Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Today we're delighted to welcome Guest Blogger Barb Ross to Working Stiffs.

Even after all these years out of school, fall still makes me think of sharp pencils, clean notebooks and endless possibilities. This year that’s truer than ever. On July 26, three friends and I announced we were going to be the new editors of the Level Best Books anthologies. On August 5, the company where I was Chief Operating Officer was sold. And on August 18, my first novel The Death of an Ambitious Woman was released.

So here I am, headspinningly fast, soon to be unemployed, promoting my book, co-editing a short story anthology due at the printers, um, yesterday, and trying to finish the next novel. And I have never been happier.

In The Death of an Ambitious Woman, my protagonist is going through change as well. The novel opens the day Acting Police Chief Ruth Murphy finds out she’s won the selection process for permanent chief. In her six months in the “acting” role, she’s discovered that she loves the job. But there are times when the responsibility weighs heavily and she misses the camaraderie of peers.

So while Ruth climbs up her particular brand of the corporate ladder (the municipal ladder?), I’m at home. Trying to figure out how to manage my time now that I don’t have all those meetings to tell me where to be and what I need to know before I get there. For so long, the rhythms of my year were determined by the corporate calendar—sales meeting, user conference, industry conference, planning and budgeting. Do it again next year.

How will I find my new routine? How have those of you who’ve moved from structured to unstructured work done it?

Stephen King
“There are certain things I do if I sit down to write,” he said. “I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning,” he explained. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.

“It’s not any different than a bedtime routine,” he continued. “Do you go to bed a different way every night? Is there a certain side you sleep on?" -- Lisa Rogak, Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King
Gustave Flaubert
“Days were as unvaried as the notes of the cuckoo.” -- Frederick Brown, Flaubert: A Biography
The Death of an Ambitious Woman is Barbara Ross’ first novel. In July, Barbara became one of the editor/publishers at Level Best Books which has produced and anthology of crime stories by New England writers every fall for the last seven years. The eighth edition, titled Thin Ice will be released in November 2010. Barbara and her husband divide their time between Somerville, Massachusetts, and Boothbay Harbor, Maine.


PatRemick said...

Welcome Barb and thanks for sharing all your changes. It's certainly an exciting time for you! Good luck with the routine -- I'm still struggling to find mine!

Annette said...

Welcome to Working Stiffs, Barb. I'll echo Pat's good wishes for finding a new routine. Since my husband's been unemployed since April, there has been no routine of any kind at my house and it's making me nuts!

Congrats on the new book and the anthology.

Clarissa Draper said...

Right now, I'm pretty routined. I write and edit at night because that's when I'm most creative. I do the other things in my life that need to be done in the afternoon when I'm not. Great post. And congrats.


Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

YOU know--how often have you said it? What seems like the worst possible thing soon becomes the BEST possible thing.

My assessement of this is that the universe is lining you up to be an incredibly successful author!

And as well you should be--your book is wonderful! Congratulations ln our new life. (A lot of readjustment is changing habits, right? A lot of what you "miss" is just from habit, right? SO--hurray. You get to make some new ones.)

You're a mystery author! Hurray.

Barb Ross said...

Thanks, everybody. Yes, it is definitely an exciting time and while it's a big adjustment, it's also a wonderful adventure.

I met an elderly man at a trade show once. It was one of those things where for whatever reason you and a total stranger start talking. He said everyone he knew who was interesting to be with and happy in their life had made a total change at least once in every decade.

So here's to change!

Ramona said...

Barb, best of luck with your current endeavors, and those to come, too.

I have a copy of your book on my TBR shelf. I would love an autograph sometime.

OldBroad said...

What a story! Almost sounds like a plot. Looking forward to the book party tomorrow!


Barb Ross said...

Ramona--I'd love to autograph your copy. We need to find a way to get together. Seascape was last weekend and I admit I felt a little pang about our time there.

Judy--see you tomorrow! For anyone in the Boston area the launch party for The Death of an Ambitious Woman is tomorrow night (Wed. 9/15) at 7:00 pm at Porter Square Books in Cambridge.

Patg said...

Welcome Barb. Boy do I understand that corporate ladder--my book is about it too--and I'm in my 8th year of retirement (forced after 9/11) and I still wake up with that feeling I have to rush to something, and where are my lists and daily timetable. It takes a while. Suggestion: Don't jump out of bed until you remember really having something to do.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Barbara,

I feel like you and I are connected since my novel TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS was published at the same time as yours by Five Star/Gale.

I took an early retirement so that I could write fulltime. For the most part, I haven't regretted it although I am still unknown as a writer. But I will say that quite a lot of my work has been published in fiction, nonfiction, novels, short stories, plays and poetry.

The secret to being prolific is to set a definite time that you will write each day. Best for me is early morning. I generally write from five a.m. to ten a.m. Then if possible, I return for a few hours in the evening after dinner.

Best of luck with your writing.

Barbara said...

Congratulations, Barb!

It took me a while to realize I was free of the yolk of workdom. There are still times when I'm not paying attention that I find myself barreling down the Mass. Pike headed for the airport, only to realize I don't have to conduct another seminar, especially not in cutoffs and sandals.

We're all looking forward to more of your writing

Barb Ross said...

So what I hear everyone saying is the adjustment takes awhile. I'm sure that's true. I had time off between my last company and the one just sold, but I wasn't really committed to it. Didn't get rid of my work clothes, accepted consulting assignments, etc. This time I am really committed.

Jacqueline--we do have a lot in common, don't we? One big difference is I am NOT a morning person. The only time I see 5 am is when I stay up for it. But I do get the setting a definite time thing.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Congratulations, Barb, on your many new ventures. You'll make the adjustments with less trouble than you think. You know what it is to sit down at your desk at a prescribed time, settle to work, and get things done. You're ready.

Debbie Kenny said...

I'm still working on the 'set and keep a routine' thing. I believe it's the right thing to do, but my spirit really likes the freedom to do what I want to do when I want to do it. Won't have that anymore when I return to the full time job scene.