It’s Just a Hobby, Right?

- by Rebecca York

Maybe twenty years ago, I was on a business trip with my husband.  He was visiting the Los Alamos National Lab.  And I was along for the ride.  Sort of.

Before I agreed to go on the trip, I wanted to make sure I could also work, since I had a novel under contract.  This was the era before low-cost laptops.  So my husband arranged for a contact  at Los Alamos to rent me a computer I could use in our hotel room.

I do remember some fun stuff while we were there.  We went out to dinner, visited the Science Museum, climbed into pueblo Indian dwellings at Bandelier National Monument, and poked around some jewelry stores.  But instead of hanging out with the other wives, I worked in our room most of the time.

I also remember a reception one evening, where I was chatting with my husband’s boss.  When he asked me about my novels, I told him what I was working on while I was there.

He looked me in the eye and said, “But it’s just a hobby, isn’t it?”
I answered, “No, it’s my job.”
And he came back with, “It’s just a hobby, right?”

Well, you can’t tell your husband’s boss he’s an ass, so I bit my lip. (Anybody who knows me understands how difficult it was to keep my mouth shut.)  But I kept wondering what the conversation meant.  Did he think that no novelist could have a real job?  No woman novelist?  Or was it just me?

I’ve always been serious about my career, even before I sold my first book.  Actually, before that, I was selling newspaper and magazine articles to local papers and national magazines.  I’ve always thought that it took three qualities to succeed as a novelist.  Hard work, talent and luck.  And not necessarily in that order.

I do work hard.  I apparently have enough talent for editors to keep buying from me. But what about the luck part?  That can mean being at the right place at the right time.  Like having a werewolf manuscript finished, just when Berkley was getting ready to start a dark paranormal line.  After they bought KILLING MOON, they got rid of their lines in favor of the Berkley Sensation imprint–and made my story one of their launch books.  And asked me for two more books in what is now my Moon Series. That’s a combination of talent and luck.

But there are things that a writer can do to make her own luck.  For me, one of them was joining NINC–the most professional writers’ organization I know of.  On the NINC bulletin board, I’ve got instant access to information about the business of writing.  I can discuss craft.  And I can even find out who’s scamming writers this month–and last.

Another benefit is the friendships I’ve made here.  I met one of my now best friends, Patricia Rosemoor, at the NINC conference in Baltimore.  We hit it off, and we’ve been e-mailing, getting together several times a year, and working on joint projects ever since.  And I’ve made other invaluable contacts.  I got my agent after vetting him through NINC members.  And some of the best conference sessions I’ve ever attended have been at NINC–like Lou Aronica’s overview of the publishing industry this year in New York.

I joined this organization in its first year, and I’ve been a member every since.   Now I’m on the board, working behind the scenes, and I have a much better idea of what it takes to make things run smoothly.  It’s a lot of hard work.  But there are compensations–like getting to participate in some of the major decisions.  (They know I’m also a cookbook author, so they consult me about conference menus. That’s how we ended up with those yummy stuffed potato appetizers at the opening reception in NY. <g>) And I’m proud that I roped in some of the “bonus content” on the electronic Ninc newsletter.

This is a great place to be.  Fun and creative.  And serious, all at the same time.  And I know it’s made a difference in my career over the years.

Rebecca York


  1. I loved your Moon Series!

  2. Thanks so much Estella. I love writing it.

  3. Wow, Rebecca, I can’t believe that guy was so rude to you! Just a hobby indeed!