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Ramona's Ramblings

Imagine, part 1: paperback writer

Ramona Jan
Posted 1/25/22

Imagine you’re 19 years-old and you just landed your own apartment in NYC on a beautiful tree-lined street. You live alone because that’s what you’ve always wanted, and you can …

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Ramona's Ramblings

Imagine, part 1: paperback writer


Imagine you’re 19 years-old and you just landed your own apartment in NYC on a beautiful tree-lined street. You live alone because that’s what you’ve always wanted, and you can afford it, not because you’re rich but because apartments are reasonably priced.

Before signing a lease, you combed the City for the perfect flat. Landlords called incessantly begging you to take their apartment. No one asked about your job or credit score—there was no such thing. Finally you choose an apartment just off of Central Park. You sign a lease for $135 a month. Now you need a job.

Imagine you walk into one of the world’s most renowned recording studios without an appointment and just brazenly ask for a job. You have no experience, education or knowledge of audio equipment. In fact, you think if you touch tape, it will erase. No one asks to see a resume, and yet, you’re hired in the only available position; paid apprenticeship in audio engineering. You take the job because, as a songwriter, you need a place to record your songs.

Imagine you learn the trade of audio engineering by working with the most famous music producers and recording artists of the time, such as Barry Manilow, Barbara Streisand, Talking Heads, Ramones and more, but there’s a problem. On a daily basis you experience bullying and sexual harassment, two things that don’t even have a name, yet. Plus, there’s a glass ceiling, which you hit in a very short time. You leave the job (skills intact) and devote yourself fulltime to your songwriting and band. You play gigs up and down the east coast, sign two major label deals, hear your songs on the radio, and quickly learn that none of it covers the bills.

There are plenty of side-jobs that need filling; furniture stripper, activist, hat check girl. Despite these alluring positions (not), you take a job as a receptionist in a rinky-dink recording studio. You don’t tell anyone that you’re an engineer from the big-time because you no longer want to hear how a girl can’t hear. You chuckle when the boy engineers get stuck. You could help, but you don’t.

Imagine in the very next office there’s a very famous publishing company. One day the boss asks if you’re a writer and you say yes figuring they’re talking about songs. He asks if you’d like to be paid to write a story and again you say yes mostly because you’re bored.

However, you don’t own a typewriter, dictionary or thesaurus. You handwrite all your assignments and then type them at the office. The editor says you don’t know a thing about writing, but you have some good beginnings. You hang in; grin and bear it as she slashes your sentences with broad red strokes and then tells you to start over. You start over for decades. Eventually, you write for different magazines and then someone pays you to author a paperback book about Bon Jovi. Your editor says, “The good news is you landed a book deal. The bad news is you’ll always be embarrassed by the subject.”

Imagine, after years of writing about other people, you decide to write about yourself, and then read those confessions in front of live audiences in a group called Yarnslingers. You do this for more than ten years, and yet, never once call yourself a writer. You wouldn’t dare. Imagine you’re hired by an award-winning family-run newspaper and someone asks what you do for a living and like intestinal gas, it just slips out, “I’m a writer,” you say. And just for one crazy second, it feels okay.

This true story includes my early years in NYC starting in the fall of 1975. To be continued…


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