Eventually I learned that I can survive heartbreak, and I wrote more poems. This led to being published in Ms. magazine, the brainchild of my idol Gloria Steinem. All told, I earned $150. I decided to try my hand at commercial copywriting, which pays somewhat more amply.
I remember preparing a massive presentation five years into my first advertising copywriter's job (at a small agency located in a desultory suburb whose name had to do with walnuts). It was a presentation for a gaggle of car dealers who were meeting at a fancy resort in Maui. I had worked hard to add the finishing creative touches, and just as I completed the task, my boss called me into his spacious office. He informed me that although most of my colleagues were bound for Hawaii, I would not be attending the meeting. I was to stay behind, like Cinderella.
That day I revised my résumé and faxed it to the creative director of a large agency in San Francisco. The timing was ideal; the agency had just landed a huge account. I was interviewed by a woman who ignored my hideous portfolio of car ads and just like the honest way I described my job and my frustration with it. She met me on a Saturday and called with an offer the next Monday—and within an hour, I gave my two-week notice. "Don't get mad, get even" is not my motto. My motto is, "Do feel angry and don't just get even—go to a much higher place where they can't see you from their lawn chairs, which are probably missing slats."
My first novel was represented by a very encouraging literary agent in the state of Washington. After being rejected by no fewer than 19 publishing houses, I shelved the book. As a teacher of Anne Lamott's once told her, "Every writer has a novel that isn't published. This will be yours." I felt bruised but not broken. I retained a wild optimism based on youth and the affable nature of many of the rejection letters. Several editors stated that I obviously had talent. But they gently added, I had forgotten to include one small detail: a plot. I made a mental note: Remember to have a plot.