Rick (Richard A.) Rofman’s declaration that he didn’t want to write a book took me aback. He’s a regular at the monthly drop-in writers group that I run at Crown Books in Woodland Hills, California. It’s a satellite group sponsored by Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC.org). Dismayed, I asked, “Rick, whatever do you mean you don’t want to write a book? Why not?”
A Career in Writing “Letters to the Editor”
He’d thrown me. But his comment made me think. Maybe I had been beating the drum for “How to Get Self-Published” a little too strongly in all my various writings, teachings, talks, presentations, and workshops. I’d almost forgotten that you can be a writer without getting a book published as your goal. Ever since the start of the self-publishing craze , I’ve been on the “get published” band-wagon and have talked about little else. “Rick, you know everybody’s got a book inside of them screaming to get out and that it’s only life that gets in the way. Even Dan Poynter says so. Isn’t that right, Rick?” Rick didn’t think so.
Rick Rofman, who teaches composition part-time at a number of LA area colleges, is seen here at a writers drop-in meeting at Crown Books in Woodland Hills, reading one of his over 475 “Letters to the Editor,” a form of writing that has turned out to be his specialty: “Because of these letters,” he states, “I have had contact with CBS’s Frank Stanton, journalist Connie Chung, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Disney’s Michael Eisner, Ronald Reagan, Joe Biden, Bobby Kennedy, and more — but that doesn’t make my life a book!” When some of us in the writing group suggested that Rick put together a book (there I go again!) of his Letters to the Editors over the past few decades, which would allow him to make comments about the history going on at the time, he was once again adamant: “I don’t want to write a book.” Photo: Sylvia Cary
The Right Creds
Rick Rofman certainly has the right creds to author a book, a Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master’s Degree in English Communication from Syracuse University, and a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He has taught English in a bunch of places, and, back in the day, worked for NBC News, Westinghouse Broadcasting, and Universal — but still the idea of writing a book is painful for him, especially a self-published book. “I just finished trying to read book called ‘How to Publish Your Own eBook,’ and it was like being in the 7th Circle of HELL for all eternity. You need an Engineering degree just to understand the terminology. I’m 71 years old and this is just NOT for me. If Random House or Penguin or Bantam Doubleday Dell were to approach me and assign an editor to me, and assume all costs of publication, that might be a different story. But to devote three or four years of my final years to self-publishing, buy a computer, go through the agonizing process of learning a machine that eludes me–when I can’t even work a mouse–then do book signings, and ruin my health, all for twenty-five cents in ebook royalties, just makes no sense. Instead, I can edit other people’s manuscripts, re-read Shakespeare and Greek tragedies, bone up on my French and Russian, and get involved in community and cultural activities. I’m now reading Sandberg’s Life of Lincoln.”
It is said that Mark Twain once bought a typewriter and hated it so much he traded it for a buggy whip. Rick Rofman, in a similar frame of mind, says he bought a iPad and took it right back. Photo: Morgurfile
And What Kind of a Writer Do You Want to Be?
In a letter to me (what else!), hand-written (not on the computer since he doesn’t own one), Rick continued his stand against publishing a book: “There are many ways to be a writer without writing a book.” To make his point, he enclosed a brochure he’d picked up from Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles about their Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program. “They had writing careers listed I’d never even thought of,” Rick said. Among the career paths listed for MFA graduates are: Teaching composition and creative writing at the college level, publishing (at least that’s mentioned! – SC), copywriting, copyediting, manuscript editing, marketing, greeting card author, comic book writing, novelist, creativity coach, writing coach, advertising, songwriter (lyric), freelance short fiction writer, creative writing instructor (give your own workshops), legacy writer (write people’s bios and family histories), ghostwriter, travel writer, freelance essayist/article writer, columnist, video game writer, personal poet for others, playwright, blogger, creative writing consultant, screenwriting.
And, of course, let’s add to the list Rick Rofman’s own specialty, writing Letters to the Editor.
It works for him. It might work for you.
(c) Sylvia Cary, 2014