notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Beginner’s Luck

I hate Beginner’s Luck.

Beginner’s Luck is the way the universe makes raspberries at your ego.

I didn’t have beginner’s luck as a kid. I didn’t have any kind of luck. I was the type of kid who never drew an ace in a game of War, but I could count on getting the Old Maid. I got the only word I didn’t know in the spelling bee. The church bazaar had one of those fishing games where you hooked a prize. Four friends in a row got a pound of fudge. I got a kazoo. I shouldn’t have bothered the rest of the neighborhood with Eeny-meeny-miny-mo. I should have just said, “I’ll go last.”

I blame my parents. My parents occasionally enjoyed going to the horse races. But they were not lucky. Many years ago, upon returning from their vacation in Florida, I asked my mother whether she had a good time.

“We hit a horse,” she said.

“That’s great!” I said. “How much did it pay?”

“We hit a horse,” she repeated. “With our car.”

So coming from those genes it’s no surprise that I didn’t have much experience with beginner’s luck. That all changed when I hit thirty.

***

I was on a business retreat in Virginia. One of the activities was a golf tournament. I like Golf, but it is not exactly my sport. (No sport is my sport; but that’s another post.) So I felt a rare stroke of luck when it rained the whole trip. Our event planners quickly improvised a replacement challenge – a pool tournament.

Well, I had never played pool before. But there was plenty of beer involved, and someone showed me how to hold the cue. I figured I would just relax and at least pretend that I was a good sport.

But the most amazing thing happened.

I won.

And I thought, Holy crap. Maybe I’m a natural. Is there an Olympic team for this?

So the next time I had an opportunity to play pool, I put a little money on it.

Ha Ha on me.

***

About ten years later I was making some excellent progress in my career. Slow, steady incremental rungs on the ladder of success.

Our humongous corporation had just been acquired by an even humonger corporation. And I had to present our Long Range Plan to the top strategic executives. I ran into a co-worker friend as I walked into corporate headquarters. We discussed the future of the industry for just a few minutes in the elevator. My friend opened his briefcase and handed me a Goldman Sachs report. “Take a look at this – it tends to support your premise.”

I had a chance to scan the report before my meeting. I chanced upon a chart with data that backed up my somewhat radical, certainly unconventional forecasts.

The new owners were dubious when I presented my plan. And extremely condescending . One of these top guys (and aren’t they always guys?) said, “I don’t think Wall Street would agree with you,” in the tone of voice where you can almost hear the unspoken words, “Little Lady.”

And I pulled out my borrowed research tome and tossed it on the conference table with a thud.

“Goldman Sachs agrees. Page 74.”

And my CEO – who also now had these smug new bosses – gave me a nod and a covert little smile for showing up the officious jerks.

And I was a Vice President by the end of the month.

Ha! A promotion based on a fortuitous elevator ride. Beginner’s Luck in the new corporation.

I forgot I worked for Stress & Holler, Inc. Being a vice president – except for the money, of course – sucked.

Ha Ha on me.

  ***

I was an English major in college. I wanted to write. But I got a little sidetracked. By a desire for food.

So I abdicated my literary dreams and got an M.B.A. And worked as a financial executive for the next twenty-five years. And I really didn’t mind. I was good at budgets and analysis and made pretty good money. I had (and still have) no complaints.

But sometime after I turned 50, I began to think about how I used to love to write. And I started to miss it. I took a few online courses. Memoir Writing was the first one, and I remember my older sister wondering what I could possibly write about. “Memoir?” she asked. “No offense, Nancy, but we had the nicest sweetest childhood imaginable. That would make a pretty boring memoir. Who would want to read about playing hopscotch and taking a ride in the car?”

Surfing the net one day, I stumbled upon a call for entries for a planned book of essays. Marlo Thomas’ The Right Words at the Right Time, published a few years before, consisted of a hundred short essays from the very famous, each one recounting how someone’s wise words at a pivotal moment had made a profound difference in the renowned person’s life. All the profits from the book went to St. Jude Children’s Hospital – and it had been a best seller. So Ms. Thomas was planning a second volume, this time with non-celebrities.

And I had that kind of story.  And I was certainly a non-celebrity. I scribbled my essay into a tiny notebook while on a plane to a business meeting. Back home, I typed it up, cut it by 50%, and sent it in.

And about a year later, I got a phone call from Marlo Thomas’ editor. “We loved your story,” he said. “It’s going to be in the book.” And it was!  I was published!  And in a book that was on the best-sellers list for a couple of weeks.

So there, big sis! People DO want to read about my sweet but boring life!

This is EASY, I thought.  The very first thing I ever submitted is a best-seller.  I have a real talent. (But I think I will start making things up, so actually interesting things will happen in my stories.)

And over the next several years, I did it. I wrote a novel.

I’m a novelist. I can retire and write full time. I’ll live on my royalties.

Ha Ha on me.

 royalty

47 Comments

  1. HaHa! You are right. We will never be rich! ~Elle

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  2. It’s a start!!,

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  3. TIME TO GO TO VEGAS.

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  4. Hey, you just got paid for your writing. Way to go!

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  5. There would need to be a “thousand” between the “hundred” and the “sixty-seven” for me to even begin breathing hard. But that would do it.

