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.
Here 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.
Today, we’re happy to highlight the work of Rhonda Gilmour of Tacoma, Washington.
What kind of work or passion are you pursuing now?
I write steamy contemporary romance novels and novellas.
How old were you when you began in this new direction?
What did you do before you made this change?
I taught high school English, German, French, and theater on U.S. military bases (Army, the Air Force) in Germany for 27 years.
What prompted you to make this change?
I started writing (as yet unpublished) cozy mysteries during the last 6 years or so of my teaching career, partly because I love reading that genre and partly because it’s so bloody therapeutic to kill people—only on paper, of course. After reading an article on how lucrative writing erotica can be, I tried my hand at a steamy short story about a widowed bookseller with an extensive collection of historical erotica. Turns out, that story wanted to be a full-length novel. I’ve never had such fun with a writing project! Now, writing under the pen name Sadira Stone, I have two published steamy contemporary romances with The Wild Rose Press and another coming next spring. The writing community, especially romance writers, is incredibly supportive, and you’ll never meet a more fun group of women.
What from your previous work or life situation helped you in your reinvention?
Twenty-seven years as a high school English teacher exposed me to excellent writing and gave me a deep sense of story structure. After channeling my creative energy into fostering young writers’ skills, it’s great to finally work full-time on my own writing.
What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome?
Hubs and I retired from our teaching careers overseas and came back to the U.S. in 2014. Talk about culture shock! Of course, we’d visited most summers, but it took quite a while to feel at home and make friends.
How are you overcoming them?
We both tried different part-time jobs and volunteer positions to engage with our new community. It’s slow going, making new friends at our age. Our overseas jobs provided a sort of instant family that’s lacking here, where most people we meet have deep roots that go back years. I found fellow writers through Meetup.com, then through joining the Romance Writers of America.
What fears did you have to face?
Part of me feared looking ridiculous—I mean, I’m a woman of a certain age writing sexy romance. Many readers are quite vocal when looking down their noses at mere “genre fiction,” especially my genre. But my inner ham prevailed, and I’m learning to promote my author brand and my work. It’s part of the job—and I love the job. How great to finally be able to say that from my whole heart. There were aspects of teaching I loved, but it’s exhausting, frustrating, often thankless work.
What kind of support did you receive in your reinvention?
Writing friends are the best! My weekly critique group, my RWA chapter in Olympia, Washington, and hundreds of online writing friends have been sooooo supportive and helpful. Writing conferences like the Emerald City Writers’ Conference in Bellevue, Washington give me big booster shots of education, inspiration, and fellowship. In our business, a rising tide truly does lift all boats.
How have you grown or how has your life improved as a result of taking on this new pursuit?
It’s so fulfilling to spend my days working in my own space (my sweet, messy, book-lined little home office) at my own pace and—not gonna lie—in yoga pants. I’m using the best parts of my brain, both the creative and analytical sides, to craft stories that give me joy and, hopefully, give readers a fun respite from their daily worries and strife.
What advice would you give to other women at this age who are looking to reinvent themselves?
Do it! Dip your toes in while still in your day job, but you owe it to yourself to try. Everyone needs a creative outlet, and this time of life is often when we finally get the freedom to turn a creative passion into a profession. Connect with others doing the sort of work you long to try. You won’t be sorry.