The Backdoor...

Most backdoors are unlocked. Making popular the phrase "They got in through the backdoor," which usually meant it was someone who probably would have been turned away at the front. Still, there are countless success stories about people who were audacious enough to try the backdoor in many different fields of endeavor. I got into journalism that way.

The first was through a backdoor at an automotive trade magazine that -- unknown to me -- a current columnist had just walked out of for a spot on the National Enquirer only days before. Me, I had no idea. I was just doing a calling campaign through a list of local publishers, asking if they needed any writers. Well, it just so happened they did, because there was no one to cover that vacated column at the moment. OK, so I didn't know much about car parts, but I took it as a "divine appointment" and jumped into the journalism profession. I worked there a few years, covering features, interviews, trade-shows, several columns as well as my original, and finally held a position as assistant editor by the time I left.

I had to leave. I was living and breathing the aftermarket car industry when what I really wanted to do was write fiction (or, at least, inspirational non-fiction). Besides that, there wasn't a lot of romance and excitement about doing a feature spread on a company that manufactured lug-nuts. Which is the one that finally put me over the edge.

One late night (everyone worked late in that company, if it wasn't done, you didn't go home) when I couldn't -- for the life of me -- think of one more interesting thing to say about lug-nuts, I noticed the initials of that company were C.I.A.

Something in me snapped.

I suddenly didn't care what anyone thought of me, anymore. This was no place for a woman who wanted to write mysteries and family sagas. I could lose my mind (maybe even my gift!) if I had to come up with one more clever phrase to sell high performance chrome headers, and the like. So, I did a Sam Spade-type noir spoof about that company, and called it "Inside the C.I.A." Something that would probably get me fired, no matter how long I had worked there, but I couldn't help myself. I didn't even have the decency not to use real names (except for my own -- are you kidding? A byline on something like that could swamp my reputation).

Mine was the last lonely car in the dark parking lot that that night when I finally left the office, and it was an hour long ride from the outskirts of LA just to get home. But doing something halfway creative for a change had energized me. I actually felt liberated, and wished I had left a long time, ago. Getting fired never looks good on anyone's resume, though. But I was still done. Finished. Over with all this. If it wasn't so late, I would have crafted a resignation letter and left it on the publisher's desk. He called me the next morning, but -- hey -- I was expecting that.

"C.I.A. loves it, and so do I."


"We're going to hire an artist to come up with some kind of spy-type character to put with the piece."

"You're kidding…"

"And I'm giving you a raise. What are you doing home at this hour?"

"Well, I…"

"Nevermind. I know you worked late, so take your time. Not too long, though, we've got that product catalog to start on."

I didn't leave for another six months. And then only because my husband took a job in another state and we had to move. Even so, I still continued writing my original column and that darn product catalog through the mail, for nearly a year after that.

Which taught me something. When you do get in through a backdoor, somewhere, there are almost always strings attached.


Aguilar Elliot said...

Interesting... thanks for sharing that part of your life.

D. Ann Graham said...

Thanks for stopping by, Elliot. You're having some pretty interesting experiences yourself, I see. Enjoyed visiting over on your blog, as well. Of all the voices you are listening to, I think Ariel has the sweetest song.

Oh, and just as an interesting side note, I met Corrie Ten Boom, once, many years ago. She is one of the bravest and most compassionate people I have ever known. One who knew a great deal about that "unconditional love" you were talking about. She actually lived it.

Such wonderful people there are in this world!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Cool story! I enjoyed it so much.

D. Ann Graham said...

Thank you, Mrs. Seraphina... it's nice to meet you. I took some moments to skip over to your blog, and I see we have a lot in common (writing for children is one of my great loves), so, I'm sure that our "ships passing in the night" will catch more than one glimpse of each other. Here's wishing you much success with all of your projects!

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