Yes, I Quit My Day Job to Write

My final Editor's Note for Down East is up today. For years I was the living embodiment of Yogi Berra's famous maxim: "When you come to a fork in a road, take it." It worked for a while, but recently I decided it was time for a change.

As I write in my column:

Most people are lucky in life to find their dream job. I have been fortunate to find two.

I dreamt about becoming editor of Down East since I was in college. When I was a bellman at the Black Point Inn in Scarborough, I used to sneak the most recent issue out of the gift shop to read between calls. The first essay I ever published — an account of being struck by lightning — was in this magazine.

For the past fourteen years I have been fortunate to work at Down East, and for the past eight years I have been even more fortunate to be its editor. Over that time I collaborated with and learned from many talented professionals: editors, writers, designers, photographers, and illustrators who are among the best in the country at what they do. I owe a debt to them and to the Fernald family for entrusting me with this iconic Maine institution. Mostly, though, I am indebted to you: the most loyal readers a magazine editor could ever wish for. Thank you for your time and attention; thank you for your compliments and criticisms. Thank you, most of all, for giving me this life.

But as I said at the outset, I have always had two aspirations. Since I was a boy, I have wanted to write novels, and four years ago, with the publication of my first book, The Poacher’s Son, I took the first step on the path that is now leading to my second dream job: that of working author. And so I must step aside from one position to accept the other.

There's a good reason why agents discourage authors (even published ones) from quitting their day jobs. In a publishing industry that is going through daily convulsions, there are no guarantees. Still I'm encouraged by the enthusiastic response Mike Bowditch has gotten from readers, some from as far away as Japan and Australia. So I'm proceeding with confidence—but also with caution.

As Yogi Berra also supposedly said: "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there."