Not too many years ago, when our chapter of Sister in Crime and many who wanted to be mystery writers and a program chair who brought in great speakers, not only did I get some great ideas for plot from them, but also was asked to write a book for them.
One would have really been fun. Our chapter went to the nearby airport and heard and viewed all about the police and sheriff’s helicopters. We heard exciting tales about what they did and arrests they’d made. One of the police pilots seemed to focus on me while he was talking. Afterwards, he came and asked if he could speak with me.
He wanted me to write a book about him and all of his exploits. He offered to take me on “fly-alongs” so I’d know what it was like to fly all over the big city and spot criminals, and sometimes actually land to arrest them. Believe me, I wanted to do it. I took his card and told him I’d get back to him.
At the time, I owned and operated a licensed home for six women with developmental disabilities. My husband and I ran it together. The big city where the police officer and his helicopter were stationed was about an hour and a half drive from my home. Though truly torn, I knew it wouldn’t be fair to my husband or the women I cared for to be away as much as giving a book like this justice—so I turned it down.
The second opportunity was when our SinC chapter had a police detective from the coast who told us all the details about a horrible murder of a teenaged girl, by three teen boys. Afterwards, he asked me if I’d co-write a true-crime book with him about this horrendous crime. Again, to do the job right, I’d have had to be away from home far too much. However, that wasn’t the real reason I turned it down. The thought of interviewing the parents of the dead girl and those of the boys was not something I wanted to do. I know all of their hearts must be broken.
And I’ll close with the one opportunity I accepted and wished I hadn’t. I accepted the job through a ghost-writing company that I’d worked with before, to write the story of a big time but supposedly reformed drug dealer. I didn’t have to meet with him in person; we did everything through email. His story was fascinating. He managed to avoid being caught while selling to some of the most influential people in a wealthy beach community in southern California, and then his change of life style when he moved to Hawaii.
We seemed to get along fine. He was happy with what I’d written until it was time for him to make his final payment. He became verbally abusive, told the company I worked for I hadn’t written anything the way he wanted. The worst of his emails came when I was at the Public Safety Writers Association’s annual conference. I sent him an email telling him where I was and who I was with: all sorts people from different law enforcement agencies from police, FBI, NSA, etc. and I planned to seek their help. That stopped him. I never heard from him again. I have no idea if he published his book—and frankly I don’t care.
I’m not quite sure why those memories popped up, but I thought you might find them interesting.
Have any of you ever turned down a writing opportunity?
11 thoughts on “MISSED WRITING OPPORTUNITIES AND WHY by Marilyn Meredith”
I edited an elderly uncle’s memoir – it was boring, poorly written, and he claimed it was for his family when really he hoped it would make him famous – and when I edited with his family in mind, he printed the unedited file instead. He did pay me, but it was a lesson learned: never edit or ghostwrite an entire book all at once. Communicate and get approval after working on EVERY chapter.
When I was ghost writing for a company, I did a third at a time–got approval and payment and then moved on. Worked well up to the drug dealer.
The year was 1967. I was working for Western Electric, a part of AT&T. I used to make up movies in my head and I would cast the people I was working with into various roles. What I regret is I never wrote these stories down, some were quite elaborate, Highjacked ship arriving at a New Orleans port abandoned, a posse chasing a gang of bank robbers ending in a shootout, a race riot where members from both sides end up hiding from the National Guard in a warehouse. These were very vivid in mind at the time. I guess I could still write them today, but it wouldn’t be the same.
So glad I got to see you at PSWA. When I’m writing, I see what’s going on in my head like a movie.
You have had some wonderful opportunities, Marilyn. Like Heather, I’ve had a person here and there ask if I’d help the write the story of their life or a relatives life, but I just tell them I’m too busy with farming and my writing to take on anything else. While some sound like they would be very interesting, others…I would probably die of boredom! LOL Great post on the different aspects of writing.
I agree about writing someone else’s story–when I did it, the company I worked for paid me. The money came in thirds and didn’t depend upon whether or not the book sold. One I did, was like true confessions and I didn’t think his family would like to know what he wrote.
Your run-in with the druggie sounds quite scary. Good for you in using your law acquaintances to get rid of the louse. The only ‘opportunities’ I have passed over are from people who offer to tell me a story they want me to write, and then we split the proceeds. I mean, really? Unless they were Marilyn Monroe back from the grave, I’m not interested. And, of course, they don’t tell you what the story is, because they are afraid you might steal it. So you are supposed to spend around a year slaving on something you don’t even know what it is. Honestly, the people you meet at parties!
Most folks lives aren’t really all that interesting except maybe for their family. And stealing their idea–why when there are so many ideas out there floating around.
I’m glad you posted this, Marilyn. Writers who are just starting out wonder if they’ll ever get any work, and I think it’s important for others to hear that we are always making choices, and we should understand how we do so. Many years ago, when I was a freelance editor, the publisher of a Boston magazine offered me the editorship after I had done a few jobs for them. I thought about it and thought about it, and couldn’t quite say yes. I knew I was going in a different direction, but it was the kind of offer that I had longed for just a few years earlier. I told her it was hard to say no, for which she thanked me. I see the publication regularly, and always wish them well, but it wasn’t for me. Not every opportunity is the right one, but the right one will show up eventually.
Yes, sometimes it is really hard to turn down a job. Thanks for sharing this, Susan.
Reblogged this on Bonnie Cehovet.
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