Füsun A.



Montréal, CANADA
January 12
Freelance Writer - jack of all genres;master of none.
warm and genuine
I divorced my full time career of teaching after 25 years, because meanwhile I fell in love with freelance writing. Ever since, I decided to legitimize my ten-year fling which started in the new millennium. Author of: "WILL OF MY OWN - A Memoir" Available at all major book outlets. For a preview please visit: http://www.dictionmatters.com/


Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 31, 2011 8:43AM

How I turned my passion into a second profession

Rate: 72 Flag

AMBITION: Teacher and Author

PROBABLE DESTINATION: Authorizing excuse slips.

These two sentences from the year book of my senior year of high school must have found a permanent place somewhere in the depths of my psyche to have a silent but very effective voice in mapping out my career, and prove to myself that I could not only authorize excuse slips, but I could also autograph my own book.

Ever since I can remember, there were two things I loved doing the most: teaching and writing. My first passion revealed itself when I became my sisters' teacher at about the same time I started school myself. Whatever I learned during the day was repeated to my sisters who were still at home.

My love of writing manifested itself in the form of story-telling, creating make-believe worlds, using our limited number of toys as actors in improvised plays with my sisters. It was an oral form of creating, not captured in writing until I would become more sophisticated. Eventually, my love of teaching and my enjoyment of literature combined to beckon me towards what would become my call: Teacher of English literature.

It is rare in this age for anyone to spend 25 years of one's career with the same company or the same school board in the same office or school, doing more or less the same job. Yet in an age of mobility, change, reinvention as much as I loved what I was doing, I did spend a quarter century of my life within the same building, the same class rooms, traversing the same halls whose slow demise paralleled mine. When one grows older with a structure, one does notice these things. Every room I taught in, every cabinet or window sill I decorated with plants, each little window that allowed me a peek to the outside world still owns a part of me.

While I was earning my living by teaching my students how to write, my inner writer was not dormant. I wrote poetry, short stories, submitted to competitions, attended writing workshops, joined writing associations, and lived in an alternate world that caused me grow more and more estranged from the confinements of the classroom and the monotony of my vocation. After two decades of pouring my heart and soul into it, pedagogy did not interest me any longer as it did. I started longing for a work life not regulated by bells and five minute recesses. I wanted to fill invoices for writing I completed; not discipline forms for despicable misconduct. I longed to sign my name at the end of an article; not on an excuse slip authorizing a student's tardiness.

It was the turn of the century and a turning point in my life too. I took two years' leave of absence and went to Newfoundland, where my then husband worked. I hoped I would find employment there and quit my teaching back in Montreal, but we all know about the best laid plans of mice and men.

While I was applying for different positions advertised in the paper, I also kept busy by volunteering at the provincial museum of archeology and history. The museum's education program offered schools hands-on learning experiences on their province's heritage. My teaching background and bilingualism helped to qualify me for docent volunteer, and after a week's training I was ready. I never missed a session, three mornings a week teaching all of the three different programs. It was more fun for me, because I saw it as a learning opportunity for myself. My devotion and enthusiasm did not escape the eye of the educational programs coordinator. At the end of the school year, I was named the museum's “volunteer of the year”, an honor I which still cherish.

My interest in photography and fascination by how children were involved in interactive learning led me to write a reflective piece about the program and its innovative impact on education. Then I sent a cold pitch to the editor of the provincial newspaper, The Telegram. He was interested! My piece was featured in the following week's Life Styles section. They paid extra if I provided the photos. That was in February, 2001. When I saw my name at the end of the front page long piece of the section with the words introducing me as “... a freelance writer who recently moved from Montreal.”, I almost cried with joy. Actually, I did.

