On Being a Working Writer: an Interview with Peggy Dougherty

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Peggy Dougherty

Peggy Dougherty, one of three panelists this Sunday speaking on THE WORKING WRITER

This Sunday, we’re hosting a panel on the working writer, to engage our members in conversation about finding balance and inspiration with our writing careers. In celebration of our final event in this year’s speaker series, we have asked some questions of panelist Peggy Dougherty.

Peggy is an award-winning playwright whose plays have had had thirty-eight productions. Her plays (all comedies) have been performed in New York City, San Diego, Los Angeles, Boca Raton, Houston, San Francisco, Great Britain, Toronto, and elsewhere. Peggy is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., and The Drama Association of Rossmoor. She published her first novel, Age Matters, in 2018.

But she also had a day job for many years as a clinical psychologist In 2013 Peggy published a self-help book, The Ten Minute Cognitive Workout: Manage Your Mood and Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day (authored by Peggy Dougherty Snyder, Ph.D.). The book won the 2013 San Diego Book Award for Best Self-Help.

At our Sunday meeting, Peggy will share how she juggled her professional career as a clinical psychologist with her passion for writing. She will discuss how her profession informed her writing and how being self-employed helped her carve out a viable writing schedule. She’ll also share the boundaries she established between her psychology practice and her devotion to her writing passion.Age Matters book cover Peggy Dougherty

1. How do you balance the different ‘hats’ that you wear, as a writer, salesperson, employee, etc? What helps you to get back into the writing headspace after you’ve shifted out of it?

One way I balanced them when I was working is I used different surnames. Peggy Snyder is a psychologist. Peggy Dougherty is a playwright/author. My first play, From Bed to Worse, was a comedy about a psychologist. I didn’t want my clients to hear about the play and think I was poking fun at psychotherapy. (I was poking fun at the psychologist.) So I authored the play and all my subsequent fiction writing as Peggy Dougherty. I had writing days and psychology days (because I didn’t see clients every weekday.) On writing days I introduced myself as Peggy Dougherty. On workdays, I was Peggy Snyder.

Peggy Dougherty's nonfiction book

Peggy Dougherty’s nonfiction book

2. What avenues do you suggest for writers who need more income?

Free-lance writing and/or copywriting. I tried my hand at both with little success, but when I wasn’t working I wanted to work on my current playwriting project–which I started longer ago than I care to admit. Another idea is to get a gig writing a newslettter for an organization.

3. Do you personally prefer day-jobs that involve writing, or that let you do something completely different and take a break from writing?

I prefer a day job that does not involve writing. I have spoken with several writers whose jobs involved several hours each day on the computer. They all said it was difficult to sit down at the computer when they returned home in the evening.

4. What are some tips for time management that have worked for you?

Where do you sneak away downtime to write? I am pretty good about sticking to a writing schedule. At least I was before moving to Rossmoor in August of 2017. In Rossmoor there is a revolving calendar of interesting and exciting events all day/every day. It is like living on a cruise ship without the non-stop buffets or sea sickness. (I especially like my Zumba class, taught by a CWC author!) However, currently I try to devote the mid portion of my day from 11:00 to 5:00-6:00 to writing. This has been a difficult adjustment because I write best in the morning. On writing days in San Diego, where fitness classes started at 7:30 a.m., I was usually at my computer by 9:00- 9:30 and wrote until 5:00. Prior to retirement I seldom tried to write on a psychology day. It was too heart-rending. I really kept a strong boundary between work and writing.


Meet Peggy Dougherty and Discuss Matters Important to Working Writers THIS SUNDAY

Peggy will be joined by fellow professional writers “the Answer Man” Thaddeus Howze and Paul Corman-Roberts, co-founder of the Beast Crawl festival. Watch for an interview with our other two panelists, and plan to attend this exciting panel on May 19th. This will be the final installment in the 2018-2019 speaker program!

