I had lots of fun working as the manager of a comic book store.
Sharing my interest in graphic storytelling with fellow enthusiasts, meeting famous comic book artists and writers, learning the principles of guerilla marketing and putting them into practice to publicize the business — we became one of North America’s best-known comic book stores — was exciting, challenging and good entertainment.
After 12 years, though, I was ready for new worlds to conquer. I decided to combine my management experience with my academic background in psychology and my volunteer involvement with charities and look for a position in the not-for-profit sector.
I got nowhere.
Sometime during my increasingly discouraging job search, my mom, who was a volunteer at a local seniors care facility, heard of a resident who wanted someone to help him write his memoirs. She suggested I consider it.
Right from the start, I was captivated by his story about leaving England at 16 to travel to Patagonia, a place he’d hardly heard of, to work on a sheep farm. I think it was about halfway through our second interview that I realized that this was What I Was Meant To Be Doing.
In retrospect, I had been preparing for this work all my life. I studied psychology at university because people fascinate me and I wanted to learn more about how we humans work. As a crisis line volunteer, I had learned the deep listening skills and ability to establish rapport that are essential to a good interview. I didn’t think of myself as a writer (though English had always been one of my best subjects), but I loved putting information together and making it interesting and readable — making words sing.
That gentleman’s story became my pilot project. The little book I put together for him was 50 pages long, the only illustration being a map of Patagonia, and the quotation marks went from straight to curly halfway through because that was when I discovered “smart quotes,” and I couldn’t figure out how to turn them off.
I laugh at it now, but the gentleman and his wife were well pleased. His book travelled all over Canada and England, passed from family member to family member.
The books I produce today are more sophisticated, incorporating photos and documents and being printed and bound on the latest high-tech machinery.
What hasn’t changed is my passion for helping people tell their stories: to forge connections between generations; to bring personal perspective to historical events; to celebrate the value of each person’s life.
What hasn’t changed is my joy at having found my calling.
What path brought you to your career? What about your work feeds your passion? I’d love to hear your story. Please leave a comment.