How do you reinvent yourself and your career?

Hi everyone,

Jane YolenHere’s another question for summertime discussion suggested by Jane Yolen. “How do you reinvent yourself and your career?”

Has anyone gone through this? I have twice, the first time in my fifties. I won’t go into details because I’ve told the story before, but during the six years I served on the Springfield board of education, from 1982-1988, my writing took a hit. I only produced one worthwhile story in those six years and seriously worried that my career was over.

At the end of my service I decided to change my direction as a writer and reinvent myself as a poet. It was a relatively easy decision because I didn’t think I had much to lose. I chose poetry. I already knew most of the mechanics and had published a smattering of poems but for the next three years I focused on writing nothing but poems.

I had no plan, no strategy, no general theme. I simply wrote, read about poetry, wrote, read about poetry, and wrote.

At the end of that period I shared my total collection of 100 poems with an editor at Boyds Mills Press. I was offered a multi-title contract, beginning with SOMEBODY CATCH MY HOMEWORK, which was published in 1993.

The second time I reinvented myself came in 1996, only three years later. Maybe this wasn’t exactly a reinvention but it did lead to new opportunities. I decided that I wanted to become involved with professional books published for teachers. I think the motivation came from the six years I’d recently spent on the school board coupled with the frequent visits to schools I’d been doing since the 70s.

I partnered with Bernice Cullinan and we wrote EASY POETRY LESSONS THAT DAZZLE AND DELIGHT. Since then I’ve co-authored with several wonderful teachers and professors to create a dozen titles and four others are in the works. That change nineteen years ago has led to finding a new niche plus numerous opportunities to address audiences of educators at state and national conferences.

Jane, I know that you also work in several genres and recently said that you yourself hardly know how to classify yourself as a writer. So there may be a down side to wearing many writing hats. Conversely, a new challenge can reinvigorate a writer, get the juices flowing again and, in time, perhaps lead to a new fan base and expanded opportunities.

What say you?