We’ve been talking transitions on the Girlfriends Book Club and when I think of that word one thing that comes to my mind is the concept of “career transitions.” It’s always fascinated me to hear about people’s lives and those who have traveled the more unexpected road—starting out with one identity and then changing course. Some famous examples include Martha Stewart (a former stock broker), Ronald Reagan (movie actor), Dr. Suess (ad agency exec), Bob Newhart (accountant), Dan Brown (singer-songwriter), Jerry Springer (mayor of Cincinnati) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (body-builder, actor).
One type of transition that sometimes rankles writers is when an unlikely someone (usually an actor) becomes a novelist. I’m not talking about celebrities who use ghostwriters or “co-writers" (e.g. Hilary Duff, Nicole Richie, Lauren Conrad, Pamela Anderson, etc.). I’m referring to people like Ethan Hawke, James Franco, Steve Martin, Meg Tilly and Chris Colfer.
The latest in this group is 1980s film sweetheart Molly Ringwald, who has just come out with a novel of linked stories called When it Happens to You. Of course there’s always the question of whether Molly or James or Ethan or whomever would have gotten published if they had been Mr. or Ms. Nobody and whether their writing is actually “worthwhile.” But I don’t subscribe to this notion. If we spent all our time nit-picking the inherent unfairness of the writing life and getting published, there’d be no time to write our books.
Funnily enough, I just read that Molly’s big “Pretty in Pink” crush, Andrew McCarthy, who still acts but is also an editor-at-large for "National Geographic Traveler," has just had a travel memoir published, The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down. And he has also finished a novel about “the secrecy and corrosiveness of a 30-year marriage.” He says, “It's actually something I'd been working on for years. But I thought it'd be smarter to establish myself as a nonfiction writer first. I didn't want people saying, "Oh great, look, it's a novel by the guy from ‘Pretty in Pink.’”
Another example of an interesting career transition is YA author Stephen Chbosky, writer of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He’s the adaptive screenwriter and director for the film of the book, having directed and written a film in 1995 that showed at the Sundance Film Festival.
I say celebrate those that transition from one art to another. I’ve been an off-and-on again musician and I wouldn’t want someone to tell me that because I sing that I shouldn’t be able to write books.
So what “hidden” or additional talents do you have? Would you like to transition from being a writer to something else? What did you do before you became a writer? How did that transition come about?
Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is the author of the novels, “Midori by Moonlight” and “Love in Translation” (both published by St. Martin’s Press), the original e-book novels “Falling Uphill” and “His Wife and Daughters” and the short story, “The Girl in the Tapestry.” She’s also written a nonfiction e-book, “Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband." Her short story “Love Right on the Yesterday” is featured in “Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction: An Anthology of Teen Stories” published by Stone Bridge Press, and her essay, “Burning Up” appears in “Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop” published by Soft Skull Press. Wendy holds an MFA in Writing from University of San Francisco and teaches novel writing for Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio and has taught for USF’s MFA program. She also does private manuscript consulting for novels and memoirs. Visit her at www.WendyTokunaga.com and follow her on Twitter at @Wendy_Tokunaga