I’d been asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” a million times, and you probably were too.
My answers ranged from: Vet, to talk show host, to movie star, to journalist, to comedian, and on and on. I don’t know that my answer was ever, “Writer,” but when it came time to apply to colleges, I thought I wanted to be a screenwriter and set out for the University of Southern California. I had no idea how unprepared I was for my future as a screenwriter until I saw other students with portfolios and VHS tapes of sample work, while I simply had dreams, and a play I’d written in third grade. I didn’t know at the time that my dreams of becoming a screenwriter were as unrealistic as walking onto USC’s Division I track & field team, but I tried out nonetheless. By New Jersey’s standards, I was a good long jumper. When I saw what a truly good long jumper was, I wasn’t shocked that I didn’t make the team. Further, the more I learned about the screenwriting business, it wasn’t surprising that Spielberg never called.
So, I pivoted — the first of many — and set my sights on working in New York at an ad firm or publishing company. The job market was tight at this time, so there was a real need to stand out. Luckily I was better at creativity than long jumping. Certain I could stand out and defy job-searching norms with a totally unique resume, I hired a classmate (with waitressing dollars) to make caricatures of me doing my employment history etc… Literally with cutting and pasting, I made the images into a pictorial resume, which I printed on neon paper. My cover letter, also on neon paper, was… wait for it… a sonnet. Creative, right?
In another blow, this strategy yielded no offers. So I did a little of this, and a little of that, thinking that I needed another degree and I thought an MBA would afford me the most flexibility. But, since I’d been writing and analyzing literature in both English and French for four years, I didn’t have the math experience needed to score well on the GMATs. How could I take that test when I didn’t know calculus? The answer was simple: I couldn’t.
Now, when someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m usually compelled to prove them wrong, except in the case of the USC track team because I knew those were impossible odds, but calculus? What could be so hard? With help from an administrator from the University of Delaware’s MBA program and the books he loaned me, I taught myself calculus. Well, as much as I needed to take the test.
I loved business school, especially economics. After getting an MBA, I even did a stint in academia teaching undergrad econ while also interning at a small local pharmaceutical company who eventually hired me. That company merged with another and became a giant. I changed roles several times and had (still have) an enjoyable career in big pharma.
It wasn’t until three kids and many moons later I’d begin writing fiction. My first book was published in 2010, and to date I have eleven books published, one of which inspired a very popular show.
The thing that still has me stumped is how I was able to do any of it without a pictorial resume or sonnet.