… and what I’ve done with my life since
By Jeff Salter
With the understanding that my career choices in those youngest years were not based on much factual info about the employment fields involved, here are some of the jobs I thought I’d enjoy.
The earliest I recall was about kindergarten age… when I was certain I wanted to be a fireman. It was nothing to do with fighting fires, per se — I just wanted to ride around in a big truck while standing up… and I thought they had cool helmets.
At some point I was informed that garbage men also got to ride around in big trucks while standing up… but they didn’t have the cool helmets.
Later, and for several years, I earnestly believe I was destined to be in the Old West as either a sheriff or a gunfighter. And toward that endeavor, I spent years practicing with a stick horse and a cap gun. Never quite made it, however, to either profession… much less the time travel to the 1870s.
In around fourth grade, I remember announcing to my Grandmother Robinson that I intended to be an ATHLETE when I grew up. That’s because I was fast, strong, loved to climb and swing, etc. However I was also a scrawny kid and Grandmother dashed my dreams in this regard by telling me flatly, “you can never be an athlete because you don’t eat enough to keep a bird alive.”
Having given up on those careers, I had pretty much decided by about fifth or sixth grade that I would be an author.
That goal / dream never left me, though it was tempered by a gradual awareness it was not particularly easy to make a living “doing” that.
Having been blessed by many wonderful English teachers whom I greatly admired, I decided (as a high school senior) I wanted to teach English to high schoolers. That was all about literature and writing — right? And if I had any spare time, I could do my own writing.
But even teaching was not my ultimate goal at that point. I figured to teach English for a few years and then become a H.S. guidance counselor [and write in my spare time].
During my first two years of college, I realized – through my dislike for (and poor results in) “education” classes – that I might not ever become a teacher.
Well, my first professional jobs were actually in the field of photojournalism – on two civilian newspapers and three military base papers. For a goodly chunk of that time, I served as an editor or assistant editor.
In photojournalism, I was writing nearly all the time, of course. But it was writing on assignment, on a deadline… and often subject to the immediate red pencil of an editor. I also discovered I did not really enjoy “hard news” … much preferring to write features and profile pieces. And take photos.
After some five years of newspaper work, I was back in college, to finish up my B.A. on the G.I. Bill. By then I had dropped “education” and shifted to “English” (which really means LITERATURE). And I had a funny notion I might go to grad school in English and teach literature and writing at some small college somewhere (that wouldn’t require a Ph.D.).
There was a brief period, in the summer of 1976, when I had three prospects open at the same time: to pursue a masters in English, to return to the military (this time as a Naval Officer Candidate), or to try a masters in library science.
Thus began what became roughly 30 years in librarianship (if you count 1.5 years of grad school, during which I worked part time in the Middleton Library at LSU). There were 2.5 years directing a small public library system in Catahoula Parish, LA… and 26 years as assistant director of a large public library system in Shreveport [Caddo Parish] LA.
During my library years, I was writing, of course, but most of it was on things like manuals, policies, documentation, correspondence, evaluations, reports, grant applications, etc. None of that was any fun and, while it took talent and ability and concentration, I did not consider most of it “creative” writing.
On Saturdays, however, I’d write poetry, and articles and book reviews. Some three dozen of my poems won awards and many were published. And somewhere along the line, I co-authored (with my brother) two non-fiction books – released by a royalty publisher – on aspects of librarianship. Also co-authored a signed article in a specialty encyclopedia, and a signed chapter in a book published by ALA.
That was writing, and I had become an author. Heck, my writing had even won awards.
But there was at least one more chapter in my life.
Though I had dabbled with short stories at various points of my life to that point, I never imagined I had any serious fiction writing inside me. In fact, I used to brag that I could say in 20 lines of poetry what a short story writer could say in 20k words of prose.
When I took an early retirement from library work and relocated to KY, I assumed I’d stay in contact with library people, go to library conferences, write book reviews, and continue with my poetry.
Imagine my surprise when my creative energy instead morphed into long fiction!
Now, having just completed my 11th novel manuscript and my third novella, I can say with reasonable certainty that I’m a novelist!
So my dream from fifth grade – to be an author – has essentially come true. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Astraea Press and Dingbat Publishing, I have produced seven novels and two novellas so far… and have contracts on two more novels and one novella. There’s another novel basically complete which I hope to submit soon.
I’m glad some of those earlier career choices didn’t pan out. I may have been an okay small town sheriff, but I doubt I would’ve lasted long as a gunfighter.
What were your “career” dreams as a kid? Did you ever work in those fields?