With 7 million Americans receiving unemployment benefits, and many counting the years – instead of months – since their layoff, author Darlene Quinn says now is a good time to reinvent yourself.
She cites James Sherk, a senior policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, who says the jobs people held two or three years ago often simply aren’t there anymore.
“People are trying to find jobs similar to what they had previously, when those jobs completely don’t exist,” he told Reuters recently. “So they will spend a good portion of their period unemployed looking for jobs that they are unlikely to find.”
Quinn is a master of personal reinvention. She started her career as a teacher, then became a contractor, developing self-improvement and modeling programs for hospitals and a store. That segued into a position as a top executive at Bullocks Wilshire department store and “retirement” as a freelance journalist.
And now, the 74-year-old is an award-winning novelist. She published her third book, Webs of Fate (www.darlenequinn.net), this fall, continuing her series about deceit and intrigue in the high-end retail industry.
She says she was always a story-teller; she just never thought about putting her stories on paper.
“Being a victim of the short-lived educational phenomenon called sight-reading, which did not include phonics, I had always been intimidated by the written word,” she said.
“Somehow none of my teachers appreciated my creativity when it came to spelling. Therefore, my creative writing efforts were sprinkled with so many red marks, they appeared to have broken out with the measles.”
Maybe, she added, she just needed a great story to tell and a passion to tell it that was stronger than her fear.
Quinn became a schoolteacher after earning a bachelor’s at San Jose State University. Much later in life, while working as a department store executive during a time of tremendous upheaval in the retail fashion industry, she found her story. But before she tried to tell it, she first sharpened her wit and her pen by writing articles for trade journals, magazines and newspapers.
That led to her being drafted by actor Buddy Ebsen to help him with his first novel, a love story called Kelly’s Quest. Ebsen was working on a second, a mystery based on his popular TV persona detective Barnaby Jones, when he died in 2003. His widow asked Quinn to finish the book, Sizzling Cold Case, which was published in 2006.
By now, Quinn was ready for her own tale.
“I felt compelled to tell the story of our vanishing department stores,” she said. “Instead of writing a dour tell-all about the business, I decided to chronicle my experiences in one of my fictional worlds and I filled that landscape with the realistic and dynamic characters that inhabited my daily life.
“The age of computers with spell-checking software helped me get over my fear of a red-inked manuscript.”
By 2008, Quinn had finished her story of intrigue in the retail fashion business. Webs of Power won a 2009 National Indie Excellence Award the following year. Twisted Webs followed in 2010.
“One thing I’ve learned in my life is that things change,” Quinn said. “People change and, sometimes, their dreams have to change with them.
“To be releasing my third novel at age 74 is the fulfillment of a dream I never knew I had. Until now.”