I didn't know how a freelancer worked, how often I could submit a piece, whether that one was a strike of luck, yet what I had instinctively learned was that if I wrote well and wrote interest pieces about the local personalities and history, I had a chance of being published again. That's what I did during my stay in Newfoundland. I looked for a story in everything and everyone I came upon. Sometimes I tried to tell stories through a Montrealler's point of view. Other times, I found a Newfoundland connection in other places. One of my features, “Newfoundland Hospitality in Nova Scotia”, is about a historical B&B in Nova Scotia, run by a couple, originally from Newfoundland. Then I learned that the husband owns and flies his Tomahawk single engine plane. He took me on a thirty minute flight over Cape Breton, which gave rise to another piece, “Romancing Romeo”, about him, his plane, and the couple's plan of flying it to Newfoundland after tourist season to visit their family.

When I had to return to Montreal to honor my teaching contract, my heart was no longer in teaching English. I changed my discipline to teaching Consumer and Home Economics – although I really wanted to be a full time writer. Thus I kept my connection with The Telegram by seeking stories that would interest Newfoundlanders.  One of my students, a skater, turned out to be the grand niece of a former federal cabinet minister from Newfoundland. Her family lived in St John's but sent her to school in Montreal, because we had the program which accommodated skaters training for championships. “A Jewel in the Crown” was my first piece submitted from Montreal. 

While I was teaching housing, design, nutrition, and needlepoint to young people, I was also noticing how much they lacked in food education and common sense, yet they had so much creativity with their hands.  This gave rise to the creation of a new direction in the course and subject matter for me to write and tie to my Newfoundland experiences. Knowing I was limited in topics from a distance, I started thinking hard and came up with the idea that if I wrote about food, I may have a longer “shelf life” as a freelancer from afar. I wrote tempting pieces and shared recipes with photos I took, for the Food and Drink section. I sought the weekly arts, readings, book launches, and other events happening in St John's, and contacted artists, painters, entrepreneurs, specialists by phone to interview them and submit a piece to the paper. I worked as long distance freelance writer on the side, while I taught and dreamed of getting out of teaching.

In the Spring of 2004 when I enrolled in a workshop on how to promote oneself as a freelance writer, I knew it was in feature writing that I had found my voice. That workshop marks an important step in reinventing myself by learning about and joining the Professional Writers' Association of Canada. By then I had published enough articles in different venues to meet the criteria to be accepted as a media card-carrying professional member.

Having my name in PWAC's list of Canadian writers opened up other opportunities for me. I started getting offers by editors who wanted to know if I'd like to write for them. Trade magazines paid much better than newspapers. Most of the assignments I received were out of town which meant I worked from home, conducting long distance phone interviews and submitted my work electronically. Initially this was a step beyond my comfort zone, and as with everything else in my life, I was reluctant to tread on uncharted territory. Then I remembered the words of my father every time I hesitated before a new venture. "Success belongs to those who go after it."

Seeing my pieces on glossy magazine pages, accompanied by the work of professional photographers, brought another level of satisfaction. In 2007 after consulting PWAC site and seeing that “food writing” is one of my areas of specialty, the on-line editor from New York offered me a contract to develop and test five new recipes for WeightWatchers™ .

I never made money hand over fist by my writing; my bread and butter always came from teaching. Yet when I look back over the last ten years, I realize how far I have come in a self developed second career as a writer, with over a hundred features in my name. Freelance writing has given me the ultimate satisfaction by fulfilling my dream of writing for a readership and doing so mostly on my own terms. It has provided me with the balance that a restrictive teaching life imposed on me for many years. On the other hand, teaching not only provided me with the means to live a decent lifestyle, but also with valuable insights and experiences about people, which I incorporated into my writing. While my writing itself is not lucrative, my teaching has granted me a basic pension to live on.

My advice? If you think it is worthy of considering my advice, here are a few points which helped me in reinventing myself as a freelance writer and author. View every life experience as a possible story and consider how you can connect it to experiences with which people can identify or from which they can learn. Network with like-minded people and expand your experience base. Be inquisitive.

