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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Do You Have a Dream?

My dream started when I was in high school and was chosen for my high school newspaper staff. Being part of that staff had been a dream and it grew from there. When a Grace Allison sent me a copy of her new Do You Have a Dream workbook it got me to looking back at how my dreams progressed—the big ones and little, the new ones and old. Sometimes the big barriers in life aren’t abject poverty, dreaded disease or death. Sometimes it’s the subtle ones set upon us by time and place. The ones that creep up silently on padded feet and, if we sense them at all, we choose not to turn and face them.

The 50s and 60s were times—even more than today—when these kinds of barriers faced those with dark skin, those who lived in closed religious communities, and those who were female. I think I did pretty well, but I think I would have done even better if I had a little workbook like the one Grace sent me to easily guide me through the years—the keyword being “easily.”

When I applied for a job as a writer at Hearst Corporation in New York in 1961 I was required to take a typing test. I was piqued because I wasn’t applying for the typing-pool, I was applying for a post as an editorial assistant.

I was told, “No typing test, no interview.” I took the test and was offered a job in the ranks of those who could do seventy- in-a-minute. I had to insist upon the interview I had been promised. I was only twenty and had no real skills in assertiveness. I am amazed I had the wherewithal to do that considering the times I was raised in. Assertiveness was not a skill much appreciated in young girls.

Something similar was at work when I married and had children. I happily left my writing to accommodate my husband’s career and the life the winds of the times presented to me. That there was a time when we didn’t know we had choices is not fiction.

When I started dreaming about writing the next “Gone with the Wind” only about Utah instead of about the South a little book I could open to any page and spend a couple of minutes with perhaps my plan would have so quickly gone with the wind. Or at lease, perhaps it would have been easier to revive.

It was the 1950s. Women in that time and place, had a notion of who they should be, could be and, mostly, they got it from those around them because many of them couldn’t see the difference from society’s expectations and their own.

“You can’t be a nurse,” my mother said. “Your ankles aren’t sturdy enough.” I also was told I couldn’t be a doctor because that wasn’t a woman’s vocation. The choice left to me was to be a teacher. My dream to write became a victim of the status quo.

Instead of following my star I searched for replacements. My husband and I built a business. For forty years I didn’t write or thought I didn’t because I didn’t have a guide to force me to examine my path. If I had I would have noticed that I was writing ad copy and employee guides and that might have helped me pursue some other writing.

Instead, acceptance came slowly as women became more aware. The equipment, gears, and pulleys were in place for a different view on life. In midlife I became aware that there was an empty hole where my children had been but also that the hole was vaster than the space vacated by them. I knew I not only would be able to write, I would need to write.

Then I read another book—this one by Deepak Chopra. I can’t remember the title but he noted that those who live until they are fifty in these times may very likely see their hundredth year. That meant that I might have another entire lifetime before me--plenty of time to do whatever I wanted. In fact, it’s my belief that women in their 50s might have more time for their second life because they won’t have to spend the first twenty years preparing for adulthood.

That was it. I started writing my first novel This is the Place, now out of print but still available on Amazon’s “New and Used” feature (bless their little bookish hearts!) I had to relearn old skills and brush up on new, and I am proud that I did it. I’m glad that I waited until I was sixty. Forty years of experience gave it a dimension it would not have had if I had written it when I was young. That first novel has expanded into four books including a new several chabpooks of poetry, including Tracings from Finishing Line Press. And those books I’ve written to help fellow authors? The HowToDoItFrugally series, born of being the daughter of a depression era mom. Each of us women must pass along whatever our time and place gives us in abundance. I like that I am doing something for other women and for other writers.

I like that I have found how the wisdom of other women—and men—have made a difference in my life. I also like being proof that a new life can start late—or that it is never too late to revive a dream.

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

Gift for Writers:

Everyone is a writer these days. Maybe my multi award-winning The Frugal Editor will remind them of the skills they already have, help polish them to give them more confidence, and give them some new ones that will help them enter an industry without fear. They will probably love knowing that lots of rules that stifle our creativity aren’t rules at all, that we get to make style choices. Emphasis on the word choices.

Gift for Readers:

The inspiration for this column came from @GracetheMystic ‘s little $2.99 e-book/workbook or slim paperback workbook that is no work at all. I am a fan of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret and Grace’s book is an easy refresher like no other!

Cover art by Richard Conway Jackson who is serving twenty-five years to life in a California State prison for receiving stolen property.


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