You Know You’re a Real Writer When You Tell the IRS.



The Tax Man Cometh.

My tax man arrives at the house this week. He excels in tax knowledge for self-employed artists and he prefers house calls.

He is one of the top reasons I push myself to get my books published and to sell my stories.

Tax session at a writing workshop.

I was a few years into the craft phase of writing fiction and was entering the business phase. How to get my name out there as a writer. How to get my stories published. How to find a community of writers.

Most of all, I wondered when I could start to call myself a real writer.

I was looking for a rite-of-passage.

Who knew I would find it in a Tax Class at the Midwest Writer’s Workshop in Muncie, Indiana? But I did.

The 90-minute session was titled, “Are You a Professional Writer? Don’t Wait for an IRS Audit to Find Out.” A CPA who worked for the IRS led the class.

In the end, I walked out with a lot of notes, handouts, packets and my mind reeling.

I also made a determination.

My writing wasn’t a hobby. It wasn’t daydream scribbling. Not stories I read for family. Not something I hoped would happen one day.

If I wanted to call myself a professional writer, I was going to register with the IRS on that basis as an Actual. Professional. Writer. Or a Schedule C for Small Business.

It’s all about the paperwork.

I knew once I registered as a self-employed writer, I would have to keep track of categories more specific to writing professionally, such as expenses, mileage, supplies, postage, dues, advertising.

More importantly, I’d also have to keep receipts and proof of book sales, article sales and payments for related writing services.

Every time I buy something. Every time I follow up on an opportunity to sell a story or be a guest speaker and get paid for it, I log it under the Income column.

With every slip of paper, I am confirming, proving to myself that I am a professional writer.

The Day of Reckoning.

My tax man has checked and filed my taxes from the very first year I declared myself a writer to the IRS.

It’s nothing to him whether I sell a story or publish a book, yet he knows how much I’m still struggling at boosting the income bracket. He knows I’m getting close. He sees my victories in the plus column and my expenses in the minus column.

Numbers don’t lie.

How it all adds up.

I know how strange it is that I’ve come to rely on a government institution and a numbers man to help push me up the ladder to success.

It works for me.

If being a professional writer is good for the IRS. If my tax guy keeps coming once a year to log in my progress as a professional writer.

It must be true. I must be a professional writer.

I’ve got the proof.


“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque; if you cashed the cheque and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”  ~Stephen King


*All images are my own unless noted.



Open Letter of Thanks and Gratitude



      A Simple Reading Request.

I was asked if I would read a few of my short stories to the members of a local philanthropic chapter. I was delighted.

The chapter is part of the P.E.O, a philanthropic organization founded by seven students in 1869. Today the membership numbers nearly a quarter of a million chapters in the United States and Canada.

Their motto: Women Helping Women Reach for the Stars.

This local group raised money that morning by auctioning off lunches made by each member. The funds build their scholarship program for high school senior girls.

While they ate, I read. They laughed at the funny parts, nodded in the right places and clapped when I was done.

They gave me a thank you note, a gift card and my own lunch. Later I ate chicken salad, fruit soup, mango juice, granola bar and candy in a small, round apple basket.

A Greater Sense of Gratitude.

Today, my written note of thanks was awash in gratitude as I realized how much I need, we need, this PEO chapter of women and all those like it.

More Than a Note of Thanks.

Dear Nancy and Your Friends in P.E.O.:

Please accept my gratitude for giving me an opportunity to share my stories with you.

Getting published is a far more challenging endeavor than in the past, and there are moments when I believe being a taxi cab driver in NYC would be easier.

But putting together the right words in the best place and provoking emotion from a listener is incentive enough to keep working at it.

Nancy and her daughter are perfect hostesses. It didn’t take long to gobble up my special lunch basket, and I think I’ve found a new taste for fruit soup. Your other gifts of thanks were also welcomed.

We’re all hurting.

The world, our country, this city are hurting in many visible and invisible ways. The balance to heal those difficulties comes, in part, from your optimism and effort. 

Thank you for your energy and time.

May your year find you in good health and much joy.



“The Red Ball” Earns the Cut


I had five pages to convince the judges that my short story was the best.

Midwest Writer’s Workshop of Muncie, Indiana, has a five-page maximum length requirement for its entries in long fiction, nonfiction and short and one hundred lines for poetry. No exceptions.

“The Red Ball” is a futuristic tale of a young man who rarely steps outside and a young woman who does, for thirty minutes every night while the city detection system goes offline.

It was seven pages long.

The judges expected to read incomplete entries, but wouldn’t it be to my advantage if I could end the story within the limit?

I trimmed.

Like lovely locks of hair, my story lost its extra curls of enriched characterizations. The words weren’t shorn for good, I consoled myself, only stored away in another word file.

“The Red Ball” took Best Short Story. Placed against the winning pieces in all four categories, it also earned me the Top Writer Excellence Award.

In the end, I couldn’t deny it: the impact of the tightened, five-page story was sharper.

The judges thought so, too.

Two Stories are in an Anthology, Romantic Ruckus

I notice how anxious I’ve become to get every aspect of this writing business covered.

I most enjoy the writing. I like the solitariness of it. My favorite spot is curled up in my chair with my computer on my lap, typing out a new story or editing an older one.

However, I won’t get anywhere unless I go after selling markets. Thank goodness for the Internet. I search online. I read what my fellow writers on Facebook and at my writers’ group are submitting to. Making my own list of possibilities, I send my stories out. No stamps. No envelopes. No waiting for a phone call or an envelope back.

The quickest rejection was four hours. Others took longer. Some came with a personal comment as to why it wasn’t being accepted.

Finally, an editor who was looking for quirky funny romantic stories, took one of mine. Then she asked if I had any more and she took a second one. What joy!

Now my professional writer’s resume is looking pretty, well, professional. I’m not feeling too bad either.


“Migration” and “Big Screen Romance” are my two contributions here.

Romantic Ruckus, edited by Kara Leigh Miller.