My Book’s Journey, Part 2: A Loss, a Find, and a Dream Dashed… Again

Posted by on Apr 18, 2012 in General | 7 comments

No caption. Just appropriate gloom and doom effect :-) .

Welcome back! Day 2… When we last left, I had gotten married, and my father was carrying a secret. Catch up on Part 1 here. And the story continues!


Once I got married, I figured that since my husband had a pretty good career and I had no career just yet, I should go back to school.

My husband supported this goal and I immediately signed up to return to community college full-time.

This was my second time back in school and since I had support from someone else (as opposed to depending on my irresponsible single self), I believed I’d be sticking around for a while.

What did I do? I marched right into the college newspaper office and joined the team. Before too long, I was appointed editor-in-chief. My team and I trailblazed! The newspaper started off not doing so well, but then, we brought on an incredible graphic designer, moved to a tabloid format, and covered stories that were very unique to the campus. Our group even created campus events to tie in with our stories, in addition to covering stories about events happening on campus!

I was in my bliss, except for one problem: Being in my very early 20s was fun. Being in my early 20s and married? Not so much fun. I knew in my heart I’d made a huge mistake, but I threw myself into my schoolwork and the newspaper… and hoped for the best.

My father could not have been prouder of me. We talked for hours on the phone about school, the paper, shows we liked on television. We didn’t talk about my marriage. My father knew I was struggling there, but he didn’t have much to say about it. One day, his voice sounded very gravelly. He said he had a cold and that he would “talk to me again tomorrow.”

But the next day, I received a phone call to go to my uncle’s home. I wasn’t even half-a-foot in the door and my uncle (or maybe my aunt) said, “Your father’s in the hospital. He has leukemia. He’s been keeping it from you. He didn’t think you could handle it.”

I rushed to the hospital. My father was unresponsive. He died the next day.

I believed that most of me died, too. I saw no life without my father because he felt like the only rock that I had. My education was just underway, but I wasn’t rooted enough in it to have great confidence. And my marriage was another story.

In this post, I wrote about what happened to my education when my father died. I’ll give you the summary: I faded out of school. There was no way I could concentrate. I was emotionally wrecked by the fact that my father carried such a secret from me. But it all made sense. This was why he wanted me married.

I got divorced. I moved back out on my own with the little bit of money my father left to me. I suppose I could have used it to stay in school, but having a stable roof over my head was my priority.

In this post, I wrote about falling into in healthcare for the next seven-plus years because, although I didn’t have academic credentials, I could type 110 WPM. I ran a successful medical transcription business for a good part of those years, and then, on an emergency hire at College of Southern Nevada, I was asked to teach medical transcription. The post tells how I fell in love with teaching, and fought my way back to college… all the way… working several jobs and landing a tenure-track post right out of graduate school.

One of the greatest things about becoming an academic was that… BOOM… I started writing again! Not creative writing, but curriculum, conference presentations, reports, etc. Then, I landed contract work that involved more writing! I think it started out with a textbook review for an academic publisher, then more review work… then chapter contributions for other authors’ textbooks… then workbook activities, PowerPoints, companion websites. I was having a good time–and getting paid very well (which, if you know what public professors make, isn’t a bad thing).

In fact, I e-mailed a longtime friend of mine, who knew how much I loved to write, and said, “I’m writing again, except now with an academic twist.”

So there I was on tenure-track, loving teaching (oh, and after five years, I got married again to my husband of now 16 years, and had our first child… didn’t want to leave that out), and I landed my own publishing deal. Due to some awards I’d earned for pioneering best practices in online public speaking courses, a major academic publisher signed myself and a co-author to write an innovative online public speaking textbook.

I was flying high for two years. I earned tenure. The textbook reviewed out fantastically and my co-author and I even had colleges ready to sign on, pre-release! I couldn’t believe it was going to happen: I was going to have a textbook!

Then one day, the major publisher called and with absolutely no warning: Contract canceled.

