrison Daily Times Staff writer, Paulette Rarick wrote, "Jackie Phillips A Talented Young Poet In Harrison High School." Excerpts:

"About a month ago the creative writing class went to a writing workshop at Arkansas Tech at Russellville. Two of Jackie's poems, "Passing Moments," and "Prelude to the Odyssey for Strangers" were selected there to be read and printed in the poetry session worksheet. Students selected for this honor are eligible for scholarships, but Jackie was not since she is still a junior.

On April 8, Jackie attended another creative writing workshop at the School of the Ozarks. Several hundred students were involved in this seminar and Jackie's poem, "Prelude to the Odyssey for Strangers" won first prize for poetry. Recently Jim Reed, part of the "poet in our school" program sponsored by the University of Arkansas, visited the creative writing classes at Harrison High school. Reed was impressed with Jackie's work and told her he felt a song she has written is publishable...."

Sound promising? If I read it I'd think that was a little girl who had the world as her oyster and a life full of promise, not one who would spend several years working two part time jobs, one at a Taco Hut Restaurant and the other at the Lyric Theater and later the Mall Twin Cinema, to pay rent on a hot, un-air conditioned second floor apartment.

College didn't turn out to be an option, bridges were burned and family support wasn't there in a family that didn't consider "girls" as really "needing" to go to college. I left the home of my Dad and step-mom and made my own way because, in my young teenage mind that was the only option.

I gave up on my dream and later, when thinking of ways I might make money as a writer I never thought about being a journalist because who would hire a journalist with no college? I didn't even try, and of all the mistakes in my life I realize that was probably the worst one. From what I've been told later, having a degree in journalism isn't necessarily required to be a journalist. For gosh sakes, now I'm even a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, what a feat! (My name was drawn out of a basket at a Society of Professional Journalist's meeting I attended).

The thing is, years ago, I sold myself short and my dream gave way to marriage and the raising of two step-sons of an alcoholic father, divorce 13 years later and an eventual move to Springfield, Missouri to take care of my ailing Mother. Later, I got a new start with a new and improved husband. Thank God!

I worked as a secretary for a construction company, a receptionist, an administrative assistant for a house mover where I eventually quit. Twice I laid myself off because two different employers couldn't or wouldn't pay me the wages they owed me but wouldn't lay me off themselves.

All that to say this: It's very difficult earning a living as a freelance writer. Even if you are published or guaranteed future publishing, without a staff position there just isn't enough money in it to actually contribute substantially to a household. I've had a nice opportunity and I've really enjoyed it and hopefully will get to continue to enjoy it until something new comes along. It's been very exciting. Breck Langsford, the publisher of Community Free Press tells me I am the first "beat writer" the paper has ever had, that in and of itself, is something kind of special to me.

I'll never stop writing, it's in my blood and has been since I was about 13 years old but I need a job. A real job. Keep me in your prayers, offer ideas (I'd like to continue writing, if possible). I'll see you back here, at JackeHammer, one way or another, no matter what happens. :)

Dave A.W wrote How to make a living as a freelance journalist, his conclusion:

"Even though freelance journalism seems advantageous, there is one flaw. You do not need to be hired. The Editor-in-Chief of a newspaper can reject you and send you away with no money. If you are on the newspaper staff, you are always paid and always have work.

I strongly recommend taking any regular job offers. If you are a freelance journalist, you are taking a chance. You may not have your work bought and published. However, you may build up a nice reputation for yourself and newspapers may want to give you a staff job. Take any staff job offers. It is better to have a guaranteed income than a chancy one.

It is possible to make a living as a freelance journalist, but it is risky. It should be the start, and not end, of your career as a journalist."

Oh, for the record, I did realize parts of my dream. I've enjoyed the company of three terriers over the years, Piquie (the dog no one ever "owned"), Murphy and Spike. May they all rest in peace.

And here, since it's mentioned, is "Prelude to the Odyssey for Strangers:"

Prelude to the Odyssey for Strangers

His bismark nose peeked out serenely from
between his cornflake eyes, only twitching
now and then from the tickling spasms
caused by a nacho mustache.
His red light hair blinked messages to my
blue shield eyes as they tried to cover my
emotions, but my string bean hands were
shaking as his midnight lips were quaking
and my pastel face grew hot.
His rabbit hands grabbed my own string
beans and we ran away together.
we ran...
we ran...
we ran...
it seemed we ran forever.

We stood at a tree bench and
fell on the side ground and we
suitcase chuckled together.
we chuckled...
we chuckled...
we chuckled...
it seemed we chuckled forever.

We picked up a mushroom rock
covered with moss and ate all
the moss together.
we ate...
we ate...
we ate...
it seemed we ate forever.

We caught a pure death leaf that
blew in the wind and we separated
the bones together.
we separated...
we separated...
we separated...
it seemed we separated...
we did...

The Odyssey for Strangers

His backyard nose peeked out serenely from
between his cupcake eyes, only twitching
now and then from the tickling spasms
caused by a carbon mustache.
His chocolate cream hair frosted messages to
my blue shield eyes as they tried to cover
my emotions but my string bean hands
were shaking as his maple lips were
quaking and my pastel face grew hot.
His rocket hands grabbed my own string
beans and we ran away together.
We ran...
we ran...
we ran...


Busplunge said...

Dang. That girl kin write!

Дж. Хьюз said...

What the Bus said, what the Bus said. Your post reminded me (yet again) of how privileged I am to have grown up in a household where the parents expected their sons and their daughter to go to college. My wife's mom and stepdad didn't understand why she would want to go to college, and didn't contribute financially, but at least they didn't object to her going. Compared with what you encountered, she was pretty lucky herself.

It's sad, too, to be reminded that not every gifted soul with a thirst for education actually makes it to college. My dad was lucky his parents didn't force him to drop out of high school to help support the family. Instead of going to college, he went to work at a foundry and then at the railroad. But to this very day, Dad has never stopped growing intellectually. And whatever life may have in store for you, you will always continue to do likewise.