Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

When Work Hits Close to Home

There comes a time in every writer’s career when they feel they’ve finally made it, and can officially call themselves a “Writer.” For some, it might be when they get their first writing-related paycheck. For others, it could be when they sign an agent.

Personally, my moment came today: I was published in The Boston Globe Magazine.

Boston, You’re My Home

For many writers, The Boston Globe is just another outlet for submitting work. Along with The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times (to name a few), the Globe accepts personal essays and pitches for various columns. You submit a piece or make a pitch, and if you’re lucky it will be accepted, and you’ll make a bit of money. Then you go off to submit or pitch elsewhere. Such is a writer’s life.

But to me, this isn’t just another outlet. I grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where the Globe was located for nearly six decades (before relocating in 2017). Watching the movie Spotlight was like seeing my old ‘hood again. I’ve passed by the Globe’s Dorchester site countless times, and the paper has been a staple in my family for generations.

I don’t know if there was ever a Sunday growing up when I didn’t get smudgy black newsprint on my fingers from flipping through the Globe to find the comics, or the Arts section, or the Magazine. Reading the Sunday Globe was a given, like drinking a cuppa tea along with a muffin from Dunkin’ Donuts or watching my dad play Sunday morning softball down the park. (Or pahk, as we Bostonians prefer to call it.)

As a kid from a working-class neighborhood, I didn’t grow up thinking my words would be shared with the Globe’s hundreds of thousands of readers. People like me read the paper, we didn’t get published in the paper. That type of thing was saved for magical, mysterious Professional Writers in far-off places, people who had some special access to The Enchanted Land of Authorship.

Yet, here I am. My little essay is in The Boston Globe Magazine.

Why It Feels Like I’ve “Made It”

For most of my career, none of my relatives have ever really understood what I do. I went to film school as an undergrad, then spent my twenties working in a variety of arts jobs, from personal assistant, to film festival director, to film production P.A. When I relocated to Los Angeles in my late twenties, I entered the nonprofit development field, working for a theater company and then a film organization as a grant writer.

When you come from a long line of traditional workers — teachers, bankers, janitors, cab drivers, secretaries, and the like — it’s hard to describe arts-related work. Writing a grant proposal to the Ford Foundation might have impressed my colleagues, but my family couldn’t have cared less.

Even with my writing, I often don’t know how to describe what I’m doing. Literary journals aren’t really on my family’s radar. I can say I was published in a small outlet and my fellow writer friends will be excited, but it’s not all that impressive if you don’t typically read the work of lesser-known authors in small indie publications.

But this piece is in the Globe. It’s the local paper. Even if you don’t read it regularly, if you’re from Boston, you know it. It’s for sale in every coffee shop, corner store, and gas station. It’s waiting on the front porch of your neighbor’s house. It’s a staple.

For the first time in my career, my parents can see my work in their space. They won’t have to hunt down my writing by going to some crazy online journal. It’s not just another blog post that I’ve written for fun. This is an essay in a legitimate newspaper that they’ve read for decades.

When my piece was accepted by the Globe a few months ago, I immediately called my mother to tell her. She started to cry. ❤

I don’t know if I’ll ever be published in a major outlet again, but that’s OK. I reached my “finally made it” moment today.

Writer, reader, mommy. Just trying to figure out this thing called life. Pub. in Boston Globe, Washington Post, Greatist / / Twitter: @sebejer

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