Their story? Our project was too expensive to continue.

The real story (I learned from an industry insider, while I was still in the fetal position)? The publisher was selling off certain lines and Communication was one of them. Our contract was not transferring to the new publisher.

Sadly, five years later, that project still remains in legal entanglement.

Even sadder, my writing dreams were foiled once again. It was just not in the cards for me to write for myself. I was sure that this was true. I would stick to contributing to other authors’ work–at least that was going well–and just be satisfied.

Continuing on tomorrow… I dug in my heels and stopped believing in myself and my writing. But a surprising person brought me back–at a Starbucks, no less. How Seattle is that? Thanks to all of you for continuing on… the story is going to get happier!

Addendum to yesterday: To clarify the correspondence courses that helped me graduate high school early: I grew up in Vegas and I think these courses through BYU were the equivalent of distance learning in those days. I remember doing the curriculum and taking proctored tests with the guidance counselor, in addition to the regular course work I was doing at my public high school. I don’t remember specifically what the classes were, but I was fortunate that the option was there so I could add those credits and finish school a full year ahead of schedule. Well, along with summer school, of course.

Just tuning in? To make it easy, here’s Part 3 & Part 4.


  1. Love getting to know you Ellen, even better. Sorry to hear what the secret was…I couldn’t sleep not knowing! – but it makes sense in how it impacted your life. My parents were my rock and being without them both for several years now, I still resist the urge to reach out and call my mom. She was “gone” for several years before she died, so I had time – unlike you – to deal with her eventual passing, not that it was really any easier once she and my dad were gone.

    These things impact our lives. You chose to let them take you to great places. Yes, you mourned. Yes, you were a bit lost for a while. THAT is what you needed…but you did NOT stay there. So happy to see the progress of your journey!

    • Hi, Bruce,

      I’m always so glad to hear from you :-) . I am sorry about your parents, too. I agree that it does not get easier, but just more tolerable. Until I had this book come out and then I have been crying a lot. Very unexpected because I don’t think about my dad as often anymore. It’s been 20+ years. But this was a dream he would have embraced with me, so I’ve been feeling it in a very difficult way. This is why I needed to write these posts.

      I really appreciate your kind words. My husband didn’t have the easiest childhood either and we both wonder what made us turn to work, as opposed to drugs or alcohol, etc. It’s an interesting study.

      More on the journey today. Things do turn around, which I guess you figured out already :-) .

  2. Tought stuff. Sounds like you’ve overcome a great deal. It’s difficult to share life tragedies in a public space. I admire your courage. Can’t wait to hear about what happened with the Starbucks conversation…

    • Doug, it was awesome to talk to you today! You are an inspiration to me with all you are doing. I appreciate you very much and look forward to sharing the Starbucks story. It’s so Seattle, isn’t it? Ellen

  3. This is an outstanding, and very vulnerable, story Ellen. Thanks for sharing. Yes, I think some of your readers share the guilty pleasure of knowing how these particular chapters end…with you getting that book published and contributing insight and laughter to our daily lives via social media interactions.

    I’ll look forward to the next segment.

    • Hi, Brian,

      Can I please, please break out the Oreo balls now? Ha ha.

      I just posted the final segment. I just needed to write this. I guess when Don told me to start writing again, it’s become a real outlet for me. Sure, I’ve told friends about my mixed feelings over the past few weeks (I mean, I’m elated… don’t get me wrong :-) . But writing it all out has really helped me on a much different level. I also want students to realize that many, many profs are not far out of touch with them. We all have our “stuff” and can draw on those struggles to relate to theirs.

      I appreciate you and value you so much. You know that, I hope :-) .

  4. Oreo Balls suit all seasons. Had a bad day, eat an Oreo ball. Just published a book available on Amazon -> eat two Oreo Balls.

    And we have a mutual admiration society going with our Triberr/12 Most/DadChat crowd!

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