Don't shy away from working for free and volunteering until you establish yourself. Volunteering is a great way to get in touch with people, hear their stories, share one's own, make contacts and get a perspective on a community and its people.

Be creative and try  fitting occasions to your purpose without being overbearing. If you want to write a piece and pitch to an editor to consider for publication, ask yourself these questions:

A) What's my purpose in writing this? B) Why now?  C) What's my message?

If your answers are relevant to the times and satisfy you beyond doubt, then you have something to share with readers. Next work on a hook, an angle to your piece - that's how you'll try to catch your editor.

Will of my Own - a Memoir, which I wrote and self-published in 2009 answers these three questions. Had making a fortune been my quest, I would not considerate it successful. I'm happy, however, from all the feedback I have received to date that my book has been a better success than I ever expected.

I used to be fascinated by women who "reinvented themselves" in their fifties and told their success stories on talk shows. I never thought one day I'd see myself in a similar situation - and I do not in all honesty. Still, when I look back at a career I chose years ago, I'm happy and fulfilled that the path I chose allowed me not only to authorize hundreds of excuse slips, but also to author many featured pieces as well as a book to tell my story. It took much hard work and determination to get here, but it was a passion well worth pursuing.

And that's what I, modestly, call my brilliant second career.

 Book launch

Füsun Atalay ~ Copyright © Will of my Own - 2011

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I hope my experience may be helpful to someone with similar dreams.
This is so very inspirational and educational. And I just smiled when I saw the photo of you with your book at the end of this marvelous piece! Thank you for sharing this!!! And many congratulations to you! Rated with admiration.
Ooh, this is fascinating. I want to read it again before I comment further. Just wanted to pop in and comment and rate and tell you that you are inspiring! Plus, you look great-- beautiful face and great white blouse!
I know first-hand how tough it is to break into the freelance market, Fusun, and sincere congratulations are in order. I think others here should -- and will -- take heart from your experience.
Such an inspiring story, Fusun, but I can't imagine spending twenty-five years at the same job in the same building. That is incredible to me. I guess I am nothing more than a gypsy! You are so pretty in the photo.
Fusun: You have certainly made your mark. Today is a very difficult time to be a writer is word seems to be free today. I also do photographs and the SF Chronicle has picked up about a dozen. No money but it is a thrill to see something I never knew I had in me be wanted.
This was very inspiring and sending hugs
Fusun-- a fine, and generous post from you today (as always) so good to read the story of your second career.
Having just fallen out of the trees -- losing a job I happened to have loved ... i find myself in tune with your advice.
This is so much more than an interesting, well-written second career story. You not only provide concrete advice on how to make changes, you give hope and inspiration to those who may feel like giving up, that we're too old or missed our chance or are the product of bad decisions.

"Then I remembered the words of my father every time I hesitated before a new venture. "Success belongs to those who go after it." "

What a wise man your father is. Thank you for writing this; you are gorgeous, both inside and out.
As always, I admire and appreciate your generosity. As I sit down to write, this morning, on deadline, about education in Napa County, I compare the modest one or two shifts in careers of creative people our age to the predicted five to 15 different careers they predict for kids graduating now. It's a new day! The faint of heart need not apply!
This is beyond marvelous! Rated.
A journey. Thanks for sharing your inspirational experience.
Great advice, Fusun. I'm going to look for a workshop. I'm having some luck getting published, not so much making any money from it.
I've just started writing- late June, and I've taught for 25 years. I hope one day to be freelance, but not now. Its all the time I have is just to write for me and for OS. I don't dare think for prestige.

Lovely. your organization and tone are mellifluous.

I love your ending photo with your memoir! Lovely smile- its in the eyes.

