These days, I characterize myself as a "working writer", because most of my paltry annual income comes from providing editorial services in some form. But since writing is also something I feel deeply called to do, it's as much vocation as occupation. In fact, it was occupation before it was vocation.
My work history includes stints as a graphic production artist, waitress, secretary and bartender after dropping out of college. I dropped back in at age twenty-three and earned a doctorate in Sociology by age thirty. I taught college for a decade, then worked in state government and at an ad agency, before going freelance in 1989. In addition to copy writing and editing, I regularly published essays and features in regional and national magazines. I loved magazine work enough to edit a bi-monthly for a while.
Book writing? Not interested back then. That required piling up way too many words. I certainly never imagined writing books about spiritual and faith formation from a Catholic Christian perspective, especially since I was raised Jewish.
My decision to launch More Meredith Gould was the result of several realizations about publishing. First, the print outlets for "inspirational humor" have basically disappeared. I finally realized that most of this writing was happening in e-zines and the blogosphere.
I also developed a low-to-no tolerance for the time lag between writing and publication. I finally realized that the blogosphere would allow me to reach existing readers more quickly and find new ones more quickly, while giving me creative control over content and design. Yes, I'm a creative control freak.
Still, I resisted blogging because of internal blah blah about what I thought I was supposed to be doing at this point in my writing career. I made a slew of snobby assumptions about who was blogging and why. But then, after getting into the habit of reading a couple of blogs, I developed some much-needed humility. Surprise! Surprise! The blogosphere was not, in fact, dominated by hacks and dilettantes. I was reading some terrific, provocative, smart, creative writing. Clearly, other working writers and book authors were blogging. It was time for me to get involved with what everyone is calling the "new media." The definitive shove came from Ruth Harrigan, who blogs at Wheelie Catholic. She persuaded me to futz around with the Blogger templates one night, and I quickly became smitten with the entire enterprise.
More Meredith Gould is an extension of my other work, because, as I note in the tag-line, "I always have more to say." I offer quirky observations in posts about the challenges of communicating for and about faith; practical spirituality; Catholic Christian-Jewish interfaith weirdness; and the agonies and ecstasies of writing for a so-called living. I welcome reader questions and anchor my answers in experience and scholarship without being stuffy or boring. I'm very proud of the fact that reviewers have characterized my humor as "gentle" and "surprisingly unprudish."
I have five published books, and one forthcoming in July 2008. Like every other author, I have a couple of completed manuscripts that will never be published – and the world will be a better place for that.
You want me to choose a favorite among my children?!? I can't do that! Each book has served a special purpose. Each seems to build on the previous one. I love my first book, Tips for Your Home Office (Storey) because it was my first, plus easy and fun to write. Staying Sober: Tips for Working a Twelve Step Program of Recovery (Hazelden) will always occupy a special place in my heart and not just because it earns royalties! That book allowed me to make an edgy, funny contribution to the generally grim recovery literature. Like most middle children, Deliberate Acts of Kindness: Service as a Spiritual Practice (Doubleday) has gotten somewhat lost. The shelving designation ("Social Science") killed it in bricks-n-mortar stores. People who discover it find it useful and inspiring. I sometimes forget I wrote it until readers contact me. I love how The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions (Doubleday) helped me define and develop my voice as a Catholic author. It is purchased a lot as a gift for newlyweds and young families, and by catechists. Come to the Table: A Catholic Passover Seder (Plowshares Publishing), written over a period of seven years, was a labor of love and religious conviction. I'm thrilled that it has been adopted by a number of parishes for their annual Passover seder. I'm still too close to the experience of writing my latest, Our Words Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today (Morehouse), to do anything but whimper about the process.
Keep at it, but get real about your goal. If it's to make money, then forget about getting a byline, and go land a copywriting job in either the private or public sector. You'll be writing- you'll get into print - you'll have fun.
If you write for self-expression, don't expect to get either published or paid. But that shouldn't matter, because real writers feel compelled to write, with or without publication. Everything – heart, mind, and spirit – atrophies when we don't write. Garrison Keillor, in a recent edition of the Authors Guild Bulletin (Summer 2007), is quoted as saying, "It's like a major illness having a book in the works. Good days and bad days, but you keep going…" He's right. If you're a real writer, you'll keep at it no matter what. If you're determined to get into print, then as a practical matter, you're going to have to become very savvy about the publishing business. You'll need to pay attention to trends and market demands, because print publishing is a business first and foremost.
Regularly, thanks to Google Reader: Anti-Itch Meditation, Ask Sister Mary Martha, A Third Way, Dirty Catholic, Happy Catholic, The Ironic Catholic, Kingdom Come, spiritually delicious!, Sweetness and Light, Wheelie Catholic, and Whispers in the Loggia. In addition to Blog Village, I belong to St. Blog's Parish and subscribe to BlogRush, which I wander through regularly to see what other folks are writing. I'm noticing how visiting blogs and websites has significantly reduced my need to subscribe to a zillion print magazines, so I shouldn't be complaining about the dwindling number of print outlets. Mea maxima culpa.
Barbara's Tchatzkahs is a very smart, sassy blog, although it takes way too long to load.
DMD Scratchboard Gallery is a visually beautiful blog.
When Meredith first emailed me I could already tell she was quite a wonderful character. She's funny, witty and very gracious. Her blog has been a pleasure to read. Meredith will make you laugh, or at least chuckle, and has a canny way of sprinkling a little bit of wisdom throughout her writing. Visit her at More Meredith Gould (because she always has more to say), check out her books and tell us what you think. Enjoy Meredith's blog . . . I did.