Working Writer Panel May 19th

 

 

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5/19 PANEL: “The Working Writer”

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What did Anne Rice, Anton Chekhov, Frank McCourt, Franz Kafka, Harper Lee, Herman Melville, Jorge Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams and Virginia Woolf have in common? All of these writers had full-time day jobs.

The struggle all writers have in common, no matter what their genre or medium or level, is working the economy of creativity. Artists with trust funds are as rare as starving artists—the great in-between is filled with writers who are paying the bills. Join us for a panel discussion in May about how writers make their livings.

Working Writer Panel May 19th

“The Working Writer” will feature three writers with different relationships to work.

  • Thaddeus Howze makes a living with his writing
  • Paul Corman-Roberts makes a living doing something related to his writing
  • Peggy Dougherty, now retired, made a living doing something completely UNrelated to her writing.

Meet our Panelists:

thaddeus

Thaddeus Howze

Thaddeus Howze, also known as “The Answer Man” on Twitter and Quora, is comic historian and a prolific writer of speculative fiction, scientific, technical and cultural commentary. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories, and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013), an urban fantasy novella starring paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram. Thaddeus works as a writer and editor for two magazines: the Good Men Project, a social men’s magazine; and Krypton Radio, a sci-fi enthusiast media station and website. He is also a freelance journalist for Polygon.com and Panel & Frame magazine. Thaddeus is the co-founder of Futura Science Fiction Magazine and one of the founding members of the Afrosurreal Writers Workshop in Oakland.

“I define myself as a “working writer” – someone who has accepted the changing nature of work in the modern era and is utilizing “streams of income” in which my goal is to have writing become my main source of income. I have worked in the tech field and in the gig economy (Dasher and Uber), but have developed online patronage through Patreon, staff writing (through Krypton Radio and The Good Men Project) and technical writing assignments with different video-game and computer-technology companies.”

pcrPaul Corman Roberts

Paul Corman-Roberts is well known in the local literary scene as an original co-founder of the Beast Crawl Literary Festival, an electrifying poet, and a warm human presence. He is the author of the full length poetry collection Water for the House of Yes, forthcoming from Nomadic Press in early 2020, the a chapbook collection 19th Street Station that will be reissued from Full of Crow Press later this year, Coming World/Gone World (Howling Dog Press,, 2006), Notes From an Orgy (Paper Press, 2014) and We Shoot Typewriters (Nomadic Press, 2015.) He is an instructor at both the San Francisco Creative Writing Institute and the Older Writer’s Lab in San Francisco, as well as a substitute teacher in the Oakland Unified School District.

Paul Corman-Roberts will speak to the experience of being a contract worker in the literary scene while balancing that work with full- to part-time payroll work positions outside of the arts while pursuing a career as a published writer. Paul can talk about event production and organization, teaching opportunities, and breaking down and throwing your labor in with the service industry. Ask him how to stay sane in this tectonic landscape of the gig economy!

PDS & 10 coverPeggy Dougherty

Peggy Dougherty is an award-winning playwright whose plays have had had thirty-eight productions. Her plays (all comedies) have been performed in New York City, San Diego, Los Angeles, Boca Raton, Houston, San Francisco, Great Britain, Toronto, and elsewhere. Peggy is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., and The Drama Association of Rossmoor.

Peggy, a clinical psychologist now retired, has thirty-five years of clinical experience working with adults, couples, children, and families. In 2013 Peggy published a self-help book, The Ten Minute Cognitive Workout: Manage Your Mood and Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day (authored by Peggy Dougherty Snyder, Ph.D.). The book won the 2013 San Diego Book Award for Best Self-Help.