Makes me want to go to Canada and Newfoundland, too.
Wonderful post and inspired thoughts on writing, teaching, and life. Well done and congrats on the EP.
Esteemed Colleague:

Congratulations on a well-deserved EP. I find myself deeply inspired by this piece. It is fascinating to know more about your story and your influences. You give me much to think about in this piece.
What an inspiring life story. Congratulations on making your dream come true.
Great story and insight! I am in the beginning of my second career, and beginning to wonder what my third career might be. Teaching, writing, traveling? I don't know, but I am glad I have such a role model to inspire me.
You are an inspiration! Rated!
You are such a smart, accomplished woman and a doggone wonderful person. Your writing is a reflection of your beautiful mind and heart. Brava you!
Wonderfully inspirational and so well told. Thank you for the advice. -R-
What a piece, Fusun; wise and inspiring...as always. And what Seer said. R
Thank you so much for this wonderful blueprint.
A brilliant career is one that both keeps you alive and makes you happy--and you've found both! Congratulations!
I loved reading this! The twists and turns of your path, your passion for teaching and children, that you volunteered at a museum of archaeology! How cool, thinks this woman in a small town who is craving the city lights and action, just for a change...
And your writing. I don't know how a free-lancer works, enjoyed reading your thoughts, and how you went about it...I have wondered about you writers and how do you have folks find you. You go find them, I now see. : )
I love your father's quote: "Success belongs to those who go after it."
How true. It sounds like you.
Very Nice Fusun! I hope you won the $200!!!!
Fusun, thank you so much for this encouraging and informative post. I also love the happiness that I feel coming from your words - that, in fact, is the best thing of all - reading this and knowing someone as kind and talented as you has been able to achieve her dreams.
Great story, Fusun...and a wonderful photo of you too!
What an inspsirational and encouraging story.
@Michelle: I'm glad you find this educational and thank you for dropping by.
@Fernsy: Thanks, dear friend!
@ Seer: Your observations are spot on, and even the most creative teachers can go so far within the confines of what they're allowed in the system. Thanks for your visit and comments.
@Boanerges: Thank you very much. I'm aware of your experience in journalism.
@ Miguela: Trust me, I longed for the gypsy life while I taught. I still cannot believe I stayed in one place for 25 years!
@ Linda: There's much satisfaction in doing what one loves. Receiving remuneration for it is icing on the cake. Great to see you here!
@ Vivian, with your resourcefulness, I don't doubt you'll land back on a nice branch of a lovely tree again. Thanks for your kind comments.
@ Margaret: I wish you the best in your ventures and thank you for letting me know that my post was helpful.
@ Spike: Spoken like a sage. We should consider ourselves lucky, shouldn't we? Thanks for crossing into my yard.
@ Jonathan: Thank you, my friend.
@ Sheila: Life is a journey. We learn by sharing with each other. Thanks for sharing yours.
@ Owl: Thank you.
@ Janice: Wonderful that you are getting published. Eventually you may get paid for your work, once you prove your skill and worth. Good luck to you.
@ Mango: Go with your heart. You probably need a brake after teaching for quarter of a century. :o) Writing for leisure is a great thing.
@ Rei: Thanks for your comments. Nice to see you here.
@ Paul, my esteemed Colleague: I don't think I have much influence on anything per se. I simply shared my modest story in the hope that it may help someone. I appreciate your visit and finding food for thought here.
@ Divorcedpauline & Joan E. : Your writings are just as inspiring and I thank you for your visit.
@ Oryoki: Whatever you decide on for a third career - if you want to go for it - I'm sure with your intelligence, intuition, and skills you will succeed, without a doubt.
@ JR: If I didn't see for myself what a generous and genuine person you are, I would've thought that you were trying to hi-jack my blog with kindness. Thank you for being great a support through a difficult time, and for being open to suggestions and ideas.
@ Cathy: There are those far more accomplished than I, but thank you for your kind words just the same. U R a sweet ♥
@ Christine: Good to see you. Thank you.
@ Thoth: Good to see you, my friend. Thank you for noticing Seer's insight.
@ Lorraine: Thank you for passing by and dropping a kind comment.
@ Felicia: Nice to see you, it's been a while. Thanks for dropping in.
@ Just Thinking: I'm glad you enjoyed the read. Ten years ago, I didn't know much about what I do now either.
@: Susie - how sweet of you! I'm sure someone else will be more deserving.
@: Alysa: Thank you so much for your kind thoughts expressed so warmly.
@: Mary Ann, Trilogy, Scarlett - Thank you ladies!
"Success belongs to those who go after it."

