My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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the life of a writer and the Exodus

This is I think a first – it’s Word on the Street, and I’m at home, will not be trekking around listening to writers and trying to claw my way through the crowds in the hot sun to look at books. I’m thrilled the event is such a success – but not for me today, with my cold, and also – with a kind of sadness about my profession. An article in the NYT: Since 2009, when eBooks and book piracy became a phenomenon, income for authors has declined 42 percent, according to a 2018 Authors Guild income survey, with the median income from writing now so low — just $6,080 a year — that poverty level looks like the mountaintop. By contrast, a 2017 Nielsen survey found that people who admitted to having read a pirated book in the previous six months tend to be middle class, educated, female as well as male, between the ages of 30 and 44 — and with an income of $60,000 to 90,000 a year. 

I have to say that $6000 US a year from writing sounds mighty good to me; almost all my money, as you know, comes from teaching, editing, and landladying. Mind you, I’ve been anything but singleminded in my pursuit of an income from writing. A former student of mine has a book being launched at WOTS today; she HAS been ferociously focussed, I’ve watched her progress upwards, and there’s no question she will make a success of this business. But I know few as fiercely singleminded. And certainly not me.

Anyway, I’m still recuperating and coughing and snuffling, though better. Seeing a movie with my son tonight, have not seen him for weeks and am anxious to connect, so will rest today to be in the best possible shape, not to mention well enough to teach tmw night.

The work on my parents’ letters proceeds slowly. They were both vivid, fluid writers, so I’m able to piece together details of parts of their lives I knew little about – my mother after the war, for example, working in northern Germany with the IRO – the International Refugee Organization – with refugees from the camps and other Displaced Persons, trying to find them permanent homes. 95% want to go to the States, she tells my dad who’s in New York, but can’t get visas so end up in France, Australia, Canada, even South America. She was on site when the Exodus, the ship packed with Holocaust survivors trying to land in Palestine and turned away by the British, was forced to land in Hamburg. My mother, among the many trying to help those on board find refuge. It was a terrible mistake to force them back to Germany, she knows, and the British are hated; she has to hide her nationality. Almost all, she says, will continue to fight to get to what they consider their homeland. It’s so very complicated, she sighs. If she only knew.

But now, I know so very much more than I did. It’s a thrilling exploration, even if sometimes, what they write about their children, about their young daughter and son, hurts. I can take it. I’m a writer, though I don’t earn even $6000 US a year at my job. My job is to try to figure things out and write about what I find. The pay is abysmal, but – it’s not just a job, it’s my life.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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