One night, I waited on a couple from Tennessee. I ended up chatting casually with them throughout the meal, and I told them I was fresh out of college and trying to move up in the publishing business. The guy told me he owned a small PR agency, and while he couldn't help with the media, he would be happy to send me a few pages from a national directory of magazines. He mailed the pages a few days after his vacation over. No note. No letter. Just an envelope with pages.
My plan was to cold-call these magazines and see if any needed help. Believe it or not, on the very first call, I landed a job interview in Boca Raton. A month later, we moved and I started a new job as a travel editor.
A few years after that, I was working as an editor at a niche book publishing company, and I was hiring copy editors. I ended up hiring one that I talked to for a few hours after I sent her the first project. I don't remember the exact words of that conversation, but I remember exactly what was said (if that makes any sense). At the time, I was considering a freelance career, but I wasn't sure it was possible. But this freelancer said it was. "Look," she said, "I'm full-time. I make good money. I work hard. I hustle. I sell books. I work from my house. You can do this. It is possible."
Two years later, I quit my job, and I've been freelance ever since.
I'm still friends with that freelancer (you know who you are, if you're reading this), and this was just at the beginning of a remarkable stretch in which she published three, four, five books a year. Once again, until I saw it, I didn't even know such a thing was possible. I thought only "they" actually published novels, and by "them," I mean those ultrathin people who live in New York City, dine at exclusive restaurants, wear only black, and sip on impossibly expensive cocktails. People who know people.
Opportunity. I wish I knew what it looked like when it rolled through the door. But it's always taken different forms ... a diner on vacation, a chance contact at work, a throwaway comment about a job opening. It's only later, looking back, that I see these moments changed the trajectory of my life.
They say that good luck lies at the crossroad of ambition and hard work. I believe it.