Age Matters, Peggy Dougherty’s first novel, was published on October 5, 2018. This comic novel is a satiric take on age, Hollywood, and relationships. Now that Age Matters has finally been published, Peggy’s plan is to recommit full time to playwriting—but her recalcitrant novel refuses to promote itself! She is eager to talk about

WHEN PROFESSION VIES WITH PASSION! Peggy will share how she juggled her professional career as a clinical psychologist with her passion for writing. She will discuss how her profession informed her writing and how being self-employed helped her carve out a viable writing schedule. She’ll also share the boundaries she established between her psychology practice and her devotion to her writing passion.

 

Watch for an interview with all three writers by Cristina Deptula, and plan to attend this exciting panel on May 19th. This will be the final installment in the 2018-2019 speaker program! 


MEETING SCHEDULE

12:00–1:00 – Craft Support Group
1:00–2:00 – Marketing Success Group

2:00–2:30 – Writer Networking
2:30–3:00 – Welcome, Raffle & Club Announcements and ELECTION!

3:00–4:00 – PANEL: THE WORKING WRITER

Meetings are $5 for members, $10 for non-members*

  • Coffee is provided, bring cookies and treats to share!
  • Admission includes 1 free raffle ticket

PLEASE PLAN TO PURCHASE A RAFFLE TICKET! Only $1 each or 6 for $5, every ticket supports the club’s programs. You can win a book written by our club authors!

*Empty pockets? Ask about our sponsored guest program at the door. We are writers helping writers, and sometimes that means a welcoming place.

1204 Preservation Park Way, Oakland, CA 94612

Our meetings are right off 980 in downtown Oakland, at beautiful Preservation Park. Just off 12th Street, naturally you can get there from the 12th St. BART station. Those with limited ability can use the parking lot off of MLK Way; otherwise there should be plenty of FREE parking within the park and on surrounding streets.

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SAVE THE DATES!
Our Forthcoming Events:

  • June 5 Setting that Works!  A workshop with John Byrne Barry
  • May 4 Writers Social at Bay Area Book Festival 3-6pm at the Saturn Café. Sponsored by the Wolf Pack Writers Action Group: let’s talk about the weather—and how to change it BACK.
  • May 4-5 Visit our booth at the Bay Area Book Festival!
  • May 27 CWC Writers at Bay Area Generations 
  • June 15 Member Book Launch & Showcase at the Octopus Literary Salon!

 

 

Interview with Marty Nemko, our Guest for This Sunday, Sept. 16th

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book cover for Careers for Dummies by Marty Nemko

Marty Nemko is the author of Careers for Dummies, as well as hundreds of articles in national magazines.

This month, the California Writers’ Club has harnessed the wisdom of Bay Area author and career coach Marty Nemko. At our regular meeting, Sunday September 16th, he’ll speak to how to apply career-building knowledge and hip wisdom to your literary pursuits.

As a career coach, would you say that creative writers need to plan their careers in the same way that other job seekers do?

First, I’m assuming that by “career,” you’re talking about people who expect to make at least a modest living from their writing and ancillary activities such as paid speaking engagements.

Of course, a small percentage of successful writers succeed because of raw talent, great connections, and, yes, luck—being at the right place at the right time with the right writing. Alas, that’s too rarely the case, so let’s focus on the more typical situation. There are three key factors. On the following continua, the more to-the-right, a writer is, the greater the chances of pecuniary success.

Of course, beyond those three, there is that ineffable but central factor of talent. There are many ways to try to assess talent, all of them imperfect: Internal self-appraisal, comparing your work with that of writers you respect, feedback from respected people—especially those you’re not paying, your previous publication record, and contest results.

What are some similarities and differences between setting up a regular job search and seeking to develop your career as a writer?

As in most job searches, alas, connections matter. Perhaps that’s even more so in writing because judging of writing is so subjective. If someone likes you as a person, that halo tends to spread over your work. So, while I must admit I do not practice what I’m going to recommend, it helps to regularly connect—at book fairs as well as in writing solid and human queries— with people with the power to help you make that middle-class living as a writer. Typically, that means editors and media outlets that pay writers well. That isn’t always the biggest publications. For example, I’ve written 20 articles and essays for TIME’s Ideas section and, although I’m not shy about negotiation, they said, “The pay is zero. Take it or leave it.” Alas, the outlets that tend to pay well tend to do that because they otherwise couldn’t attract good writers. So, a trade publication or a mutual fund may, alas, be more likely to pay writers decently. Of course, check Writer’s Digest for a fuller look at writer’s pay.