He's right of course ... your father ... success does belong to those who go after it. To those who have a dream and work hard to achieve it. It also belongs more so to those who, having achieved their dream, continue to inspire, share and teach others,

You do that, dear Fusun. Thank you.
An interesting, educational, inspiring and WARM post! Thank you once again, Fusie! R
What a fascination account Fusun. I'm sure it will be instructive for many here. Some of its themes, like plugging away and taking chances seem so common to those who eventually enjoy success. I've enjoyed your articles and as I mentioned in my own blog, they gave me the impetus to post something that had stymied me for ages. Thanks for writing here.
You are such an inspiration to me. I wrote a piece today about writing a book, and I mentioned some great writers on OS, that have taught me so much. You are on top of that list. Thanks You!
Great story. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Very inspiring, Fusun. Congratulations on your brilliant second career! R.
Now I can say I know TWO professional writers. This is such a cool piece. It is definitely inspirational. You write so humbly and so simply when telling that it's like sitting and listening to an old friend talk to you across a table over a cup of coffeee.

And your father's admonition? Success belongs to those who go after it.

The best piece of fatherly advice about making your mark I think I have ever heard. Thanks for noticing me and providing a friendly hand when I first got to posting here.

Terrific. Congrats on EP and cover.
I have learned so much from you already. Thank you for the inspiration.
I'm grateful that you find time to post here on OS. Your picture would look great on a book jacket.
So THIS is what a well-planned journey looks like. Sometimes it feels as if I'm still trying to determine what I want to be when I grow up. Meanwhile, I write. LOL

Well I'm certainly inspired. I'm hoping my second brilliant career (fiction writing) manifests soon! R.
I am fascinated by women who "reinvent their selves in their fifties" too. This was inspiring.
I have similar dreams. Very similar. Thanks for your advice and experience!
Thanks so much for this piece. I am just starting, in my mid-fifties - to go for success in writing. I appreciate it!
I think this will be helpful and inspirational to lots of other writers (and educators). Follow your heart... That's what I take away.
Congratulations on completing a dream, a memoir and a career in writing. Also in your determination to stay the course. Glad to see EP.
A powerful endorsement for starting small and working your way up, and for listening to yourself when your spirit is dissatisfied with the Same Old Thing, and reaching out to satisfy that need. =o)

Me, I'm still working on my first brilliant career. And wondering where the "brilliance" comes in. =o\

Entertaining and inspiring article. Great memoir of what it takes to thrive creatively in the digital age. Thanks for sharing your experiences. :-)
Passion is as passion does. You have done well and should feel great about yourself. Now, how about some Godiva chocolate? Rated with a Jali Smile. :-)
this is an amazing story. congrats!
and great picture of you-- my favorite!
Fascinating how the wry high-school annotation and the reality of the photograph bookend the piece: Prometheus Unbound! Thank you for all the light you shed in the process--the light you shed onto the process.
Your experience is helpful! Thank you for writing this.
Congratulations on your success thus far.
Like you, I got committed to writing not too long ago. Reading this has made me more determined to work hard for the success that I know will come if I persevere.
You are a consummate teacher. I am always touched by your words and gentle advice. Dreams and desires can find a way to be fully realized. Thank you for sharing your story. R
FusunA, this is very inspiring. Everyone should have a dream come true! R
How did I miss this wonderful piece of inspiration, then again you never fail to inspire, Fusun. Kudos to you for having the courage to follow your heart. rated
I. Love. Your. Life! But in particular, I love your WRITING LIFE!
An inspiring story! Thanks for sharing.
Truly a gift you are to the word and to man. Thank you for being! :D
What a great post from a great writer and person. Thank you for this.
I'm proud to be one of the readers of your work on OS. You inspire this fledgling writer who didn't even think about writing until I retired!
I apologize for my late responses:

