Intern Blog: Your Favourite Authors Had Day Jobs Too

Wednesday 7 June 2017

By Amy Smolcic

As most of us writers know, writing can be a tough gig. We’re awake at all hours attempting to find the perfect combination of words that someone else will hopefully read and fall in love with. One of the biggest burdens writers have to battle is figuring out how to financially survive, while also creating something that we love. Though there’s a lot of writers who are lucky enough to rake in the big dollars, most of us can forget about purchasing our dream holiday house down the coast (or a home in general!).

When I’m not interning or dealing with the pressures of life as a postgrad student, I’m a teacher, florist assistant and content manager. It’s usually during the break of dawn or when the rest of country is sleeping that you will find me scribbling into my notebook or frantically typing into my laptop.

It’s not a new instance that wordsmiths have found themselves in – some of your favourite writers throughout history have also had to work hard at their day jobs in order to support their craft.

Agatha Christie, Apothecary’s Assistant
Not only did Agatha Christie pen approximately 77 mystery novels during her years as a writer, but she also trained and worked as an apothecary’s assistant, helping with the preparation of medicines and drugs. Her experiences with poisons are likely to have inspired her first published novel Mysterious Affair at Styles, where Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of a woman who was poisoned.

Harper Lee, Airline Ticket Agent
At the age of 23, Harper Lee was living in New York working as a ticketing agent for the now defunct Eastern Air Lines and the British Overseas Airways Corporation. While in New York, she approached a literary agent with the manuscripts of two essays and three short stories. During her time in New York, she also worked on Go Set a Watchman, but because she couldn’t find a publisher for the novel, she moved onto To Kill a Mockingbird. The rest is history.

Vladimir Nabokov, Curator of Butterflies
Whilst Nabokov was at Harvard, he was responsible for curating the butterfly collection at the Museum of Comparative Zoology. In an interview, he admitted that there is a butterfly in every novel he has written. He also said that the first thing he ever wrote was a paper on Lepidoptera, but unfortunately, it was not published as someone had already written about the butterfly he discussed.

J.D. Salinger, Entertainment Director
The Catcher in the Rye author was once in charge of entertainment on MS Kungsholm, a Swedish luxury liner. Once the US declared war on Germany, the cruise ship was stripped of its luxury furnishings and transformed into a vessel used for transporting troops. I can only imagine what the role of entertainment director would entail, but I’m predicting it would involve planning a great party on the lido deck.

Jack London, Oyster Pirate
Move over Blackbeard; you weren’t the only notable pirate in history – author Jack London spent some time as an oyster pirate. If you’re curious, an oyster pirate is someone who poaches oysters (okay, so it’s not as exciting as the stuff you see in Pirates of the Caribbean). His career as a pirate came to an end once he realised it wasn’t as glamorous as he first imagined; he then joined the California Fish Patrol.

Amy Smolcic is one of MWF’s 2017 Marketing and Development interns. When Amy isn’t hunting down the finest blue cheese in town or working on her minor thesis, she runs an Australian music site. She’s also a supporter of local music and the arts. Once she completes her Master of Writing and Publishing, she hopes to land her dream job within the arts.

Image credit: Tom Simpson via Flickr Creative Commons


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