Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

There’s something about being an author that is very addictive. Sometimes you can be midway through the tedious proofing of a manuscript — most writers’ least favorite thing — and already be working on the plot for the next book.

Sometimes — as is the case with me this time around — I already have two new projects on the boiler before the crisp first edition of my latest tome comes streaming off the presses at Amazon. Then there are two others following behind that I absolutely must publish before I pop my clogs, as sister used to say.

People ask me about writing books — how do you do it, where do you start … even better, why do you do it?

I’ve always been a writer. From a very young age, I would be crafting stories — mostly involving horses and dogs — and letting my imagination run wild. As I progressed into teen-dom, I got a hold of poetry and thought I would give that a go. Inspired by the likes of Dylan Thomas and DH Lawrence, there was a more — ahem — passionate flow to my prose that my parents had tremendous fun with. That was a phase that didn’t last long, especially since my English teacher was a bit of a creeper and liked me to go and read my poetry to him in his private rooms at school.

When I started working for The Salinas Californian in 1991, I crawled my way back into writing. I’d do a monthly editorial piece or a South County report on something. I always found newspaper very fun and immediate, until the internet arrived — along with all kinds of other media competitors — and then it wasn’t fun or immediate at all. However, though I left newspaper officially in 2003 to work in real estate, I still love it and I’ve been writing for South County papers ever since.

Every time I think to myself, I can’t be bothered anymore, or I’m too busy working on another book, someone will tell me “I love your column, keep writing!” and then I feel bolstered up to keep on keeping on.

So, my long-winded way of telling you how to start, is just do it. Start writing — send in a letter to the editor, or an opinion. Challenge yourself to write something difficult. Don’t expect the audience to leap out of the bushes at you and congratulate you on your work. You must simply keep writing and you will improve.

I self-published my first book, “Window on the World,” a compilation of my first 10 year’s columns, in 2011. I had gone through the whole cancer rigamarole in 2010 and I thought I had better get some of my stuff out of shoe boxes and published before I maybe jetted off to pastures unvisited.

My second book was in 2012 or 2013 — a children’s book called “Winston Comes Home,” a photo book about my beloved horse and many of our rescue critters at our home called Solace.

Both times I did not even attempt to try and find a publisher, since that in itself is a full-time job! As the internet took over and people immersed themselves in TikTok, Instagram and all those other non-book places, the world of book publishing has suffered just like the world of newspaper (although it did see a refreshing resurgence during the pandemic). As did the bookshop storefront itself, which made me very happy.

Anyway, I purchased a book-publishing package, which included everything after you submitted the manuscript to the point of receiving printed copies of your very own book. I have to say it was a proud moment — if an expensive one — and I was fairly pleased with my first book, though I learned so much about publishing that go around; if I had the energy, I would re-do the whole thing.

“Winston Comes Home” was more difficult only because I was matching photos with text. I used the same publishing house to do that one and then they went under, which was very disappointing, since I could no longer print author copies. When I needed extra copies, I took the opportunity to revamp the story, adding in the very sad ending that my beloved Winston had passed away on April 4, 2019, and changing out some of the photos.

My third book was “The Animals Teach Us Everything & Other Short Tails,” a compilation of my animal and animal rescue stories from 2014-19 along with my own photos. I tackled this project under the self-publishing arm of (now they won’t be going out of business, will they?). I had additional help with pagination, image setting and upload to the service, because those are just not my things and I did not have the time to waste to figure it out; but I found a nice, accommodating service online and they were good with corrections, communication and so on.

If I had the money to pay for an editor, I would probably do that, since editing is tedious, but necessary. I don’t. I edit my own stuff and you are likely to find several typos because of it. I liked the quality of the product through Amazon, they give you a generous author discount to purchase your own copies and, obviously, the distribution is second to none. Friends of mine in Australia and Turkey have been able to find my books through Amazon, so that is mighty pleasing. Don’t ask me how they do it — it’s a marvel — and I have no patience to try and figure that out either.

My last book was the most difficult to write — my sister’s story and the story of our family’s journey in cancer. Rosie died on July 25, 2018, and it took me a long time to even start the manuscript. I would take my laptop to the beach and rage, do a little writing, cry, storm at the elements, do a little writing. It took me until the latter part of last year to complete it.

People asked me if I was pleased with “The Rosebud & Her Brilliant Adventures,” and I don’t know that I could ever be “pleased” with such a challenging story; but I was glad to get it out of me and into the world. It certainly helped with my grieving process without a shadow of a doubt. And now, one of Rosie’s good friends is translating the book into Turkish and that fills my heart with joy, since so many of her friends and family over there are not English literate.

This week — the Amazon gods allowing — I shall be publishing “The Soup Diaries,” a series of emails between Rosie and her friends back in the late ’90s when they were all 20-somethings and living wildly single lives close to one another in London. The story is also situated at the dawn of the Internet that was to change everyone’s worlds.

Though these were not my documents nor my story, I feel honored to have completed this for Rosie and her friends. I’ll be sure to let everyone know when they can buy a copy.

For you writers out there, just start. Write, post, engage, write, publish. For most of us it’s a hobby, not a job, but a very addictive one that fills our souls. As long as you are OK with keeping your day job, you will do just fine. Welcome to my world.

Previous articleSalinas Valley News Briefs | Feb. 6, 2023
Next articleSalinas Valley Police Reports | Published Feb. 1, 2023
Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here