Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Cautionary Tale

This cautionary tale comes courtesy of Edie Pagliasotti.

Hooray! I got laid off and now I can write full time!

Yep, that was my mantra, and I was one happy camper. I was laid off from Paramount Pictures in 2008, after working as the administrative assistant to the president of Motion Picture Distribution for eighteen years. Our department negotiated the pricing and booked our films into theaters around the country and overseas. It was a great job. But what I really wanted to do was to write for children.

I had the good fortune to work for my boss as his private secretary until his one-year contract was up with the studio. I was moved out of my office and was sequestered into another office at Raleigh Studios across from Paramount. Fine by me. My boss decided to work from home. Rarely did he ever stop by our new digs. I literally revamped this office into my private writing office, complete with framed horse pictures, a large white board, scattered pictures of sand cats, inspirational desk doodads, etc. I even had my own filing cabinet. During that year, I got a great deal of research done on my nonfiction picture book manuscript, Under a Carpet of Sand/The Wild Sand Cat. And, boy did that year fly by!

Once the year had passed, I packed up this office and went home. I was now truly-really-finally laid off. Hooray! I can write full time!

The thing I was most nervous about in working from home (having never done so), was would I be disciplined enough to get the work done, and not sit on the couch eating Cheetos and watching Oprah? I surprised myself.

My work pattern was to shower, dress, and be at my desk by 8:00 a.m. I took an hour off for lunch. If I was having a good writing day, I would work until 3:00 p.m. If my brain was mush after four hours of working, then I took myself off to the library, or read, or swam, or walked, but never did I watch TV (odd…). I had never been happier in my life.

Then the money began to sputter. And here is where I made my mistake. I was so determined to write full-time that I did not consult with my financial advisor on whether this plan was feasible or not, in the long-term. I did not spend one moment on financial forecasting. Seven months later, when I finally met with my financial advisor, he gently advised me “to deal with reality” and informed me that I would have to return to a full-time job. My life as a full-time writer was over. I had simply retired too soon.

In Hollywood, timing is everything. I returned to the workforce (disgruntled to begin with) just when the economy was taking a nosedive. It seemed every business and studio in Los Angeles had a hiring freeze on. Finally, I did find another job at the Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union – and even today I consider myself one of the lucky ones to be working.

I look back on my stint as a full-time writer working at home as one of the best things that ever happened to me. I knew that once I could truly-really-finally leave my day job I would have the discipline necessary to sift through mountains of arduous research, the energy necessary to revise and polish manuscripts until they shined, and the courage to believe in myself and send only my best work to publishing houses. That was a worthy goal to achieve!

Oh, and my nonfiction picture book, Under a Carpet of Sand/The Wild Sand Cat, was judged “Most Promising” nonfiction manuscript at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Ventura/Santa Barbara Region’s Writer’s Day. Two publishing houses have expressed interest. Hooray! I can still write in my spare time!

Edie Pagliasotti has been Co-Regional Advisor of the SCBWI Los Angeles Region for the past ten years. She is stepping down as RA in October to spend more time on writing.


  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing this, Edie!

  2. How inspiring, for a cautionary tale. It sounds like this little break from "a real job" helped you move ahead on your writing career -- and you can look forward to the next time.

  3. I love that the time off work, even though shorter than originally hoped, proved to be a validation for your long-term plan. You'll make a go of it next time, I'm sure!

  4. Applause for being brave enough to share your story, Edie, and wishing you so much success in the future! Hugs, Lee