On Turning 40

Today is my 40th birthday. I figure the odds are I’m halfway through my life, so it’s a good time to look back over the past, take stock, and make plans for the future.

Looking back, I’ve been writing a long time. I think the first thing I wrote was in the eighth grade, a short story called “Possession.” It was about a young woman who has to team up with Ozzy Osbourne to defeat a murderous demon. (Yeah, I was *that* kind of kid). I continued to write short stories and (bad) poems until my early 20s, when I discovered non-fiction. For about five years (during which I changed my major from anthropology to journalism), I wrote for the Ozark Gazette, an earnest (if money-losing) alt weekly.

In 2000, I wrote a short book: “Your Guide to a Magickal Handfasting.” Llewellyn Publications expressed interest and suggested some changes. I made those changes, but after submitting them, got a form rejection letter. I was crushed, but not as crushed as I was when I walked into my local Barnes & Noble (on my birthday, BTW), and saw they had just released a book about handfasting by another author. I withdrew from writing completely at that point.

But, obviously, I couldn’t stay away. Six years later, during grad school, I started writing for the Arkansas Traveler and the Fayetteville Free Weekly, as well as various other publications here and there. I loved it, getting to meet new people and learn about all kinds of things, but it didn’t pay enough to be much more than a hobby.

Then I realized (with some prodding from writing friends) that I needed to write my memoir. That memoir is where almost all my creative energy has been for the past two years. I’ve finished the first and second drafts; now I’m just waiting to get it back from my editor for the final polish before I send it out to agents.

Now I want to start a new project, but I’m unsure where to focus my energy. I have several ideas; the problem is, whatever I choose now will set the tone for the rest of my career (assuming I have one). Fiction or Non-fiction? After all, Stephen King doesn’t write gardening books and Michael Pollan doesn’t write murder mysteries. The choice I make now will pretty much determine what I’ll write from now on, and that’s a scary proposition.

If anyone has any suggestions to help me choose, please share them!


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