Murder dialogue at the kitchen table

a true late bloomer

Of course I'm a writer and an editor. It's inevitable; words are in my DNA! When I was a little girl in New York City in the 1940s, my parents (Verne and Helen Jay) were professional freelance scriptwriters for murder mysteries like "The Shadow," "Mr. and Mrs. North," and "Famous Jury Trials." They often rehearsed dialogue for the scary scripts at our kitchen table -- this was a normal event for me. In fact, I thought everyone's parents rehearsed murder mystery dialogue at the kitchen table...

My Dad started his career in the 1920s and 1930s as a dramatic playwright. Many of his plays, written about strange and fascinating topics, were produced in theaters up and down the East Coast.

By the late 1940s, Dad had joined the continuity staff of WLW, the NBC affiliate in Cincinnati. There, he wrote dramatic shows and other copy. In 1950, about a year after he came on-board, a feisty new college graduate named Rod Serling joined the staff. Rod and Dad became good friends, and co-authored a murder mystery, "A Walk in the Night," that aired on the "Philip Morris TV Playhouse" in 1954. It was the only time Rod Serling had a co-author.

My first job after college, in 1962, was as an advertising copywriter in the Trade Book Department of Little, Brown Publishers in Boston. I loved reading the latest manuscripts, and then writing the jacket copy, press releases, and journal ads for the books. Once in a while I even got to meet the authors. Eventually I moved across the street to Houghton Mifflin, and was an advertising copywriter in the College Textbook Department -- the books were not nearly as interesting as they had been at Little, Brown.

I had a brief stint as a marketing copywriter at U.S. News & World Report magazine in Washington, D.C., and then my first husband and I moved out to Silicon Valley in the early 1970s. He was a computer analyst and later a multimedia pioneer with Hewlett-Packard and later, Sun Microsystems.

I kept my hand in the writing field in the 1970s and 1980s by free-lancing for a wide variety of individuals and companies, ranging from Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies to P.R. agencies to computer companies.

In the 1990s I started contributing profiles and feature stories to national magazines. I just love interviewing people, and doing the "detective work" of research. Once again, the example set by my parents as a writing team came into play. My husband, Dick Brandt, and I were asked to be West Coast Co-Editors of a Florida-based newspaper, Video Computing. We wrote many articles for each issue.

Other magazines I contributed articles to included: TV Technology (more than 20 articles, about topics ranging from public broadcasting to underwater television as a teaching tool), U.S. Banker, The Artist's Magazine, T.H.E. (The Higher Education) Journal, Woman Engineer, and BusinessWoman.

My first husband had unexpectedly died of cancer in 1994, and as the 2000s arrived, I remarried. My new husband was a software developer named Ed Geldens. By 2002, it was apparent that Ed's field of information technology was in a state of collapse, as were the dot-com companies. He would be one of thousands of experienced, accomplished workers caught in the economic meltdown that characterized what a Vanity Fair editor called the "mini Dark Age" of the Bush Administration. Who knew it would go on for eight excruciating years?

I knew that I would need to find projects utilizing my expertise and skills to see us through this rough period. I also noticed that my enthusiasm for some of my assignments was somewhat lackluster.

So in 2005, I was thinking about what my real professional passion was. Of course! Going back to my parents working as a writing team, I realized that I felt most comfortable with authors. I understand authors. I like to talk with them about their projects, about the writing process, about how I might be able to help their projects come to life.

Talk about being a true late bloomer! There I was, 66 years old, and it finally hit me! I really wanted to work with individual authors as a book manuscript copyeditor. one of my favorite characters, Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney's movie "Pinocchio" says, "When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true." I started promoting my services by placing an ad in the weekly e-newsletter of Writer's Digest. I joined the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, and other groups where I might find potential authors. And I networked like crazy.

I started slowly, but the upshot is that in the past two years, I've copyedited more than 60 manuscripts. Thanks to the Internet, I work with authors all over the U.S. and in other countries. I am really comfortable working with authors whose second language is English.

The authors send me their manuscripts as Word documents, and I edit them using Track Changes. We go over any questions they might have. They usually pay me through PayPal (on my Web site), and it's a win-win all the way around.

The genres I specialize in are: business, novels, memoirs, spirituality, science fiction, academic subjects, and children's.

I've met several of "my" authors, and in the next year, I hope to meet several more -- in Honolulu, Kentucky, Miami, and New York.

Also, just as I turned 70 last year (a fact I cannot accept, as I still think I'm in my early 30s), I was chosen as one of nine members of the International Blogger Team for a popular L.A.-based Web site: . I'm a good 20 years older than the other bloggers. Nancy Mills, the Founder of the site, tells me I have a devoted following. She knows this because of the number of click-throughs in the e-blast.

I post on Mondays and Thursdays, and am tickled that I now know how to embed a link to a YouTube video or a Web site, and I know how to write a decent blog post. My "beat" is "whatever strikes my fancy," so in the past year I've written about kaleidoscopes and Italy, a tribute to Lena Horne, and a serious case of the sillies. I'm delighted to be back into writing.

I'm 71 now (yes, I really do look like the picture I've attached -- I'm very youthful), and I see no limits to my professional career, both in writing and in editing. The best is yet to come!


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