@ Kate: Thank you, Kate. And you inspire us with your beautiful poetry.
@ Natalie: Your accomplishments are very impressive too. You're an excellent writer and documentary film maker.
@ Abrawang: Thank you. I'm glad if I've been instrumental in any minute way, buy you already write so well.
@ scanner: If I had a class full of students like you, I'd probably still be teaching. I learn from you a lot too.
@ bikepsychobabble: You're most welcome.
@ Erica: Thank you, dear Erica. Good to see you.
@ Dunn'Owl: Thank you for your positive response to suggestions and your kind comments.
@ FTMidwest: Thanks, Gary. You should write about your brilliant second career. :o)
@ Miguela: I also have learned much from you. Thank you, equally.
@ Sarah: How kind you are! That photo was taken at the launching of the book.
@ Lezlie: I love your writing so much that I selfishly wish you never grow up. :o)
@ Chiller Pop: Thank you for 'pop'ing in. I hope your wish comes true soon as well and you let us know.
@ snarkychaser: I'm glad you found this inspiring. Don't be a stranger; it's nice seeing you.
@ sweetfeet: I sincerely hope your dreams come true. Best to you!
@ Wren Dancer: Go for it. I think that's the age when you have a lot of experience from which you can draw.
@ Bellwether: Yes, 'follow your heart' and don't give up. You understand well. Thank you for dropping by.
@ rita: Thank you, dear lady. When shall we see your volume of all that beautiful poetry?
@ Shiral: You are brilliant at whatever you do. I've seen enough of that here in your art work and different genres of writing.
@ Robert Steibel: Thank you, Robert. I enjoy your cartoons very much.
@ Jali: Take it easy on that chocolate!
@ Kathy: Thanks very much for your kind comments.
@ Pilgrim: Always the astute observer and wise commentator. Thank you, Sir.
@ Reflecting On History: I'm glad you found my experience helpful. I found your second career piece fascinating.
All the best to you.
@ A. Walrond: I'm so glad. I hope that you will achieve the success you work for. Best wishes to you.
@ Rita: Thank you very much. I'm so glad that you're back, I missed your beautiful poetry.
@ Rodney: Thank you, my friend. I agree. I hope all those dreams may find fruition too.
@ Fay: You never fail to inspire and instruct either. It's a pleasure to know you and read you here. Thank you.
@ mhold: I love your words and your ability to work with them so uniquely. Thank you ♥
@ Anne Camille: Thanks for reading!
@ tg within: Pleasure to see you, thanks for your kind remarks.
@ Geraint: Most welcome, to another excellent writer and person.
@ Chrissie: That's the best thing I could hear, Chrissie. Thank you. I find inspiration in others here too. I'm glad to have met you through Christine.
So that's how it all works huh? Thank you so much for writing this, I'm glad I discovered it! I feel like there's a lot there that speaks to me and feel a little more confident/equipped moving forward. Thank you.
I love hearing about your life story: because you tell it so well, and frame it in so many interesting ways! And you have experienced pain and struggle and pulled what was good from it and succeeded on your own terms. Write on, great lady!
Thanks so for sharing your experience. I'm in this process now, having gone from working on Wall Street to becoming a English teacher and writer. Wonderful to see your book published. Continued success.
Happy Birthday! Have I read this before??? It's still good anyways.
When you taught I wish I was young enough to be one of your students. But I think you haven't finished teaching even if you don't go to a classroom anymore. Thank you for this inspiring piece.
I did it the other way around: I started as a feature writer (on the staff of a national daily) and then, six years later, became a teacher instead! Glad you are seeing your dream come true!
Go for your dreams and the rewards will be timeless.