Many years ago – in the 80s actually – I was underemployed, after a period of being unemployed, and things were very tight around our house. In hindsight, it was character-building, but in the moment it was misery. While at the grocery one day, I noticed a magazine called Writers Digest on the rack.
One of the features promoted on the front cover caught my eye. It listed quite a few magazines which took stories and articles ‘over the transom’ and how much they typically paid. ‘Over the transom’ means unsolicited material submitted to a publication. I bought the magazine and took it home and devoured that article. Hope welled in my bosom. Or at least that was one phrase that occurred to me as I noted there were even some romance magazines in the list.
To back up a bit, I had worked for a small advertising agency twelve years earlier as a copywriter and media buyer. Then the economy tightened up, advertising spending fell and I was ‘outplaced’ since I was the last one ‘inplaced’. That had started the period of un- and under-employment out from which I was still trying to crawl.
I noticed that one particular ‘adult’ publication on the list paid a higher rate than most of the other magazines. I was young and naïve, and I figured that I could write this stuff because I had read enough of it– that’s why I subscribed to Playboy some years before, to read the articles like everyone else who got that magazine. Yup, that’s why all right all right.
So, I started scribbling an idea on a legal pad with a pencil. That was how I had to do it then because I just couldn’t compose on a typewriter. Typewriter… it looks a little like today’s keyboard except it was bigger and noisier and didn’t offer spellcheck. Also, if you made any corrections, you had to retype the whole !@#^&@# page.
Over the next few days, in my spare time, I banged out <sorry> an adult short story that, as I would read back over it to edit, I thought was pretty damn hot. After typing and retyping and retyping some more, I finally made a copy and mailed it off to that highest paying publication in the list. Remember, young and naïve. I wrote it under a pseudonym – duh – but used my real name in the cover letter.
A couple of weeks went by and I heard nothing. Young, naïve and impatient. Although I’d promised myself I wouldn’t get my hopes up, I just couldn’t help it. I composed a light-hearted letter to the editor casually asking if they had received my story. I was still trying to decide whether to actually mail that letter when I stopped by the post office one day to check my mail.
Among the items I picked up was a window envelope with a return address I wasn’t familiar with. But it sure looked like check paper through the little window. You know how some companies will mail out a solicitation that leads you to think it’s a check just so you’ll open the envelope?
My name and address were clearly visible through that little window. So, a little shakily because I just knew this delusion had to come to a disappointing end, I slit open the envelope, gulped, and peered warily inside.
There was a check, a by-God check, made out to me with the name of the actual publication I’d submitted my story to, in the amount of $600!! Remember, this was in the mid-80s and $600 was a chunk of change. And for a greenhorn writer who had sent out a total of one story so far, to not only sell it but get that much money for it was amazing. Unheard of. It was a good thing I was sitting down in the car or I would have fainted.
I couldn’t wait to get home and wave the check in my (then) wife’s face with some “nonny nonny boo boo” thrown in for good measure. She’d always thought I was a little perverted and I’d just proven that there was money in it. I went on to write a few more pieces and sell them to other similarly-themed periodicals. But, interestingly, I began to realize that it was getting boring and I couldn’t keep it up. <sorry>
I also wrote some articles over the next few years for a couple of national aviation magazines and for our slick local hometown-themed quarterly, none of which paid near as much as my first story. And then I just moved on to other things and forgot about writing…
Cut to the present, where I haven’t done much writing for at least a couple of decades, and the opportunity and desire now just happen to coincide. I like to travel, and we have more time and occasions to do it. And so my blog, barryontheroad.com, was born. I was told I should write down some background information for the About portion of the site. So, here it is.
For the blog, however, I’m pretty sure this time, what I write will be for ‘grownups’ rather than ‘adults.’