Twenty-Year Anniversary

One month after my 43rd birthday, I became a full-time freelance writer. It was October 1, 1987. I mark that as my starting date because that was the first day after the last day that I received a salary from a full-time job with benefits, an office, and support staff. My first-born child–Jonathan–had graduated from high school in June and my second- and third-born children–David and Stephen, identical twins–were seniors in high school.

I had been writing on and off for years and published some articles and a one-act play, but I had never really focused on myself as a writer. Instead I had concentrated on being a mother, a community activist, a wife. I had also compiled a diverse resume as a teacher, a speaker, an executive director of a social service agency, and founder of an art gallery. But as I moved into my 40s, I became aware of an increasingly insistent internal need to write. So, twenty years ago, I took the plunge.

Although I have written fiction, my passion is nonfiction–real stories about real people, events, things, and ideas. In my quest for true stories I’ve paddled a raft through whitewater rapids; hiked out of the Grand Canyon; tracked down grave diggers; walked across a high wire strung between two trees: interviewed interesting people; spent countless hours at archives, libraries, and historic sites immersing myself in the lives and words and deeds of historic women; and etc.–all amazing adventures!

The picture is of the gorgeous gladioli we bought yesterday at a fall festival in Mays Landing, NJ (we happened upon it as we were driving a let’s-try-a-new-route-home from a research trip in Washington, DC)–$5 for ten stems–yellow, red, purple, lavender, white, and coral. We’ve dubbed them the twenty-year-anniversary-flowers. I love the array of colors. I love the way a gladiola unfurls and opens from the base to the top. Twenty years ago I could not–did not–imagine the challenges facing full-time writers, especially writers who hope to earn a living. But I’m so glad I couldn’t & didn’t because I might have gotten cold feet and missed twenty years full of fun and adventure and satisfaction and the opportunity to get to know many marvelous people! Thank you to everyone who has cheered me on, including my three sons who said–Go for it, Mom! and Charlotte who never doubted that I would make it & who buys multiple copies of my books, and Dot who is full of information and stories, and, of course, Linda who is always here and there and everywhere.

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2 Responses to Twenty-Year Anniversary

  1. charlotte says:

    20 means champagne with breakfast! Never doubted it is right…and thrilled with your success. Charlotte

  2. Anonymous says:

    Can’t believe 1987 was 20 years ago! Penny, I had already been working at the Englewood Library for five years. I find it interesting that you began writing full time at age 43 while I began my library career at age 42! Loved the photo of your beach house. There’s something about being near the ocean that makes one feel energized and free. I could never live land-locked.
    Tomorrow I must show your Monarch photos to our 6th grade science teacher. She currently has the kids working on a butterfly unit and they have the caterpillars doing their “thing”. Charlotte is right, break out the champagne. Here’s to another 20 years of writing! Love from Dot

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