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  6. It sounds like you are the person to be around the 1st time you do something. It might not be much but you got paid to do something you love. Write. Not many can say that. You got paid to write something you wanted to write. Even fewer can say that. Your book was great and I really enjoyed it. People are missing out if they are not buying it.

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    • Thanks, Silkpurse! That’s an interesting thing to think about… maybe I should just try EVERYTHING… ONCE!!!
      If you haven’t posted a review on Amazon or Goodreads, I’d really appreciate it if you would. Reviews are vital – especially to new authors.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Christine

    It may not be a fortune, but the check represents accomplishing something you always wanted to do. Now you have a choice — frame the check or spend it on something completely impractical. (My suggestion –frame a photocopy and spend it.)

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    • Impractical sounds good to me! It won’t take me long to blow it!

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  8. I’m not lucky either. I was running Bingo cards for 5 other people plus my own. I won five prizes. Ho hum.

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    • Ha! I remember once being at some talk where they said to look under your chair for a prize. EVERY chair had a prize. Except one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It makes you think there’s some conspiracy doesn’t it!!

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        • I just inherited the wrong genes. But I am lucky to be able to do what I love. (and earn money at something I don’t hate…)

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Looks like real money to me! For something you wanted to do! All good stuff! Congrats! (and don’t spend it on the ponies!)

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    • I love the ponies just like my parents did. But I seldom put a wager down. My parents were married on Kentucky Derby Day, and every year we would get together and have a little party to watch the event. I would go to OTB and buy a ticket on every horse, and pass them around, so SOMEONE in the family would win. Guess how many times it was me???

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  10. No matter how small the amount, if you get paid for doing something you love, it’s worth it!

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  11. I need ti edit my comment: “if you get paid for doing something you love, any amount is good!”.

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    • It’s true. I’m thrilled that anyone at all is reading my book. But it would be really nice to at least recoup the cost of the cover design.

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  12. I loved your book! I tore through it in a matter of days. Let’s have a contest – draw names of who I can send it to next – let’s see where this little story can go 🙂 MJ

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    • Thanks emjay! What a great idea! I am also running a little (3 book) giveaway on Goodreads that ends Monday. Anyone can go register… Goodreads pulls the names so anyone can win!
      PS – If you haven’t yet posted a review on Amazon or Goodreads, I’d really appreciate it if you would. Reviews are so important – especially to new authors.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Nancy, you are such a good writer. I enjoy reading every post and I loved reading your book. 🙂

    Beginner’s luck works for me once in a blue moon (Texas Hold’em poker game), but bad luck is definitely more common for me (the very first lottery ticket I bought was some sort of “control” ticket with garbly make no sense stream of characters).

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    • I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the bogus ticket! Just figured I didn’t understand how the game worked…

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  14. Hey, it is a start and I think it is very cool.

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    • Thanks, Val. I am thrilled just to have finally done it. (But, man, it would be good if it would support me!!!)

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  15. Nice! I just recently stumbled upon your blog, and have enjoyed your posts. I am too an English major that was sidetracked. : ) And I am now working my way back to writing. So, you go girl!

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    • And you too! It is so totally worth it. The day I held that book in my hands was one of the best days of my life.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. You are also blessed with balance between your left and right brain. You seem to be equally comfortable with words and numbers. What a gift! (I linked back to your piece for the Marlo Thomas book, and loved it. Here’s a quote someone gave me recently, from Salvador Dali: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”)

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  17. I hate to tell you this, but that’s a decent check. Keep writing.

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  18. I’ll help you out a bit– I’m buying your book today! Sorry it had to wait until now, but a series of unfortunate events ate up all my spare cash. Now I get to order your book and the lovely sewing crafts of another fellow blogger! Hooray!

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  19. Fabulous post! Such a fun read. I didn’t want it to end. And congrats to you on being published. I know how hard that is.

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  20. Yes, that rich writer’s life! Congratulations on your book. I’m not sure why writers write. I guess its a compulsion. Maybe its masochism. Maybe its both. But its fun… sometimes.

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  21. Nancy! I stayed up way too late last night so I could finish your book. I loved it! One of those books you just disappear into. The whole third “act” I kept saying “Yesssss!” quietly to myself (so as not to wake my family, who all went to bed at a reasonable hour.) My sister Charlotte saw the book on our breakroom table at work and called dibs on next reading, then my mom wants it and then Chrissy because she doesn’t want to be left out, and then probably Dad because there’s never been a book he could resist reading if it was around and other people were talking about it. Loved, loved, loved it!

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    • Oh THANKS SO MUCH! Thanks for liking it, and for telling me so, and for sharing it. I would SO APPRECIATE it if you would put a kind review on Amazon. For beginning, independent novelists like me…. reviews are critical !!

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      • Done! By the way, I was so proud of myself for already knowing how “Breault” was pronounced since I had a best friend growing up whose family name is Thibeault 😀 Her father always spelled it out T-E-B-O over the phone when he ordered Chinese food.

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        • The town in Connecticut where I grew up was full of French Canadian people – we all had last names like that… My maiden name is Dube, with a cute accent on the e. Pronounced Doo-BAY. If you’ve read any Stephen King (and who hasn’t) I think his Maine setting has lots of the same names I grew up with.

          Liked by 1 person

          • And I just saw your review! Thanks so much! And your review means a lot coming from someone I so admire!!!!

            Like

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