"Yeah!" I answered without pause.
"Good," he said. "Every other week do a round up of mass-market paperbacks, eight in each column. Like stringing together a bunch of Notables. You'll do fine. Pay is $250 per."
After we hung up, I calculated. Mass-markets are those 4x7s racked in grocery stores, newly published, not re-prints. Four a week! I have a baby. I'm a zombie-head low on sleep. I want time to swim and walk more. What was I thinking? Art had given me the phone number of the departing columnist.
"Do you read every single book all the way through?" I asked.
"Nooooo," he answered. "Skim, summarize, write. Easy."
The first carton that UPS set on our porch weighed a ton. I selected obscure authors because I wanted to give them a chance the famous had already enjoyed. But how do you skim a novel and be fair about its content? You'd miss plot nuances that could make what might at first seem mediocre turn into a heart-stopper. If flippant, you could devastate a new writer.
Over the next few years I did skim, but only almanacs, diets, recipes, and how-to's. Anything with a plot, I read cover to cover. Mysteries, Science Fiction, Romance.
I loved staying home doing mommy stuff and reading for my column. When baby Greg and I got antsy, we'd talk long walks downtown with the buggy then roll back to our bungalow. Writing the Soft Cover column was fun and great discipline. Limited to just a few lines per book taught me to keep it tight. No extra words.
Meanwhile I submitted short pieces to periodicals about motherhood and infants, obviously not breaking new ground because everything was rejected. I tried writing picture books but they, too, were rejected. Becoming an author was going to be harder than I'd realized.
From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.