For women like us who have spent numerous years creating our identities around our work or our families, taking a step in a new direction can feel like a katydid molting its exoskeleton. It’s unsettling and liberating in equal measures, possibly painful–we can’t ask the katydid–and we suspect, itchy.
In this regular feature on reinvention, we share stories of women who have scratched a new itch. We hope these stories may provide the insight and encouragement for others to leave their old skin–familiar and easy as it is–and go into a new world a little naked and scared. But not alone.
Here, we’re happy to highlight the work of Kathie Bennett of Spartanburg, SC.
What kind of work or passion are you pursuing now?
My work as an author advocate and publicist was birthed with creation of summer reading program for high school students. As a mom I realized schools are segregated with the “haves” and the “have-nots,” so the program was birthed by gifting every student in local high school a book to read during the summer. In May 2008, 2,000 books were distributed, and in September students enjoyed Literacy Day. Over the first week of school, two celebrated authors of books spent all day talking about books and running writing workshops. The program received national press through a column in the Washington Post, and I became the publicist in the course of one week, with authors reaching out from around the country. Magic Time Literary Publicity was born in 2010 and today we represent over 30 award-winning and bestselling authors.
How old were you when you began in this new direction?
What did you do before you made this change?
I retired from Delta Air Lines in 2012 after 35 years as flight attendant.
What prompted you to make this change?
Discovering your passion or talent is gift in life.
Representation of gifted writers is a higher calling. I wanted to help favorite writers have the time to write original thought that transforms the soul. Finding the best and most meaningful opportunities for authors to speak to their writings and sell their beloved books is a work of my heart. Discovering your passion or talent is gift in life.
What from your previous work or life situation helped you in your reinvention?
Growing up my parents challenged us to make a difference every day. Making straight A’s was never as important as giving back in meaningful ways. Over the years I have served on numerous boards as a fundraiser and chair with the goal of growing opportunities to serve the needs of the larger community. My determination as a fundraiser birthed successful events and philanthropic endeavors.
What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome?
Becoming a publicist at age 55 was the biggest obstacle and not ever having worked in the book world. I would say not living in New York City was an obstacle. We live in Spartanburg, South Carolina, so relationships on the literary landscape have been hard won.
How are you overcoming them?
I still have great fear of disappointing an author.
Perseverance and delivery of excellence at every turn are core to our representation. We have never advertised so the story of our representation has spread as word of mouth–from author to author.
What fears did you have to face?
I still have great fear of disappointing an author, and my greatest fear is not making a book happen! We begin working on a book months before publication so the project is very much work of the heart.
What kind of support did you receive in your reinvention?
My children, who were teenagers, and my husband were skeptical in the early years. In recent years my husband has stepped away from a successful banking career to help run this company as a business. I have to admit I was giving too much away so today we are better equipped to take care of all sides of multi-genre representation.
How have you grown or how has your life improved as a result of taking on this new pursuit?
My life has improved on every level with the pursuit of excellence on behalf of a growing number of truly gifted writers. During this pandemic and quarantine we have had to “reinvent” all over again, figuring out new ways to bring about successful tours and introductions to a wide reader audience. A great book tour is similar to a truly successful grass roots political campaign.
What advice would you give to other women at this age who are looking to reinvent themselves?
Search for your talent or passion in life. At age 50, that talent was not apparent to me in the midst of life as a busy mom and international flight attendant. Turn the rocks over and over looking for what brings true fulfillment. Once that talent is discovered, then dedication, resilience, and perseverance are core to success. Skepticism may abound because we are women and women over 50 without proven success in a new field. Determination is the key to success in the face of any and all obstacles.