And of course, you need to send your stuff out to lots of potential publishers, recognizing that even the work of well-published writers get rejected a lot.

Are you going to discuss how you can get a ‘day-job’ that encourages some writing and fosters one’s creativity or are you going to focus more on approaching your own writing like an entrepreneur: writing for paid publication, building your platform, etc?

Marty Nemko

This Sunday, talk to Marty Nemko about your writing career

I’m not planning to talk much about that. The advice in my previous answers, of course, pertains. Common sense dictates that if you’re not yet making a living at your writing, unless you’re living off of someone else’s money, you’ll need a day job. And of course, most writers would find it more fun and facilitative of writing to work in an environment such as a bookstore or a place/people you’d be writing about. So, for example, if you’re planning to write about life as a waitperson, take such a job, as Barbara Ehrenreich did in preparing to write Nickel and Dimed.

It’s a reality that many writers will need some sort of day-job, at least for part of their writing lives. Would you advise writers to go for day jobs that involve creativity, writing, etc. or does it tend to work best to have a position that doesn’t require as much stress and leaves time for writing on the side?

Stress so often is internally caused. Some people can work in what’s widely deemed a high-stress job (e.g., Emergency Medical Technician) and be calm. So, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. I’d rather suggest that each writer decide what sort of job yields the optimal combination of money, flexibility, low-stress, short commute/work from home, and facilitates their writing.

marty-nemko_9-16

What do you think is the biggest attitude shift, or action, that a writer can take that would help them better plan or advance their careers? What are some misconceptions or mistakes that hold us back professionally?

Alas, it’s hard to get honest feedback. Most teachers are inclined to be encouraging. Friends find it awkward to say, “You’re not good enough to expect to make a living from your writing.” In addition, we hear messages that we all deserve good self-esteem. So, a lot of writers (and many others) have unwarranted optimism, sometimes because, deep down, they don’t want a “real” job.

So the big attitude change I’d wish on writers is that they make a clear-eyed assessment of their potential to make a living as a writer. If they have inadequate information to make that decision, they need to get sufficient such information, for example, by asking for honest feedback. Of course, if they choose to write without expecting to make a living at it, write on!

What advice would you give to Writers’ Club members who are retired or who are homemakers and who are really writing as a hobby rather than a career?

I’m feeling relaxed having read that question. Even though I’ve made significant money from my writing, my net hourly wage is low and, importantly, looking back, the main benefits I have derived from my writing are not pecuniary: I like the process of writing, I like the thought that my writing will help people, and I like that writing clarifies my thinking about a subject.

What in your presentation will be useful to them?

I like to think my talk will be useful to most people and hopefully at least moderately entertaining. I promise it will be an honest look at my life as a writer—beauty marks and warts.

Thank you very much! We look forward to meeting you and hearing you in person on Sunday the 16th.


Marty Nemko’s books have been published by Ten Speed/Random House, Avon, Barron’s, and Wiley, including the just published Careers for Dummies. He’s written 20 articles for TIME’s Ideas section, a column for The Atlantic, an eight-part series, “What’s the Big Idea” for the Washington Post’s Innovations section, 100 pieces for U.S. News, 1,240(!) on PsychologyToday.com, plus five years as columnist on the front page of a section of the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle before going national. That’s all while being a full-time career and personal coach (the SF Bay Guardian dubbed him “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” and being in his 29th year as host of Work with Marty Nemko on KALW 91.7 FM (and NPR San Francisco).

Ask Marty your questions about the arc of a writing career this Sunday, September 16th at our next monthly meeting.

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