Breaking Down Barriers with Billboards

breaking barriers, barriers to writing careersMy career as proofreader for a feminist newsletter ended with a whimper, not a bang.

As much as I hated that first job in a “writing” profession, I still didn’t want to disappoint my boss, Pauline, a difficult woman who I grew to admire. She had no heart, but plenty of passion and skill. She even “promoted” me to write marketing brochures about the merits of our feminist newsletter.

Readership increased from 10 to 90.

Pauline forced me to write draft after draft of those brochures, teaching me how to edit down to sharp sticking points.

I sharpened my pencils, walked on tiptoe and never, ever opened the refrigerator door again (see A Towering Tongue Twisting Career Turn). careers, writing careers

I celebrated a year later when the CETA grant expired by replying to dozens of “position available” ads. I was now a free woman with a M.A. in English and a year’s experience.

Still, no one wanted me. Continue reading

A Towering Tongue Twisting Career Turn

career in writingI knew a dare when I saw one.

The big-bosomed, pink-slippered, black-eyed lady stared me down in her small three-story home. The offer of a salary and a journalistic writing career hung in the stale air. (See A Directional Career Curve.)

I took the dare and the job.

Just out of grad school, after dozens of rejections, I grabbed the chance to actually work at my skill of … well, writing? Master's in English, Jonathan Swift

With a Master’s in English I could pen pages about Swift’s satire and write a 100-page thesis on the Literature of Expatriate Black Authors, but could I actually DO anything with that degree?

Pauline’s black-eyed stare asked me that question.

contract, writing careerWithin 15 minutes I signed the contract and, unknowingly, I signed my life away for a year.

Did I feel imprisoned in her third-story small bedroom cum office Monday through Friday from 9 to 5?


Did I bemoan my decision by Day Two of my employment?

Without a doubt. Continue reading

A Directional Career Curve

career, career directionI had just earned my graduate degree. I was ready to take on the world in a career that would be so exciting…so invigorating…so worthwhile, that …well, I never went past the exciting, invigorating, and worthwhile parts.

I just knew I wanted a great career.

I read the ads in the newspapers. I talked to the headhunters, who chuckled over the phone. “A Master’s in English? And you want to do what with it?”

I didn’t have an answer. I knew what I didn’t want: No more school, no teaching, no secretarial position. They laughed and hung up.

I was offered three jobs at the University where I received my M.A.: one at the registrar’s office – secretarial; one at the Dean’s office of education – clerical; and one at the mailroom – sorting mail. Instead, I accepted a position that I read about in the classified section of the Newark Star Ledger: Continue reading

A Rhyme for All Seasonings

 “Peas and beans

potatoes steamed.

That’s today’s news

Do you want some stewed prunes?”

My friend Alice, the waitress, looked at the two truck drivers expectantly as they sipped on their drinks. They both looked over their menus at each other, and then at her.  The guy called ‘Ralph’ began to laugh until his friend ‘Jack’ kicked him under the table.

“Well, ma’am,” Jack drawled.  “I’m not one for prunes. How ‘bout the burger and fries?”

“Burgers and fries cooked just right. 

Medium or done a little light?”

Alice acquired a Master’s in English with me once, aeons ago, but now she owned a funky diner in the middle of nowhere, U.S.A.  And she had certainly put her own twist, or seasoning, to the place.

“Uh, yes, I’d like mine rare please.”

Alice then looked at Ralph, whose mouth was spread open like a day-old newspaper.  He jumped when Jack kicked him again. “Tuna salad, I think,” Ralph mumbled.  His red beard trembled when he answered, and he looked like he wanted to bolt for the door.  However, the two men were sitting in a booth at the far side of the diner called “A Rhyme for all Seasonings.”  I had a feeling that Ralph was the kind who always picked a table near the door when he went out to a bar or a diner, but when they arrived, every booth had been full except this one.

“Celery and mayo is nice. 

How ‘bout some rye bread sliced?” Alice asked.

Ralph stared at Alice as if she was an exhibit at a high tech museum.  She stood there in front of him, light brown hair highlighted with silver, little white cap sitting on top like a tiny Easter bonnet, tight white uniform around curving hips and bosom, hands on her hips waiting for his answer.

“Huh?” Ralph responded.

“Do you want rye bread?” Jack asked with exasperation.

“No, white,” Jack answered defensively.

“White is pretty, wheat is better.

Haven’t you read the Surgeon General’s letter?” Alice replied.

“White!” Ralph barked.  “White. White. White!”

“Relax and smile buster. 

No need to spit and bluster.” 

Alice swung her ample hips away from Ralph, winked at Jack and me (sitting at the nearby counter), and swayed off.

“What in the hell was that?” spluttered Ralph. “This is a hell of a diner.”

“Hey, look around, Mr. Shakespeare,” said Jack. “This is one place we can get a little literary education while making a pit stop.  The guys love it here.  They feel smarter when they hit the road.”

Ralph looked at the packed diner.  “Well, I’ll be.  I just feel stupider.”

“Next time, order the wheat, stupid,” Jack replied.  Then he shouted, “Hey Alice, “how ‘bout another round.  The last one went too easily down!”

The diner burst into applause.