Welcome to my Second Acts Series!
Today, we have Soul Mate Author Gay Yellen sharing her extraordinary journey from high school Economics class to literary publication via Hollywood.
First Act: I’ve always written. Dr. Seuss was an early influence, and I still write silly verse for fun. In high school I wrote my best poetry in Economics class, to the chagrin of my teacher. But my writing career didn’t begin until after I got Hollywood out of my system.
The need for change: Performing came naturally to me. After college I moved to L.A. and began an acting career. While I managed to get film and TV work, I hated the life (yes, it’s as tough as the stories you hear).
First Act, Part 2: I decided to apply to the Director’s Guild, which led to a job behind the camera as the Assistant to the Director of Production at The American Film Institute. I worked with thesis film students on their productions, helped cast actors, secure and manage location shooting, arrange with major studios to use their back lots for filming, their props, costumes, etc., and facilitated editing and post-production.
The need for change: I loved working at AFI, but the pay was meager.
Second Act, Part 1: A friend heard that a magazine needed a last-minute substitute to cover a story over the weekend. I jumped at it, even though I didn’t know a thing about the subject, or about magazines, for that matter. After I turned in the article, the magazine offered me an editing position. It paid much more than the AFI job, so I took it. In a couple of years, I moved to another magazine, where a series I wrote won a national journalism award.
Second Act, Part 2: A book! I helped write an international thriller, Five Minutes to Midnight, which was my first taste of book publishing. Soon after, I fell in love, married, and thought I was finally free to try my hand at a solo novel.
Second Act, Part 3: I’d just completed the first draft of The Body Business when my husband asked me for help with the advertising for his new national marketing firm. “Can you come up to the office this afternoon and tell me why my ads in The Wall Street Journal aren’t working?” he pleaded. “You’ve been in magazines, so you know about advertising.”
I tried to explain that editors don’t normally deal with the ad department, but he was my husband, so I went. Fifteen years later, after creating countless marketing pieces, ads, and even investment prospectuses, we sold the company, and I retired as its V.P. of client and media communications, and advertising.
Second Act, Part 4: Finally, I was free to do my own work. I dusted off the old rough draft of my book and discovered that it had become a period piece, with pay phones, typewriters and snail mail playing pivotal roles in the action. I updated it to the 21st Century, put it through a critique circle and found Soul Mate Publishing. The Body Business was published in 2014.
Where are you now?
I’m working furiously on the sequel to The Body Business, and there are other projects in queue. I’m happy to finally affirm that writing is no longer my first, second or tenth act. It’s what I do.
Work to be as good as you can at what you do, and believe that your time to shine will come.
A great career. Fantastic boyfriend. Samantha Newman has it all, until her best friend vanishes, and doubt creeps in. Forced to choose between the success she’s worked hard to achieve and the hidden truth behind it, she risks everything and discovers a dark secret that could destroy her life forever.
Where to find Gay…
What a whirlwind! If you ever run out of ideas for novels, consider writing your memoirs. Thank you for an entertaining and inspiring post.