What Caitlyn Jenner & My Kickstarter Have in Common

Madeleine and books 3I know, I know. I’m the woman who posted on my Facebook timeline: “Raise your hand if you never want to hear the name Caitlyn Jenner again.” Lots of people lofted their virtual palms.

And yesterday I shared Ellen Goodman’s piece about how Caitlyn Jenner should not be trying to be a glamor puss at 65 so the rest of womankind would not feel the burden of trying to look a certain way when they’ve reached a certain age. I agreed, stating that my real gripe was about the money that it cost to make that transformation happen, money that most transgender people don’t have.

But then I realized that there were a few similarities between us, me and Caitlyn. I too had a secret, one that I kept from many people for a large part of my life.

I was a closet writer.

Studying writing, meeting writers

I’d wanted to be a writer from the time I was old enough to scrawl in my pink diary “I love Paul” about the newly arrived cute Beatle. I’m now convinced that if I had chosen a less girly color for my diary and had loved a Beatle with more character, I would have become a writer much sooner. But I never had the nerve to admit my ambitions to anyone or to do anything about them.

Several of my college teachers told me I wrote well and fluently. I enjoyed doing term papers. But I didn’t have the confidence to go for a degree in creative writing — or just write. Instead, I opted to go to graduate school in literature where, after years of churning out academic tomes, I developed the prose style of Henry James and the clarity of Yogi Berra. I lost the ability to write direct, clear sentences.

In addition, the topic of my Ph.D. dissertation was Paul Blackburn, a poet who died in 1971 at age 44. Many of his peers were still alive when, a decade later, I went to the University of California at San Diego, where Blackburn’s widow had sold his papers, to do research.  I worked at the Archive for New Poetry, the hub of the thriving literary scene, and met many acclaimed writers.

I liked hanging out with all these smart, interesting people and never felt looked down on by them. But I never told them I wanted to be a writer. They were the real deal. I was a wannabe.

Becoming an Editor

Going to work at a publishing company after I got my degree didn’t advance my writing career either. I was thrilled to happen into a job at Simon & Schuster and in an interesting department, Prentice Hall Travel. I was sure I was establishing publishing connections. But connections for what? I wasn’t doing any writing. What did it matter who I knew?

The same was true for my next two travel publishing jobs, at Random House/Fodor’s and Rough Guides in London.

It took moving to Tucson, where I knew no one and had no job, to reinvent myself as a freelance writer.  True, I was mostly updating and, eventually, writing guidebooks, which are very formulaic. Still, when people asked me what I did, I could tell them that I was a writer without feeling like a fraud. I got some personal essays published in newspapers, pieces I really liked. I didn’t get paid for them, but at least my work was in print. (I’m now slapping my former self for wanting the “exposure.” Forgive me, future Edie.)

Eventually, I started writing for magazines, mostly travel stories because now my travel publishing connections were finally coming in handy. Some of the pieces were creative and appeared in print more or less how I wrote them, but many more had the heart edited out of them — including the infamous nudist resort story.

Getting a Dog, Writing a Blog

And then I got a dog, my first, the beloved Frankie. Turned out, he hated to travel. When he developed diabetes, leaving him at home was difficult. I spent less and less time on the road.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I ended up writing a dog book and then a dog blog to publicize the book. For the first time in my life, I wrote what I wanted to, in my style, in my voice. Not only did people like my writing, but they didn’t know me as anything else except as a writer. That was my identity.

Still, although my dog book was funny and my own creation, not everyone considers a dog book “real” writing. More to the point, I had another story to tell.

Which brings me to my Kickstarter and Caitlyn Jenner.

Getting Naked for Money

I chose a title for my book that is racy so people would notice it. Some might think it’s a bit unseemly for someone of my age. And doing a Kickstarter? That’s also a young person’s game.

And I’m asking for a nice sum of money to accomplish my goals of writing and self-publishing — not a few million, granted, but enough to place me outside of my comfort zone, to bring back my insecurities about not being worthy of the writer title.

So who am I to judge a woman who some dub not “real,” who presents herself in a flashy package that might be considered age inappropriate? Maybe I’d better look in the mirror before venturing an opinion on Caitlyn Jenner.

***

Like this piece? Please contribute to my Kickstarter campaign and make my memoir happen.

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About the Author

ejarolim@mac.com'
Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

6 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Ruth.ar@gmail.com' Ruth says:

    Really, really interesting – to see you in this way….

  2. bfree1@tampabay.rr.com' Becky says:

    Really hoping your Kickstarter will be as successful as C.J.’s (please let’s just call her that!). After all I pledged because I really like you’re writing style and voice and so do many others. We want to read your second book! Not at all unseemly, just the new life of a writer.

  3. lydia@cyberscribe-inc.com' Lydia says:

    As always: funny, insightful, self-deprecating and eminently readable! Brava to you for fearlessly stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing your realness. Here’s to a very successful transition for both E.J. and C.J.!

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