Friday, May 29, 2009

Follower Friday: Playground Monitor (Marilyn)

Steps to the microphone. Tap, tap, tap.

My name is Marilyn and I air dirty laundry for money.

When I was a child, my daddy’s sister read True Confessions, and they were off-limits to me. I always wondered what was so bad about them. You know… forbidden fruit and all that?

Now I not only read them, I write for them and the other four “tell all” titles (True Romance, True Experience, True Love and True Story) published by Dorchester Media.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but after my boys came along, writing took a backseat to motherhood. After #2 son started college, the writing bug struck again after I stumbled backwards into romance novels. I began a novel and it stalled. I started a second one. Ditto.

Meanwhile my accountant was nervous about my tax returns since I had no income but was deducting expenses like RWA membership, my local chapter dues and trips to national conference and our local chapter retreat. It’s nice to keep accountants happy, and even nicer if you can position yourself to avoid an audit. I’d heard about writing for magazines and began studying the market. I submitted my first story in early 2006 and color me shocked when it sold. I sold seven more stories that year, ten the next and ten in 2008. I sold my most recent one about a month ago, bringing my grand total to 30 sales.

These stories are written from the female POV with a conversational style like two friends chatting over coffee. While the titles may look scandalous – like “Mistaken for His Mistress” and “The Texas Bride’s Revenge” – the stories really aren’t. The heroine may face a big challenge, overcome it and learn a lesson along the way. HEAs are not a requirement, but they make readers happy. And y’all know how I feel about keeping people happy.

Once a year, though, True Romance publishes a “hot issue” where the gloves come about halfway off. It’s nothing like mass-market erotica, but for the writers it’s a chance to kick the heat up a couple degrees.

I’ve often wondered about the appeal of the Trues. Is it the suggestion of scandal or lure of forbidden fruit like my childhood experience? I asked my mother who read them as a teenager in the 1940’s. “I don’t remember talking to any of my friends about reading True Confessions. In those days they were considered ‘racy.’ I read them because I like the romance you didn’t find in novels. Also they were inexpensive – maybe ten cents.”

Someone gave me a 1942 issue of True Confessions. Like Mom said, it cost ten cents, and except for the dated photos and advertisements, the magazine was essentially the same microcosm of life it is today.

My accountant is happier these days. The pay isn’t huge but it covered my writing expenses last year.

I’m often asked, “Are they really true?” I’m pleading the Fifth. Actually, they may or may not be true, but they are believable. I get ideas from eavesdropping at the mall food court, watching cable TV and digging into family history.

Have you ever read any of the Trues magazines? Do you have a dotty old aunt or family scandal that would make a good story?

P.S. Remember that second book I started and abandoned? I wrote 50,000 words on it last November for NaNoWriMo, finished it the end of February, entered it in an online pitch contest at eHarlequin in early March and on March 9th the editor requested the full manuscript.

A bit (more) about Marilyn...

Marilyn has spent a lifetime reading, though not always willingly. After college, she swore off the stuff. In her early twenties, she tried her hand at writing and had a letter to the editor published in Cosmopolitan magazine. She quickly envisioned a career as the next Erma Bombeck, a journey that was sidetracked by carpools, Little League, track practice and life in general. A six-year stint in the corporate world found her writing again, but this time it was reports and procedures. When she retired in 1996, she returned to her favorite job: staying at home with her boys.

Fast forward a few years and through a bizarre act of serendipity, Marilyn discovered romance novels. Being an internet junkie, she soon discovered websites devoted to the genre and eventually found her way to her local chapter of Romance Writers of America. She’s published online in non-fiction and has sold thirty stories to the confessions and romance magazines. She is also a contributor to the Bylines Writer’s Desk Calendar as well as EAT DESSERT FIRST: The Red Hat Society Cookbook and THE RED HAT SOCIETY TRAVEL GUIDE: Hitting the Road with Confidence, Class, and Style. She lives in her empty nest in north Alabama, dotes on the cutest granddaughter in the world, is active in her local RWA chapter and is a founding member of the Writing Playground ( where she blogs every Wednesday. RWA has opened a whole new world to her and introduced her to not only the healing power of the Happily Ever After, but the remarkably sharing world of romance writers as well.


Kylie said...

Welcome Marilyn! I remember when I was in sixth grade visiting my grandma in Oregon. My cousin, sister and I found a box of True Confessions in the attic over the garage, LOL. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time hiding our reading material for the rest of the trip!

Congrats on the submission! Fingers crossed for you!

Betina Krahn said...

Welcome Marilyn! So good to learn about you and your tantalilzing "secret life." I think it's fascinating that you write confessions. In a sense, a lot of what we write in novels is similar. We're telling stories of what coulda been. . . from a slightly different tact.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for your ms with HQ. They're a great company! And I'm all for the Eat Dessert First concept!

(And give that granddaughter a hug for me!)

Playground Monitor said...

Actually I'm out of town babysitting today. Grandbaby's daycare is closed today so Grammy came to the rescue. We're watching Little Mermaid now but we have plans for the park later provided it doesn't rain.

LOL Kylie! I love your story about the attic find. And yes, Betina, novel writing and confessions writing is pretty much the same because you ask "What if?" and then answer the question.


Kathleen O said...

Oh I think I was reading True Romance magazine, even before I started reading Harlequin novels. It used to drive my father crazy that my mother would let me read that "trash" magazine. I think I lived a couple of those stories when I got older..But once I started to read novels, I left those mags behind me.
Thanks for bringing back some fond memories of my early teens.

Helen Brenna said...

Hey Marilyn! So cool that an editor requested your full ms. Hope you sell soon!

Alas, my family is really boring. No true confessions here, and that I know of my mom never read them. I do, however, remember finding her book "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" and getting a big thrill out of secretly reading that book! Boy does that bring back memories!

Betina Krahn said...

Oh, I forgot-- there are scandals aplenty in my extended family!

Moonshiners who did time(okay, that was a step-grandfather). A handsome great, great grandfather sheriff who rode the county on horseback and dallied with housewives in husbands' absences and was found murdered. . . killed by thirty-some bullets, from several different guns! Twin fat-ladies in a circus. (VERY distant relatives of course, and I saw the tin-type of them myself!) A mean old SOB who had a rummy doctor commit his wife (my great grandmother!) to a mental hospital because she refused him sex.

My great grandfather(other side)had two families-- one legal wife and one common-law wife, both of whom had ten or eleven children by him. The families lived a couple of "hollers" apart in the hills but knew about each other. My dad (grandson of the legit wife) called the other woman "Aunt Suz" (Her name was Susannah), and considered her kids and grandkids family.

Whew. There are more stories, but I'm not sure you'd believe 'em! lol!

Christie Ridgway said...

Love hearing your "confession," Marilyn! When I was in high school, someone would buy True Confessions and leave it in the restaurant break room where I was a waitress. They were fun!

Good luck on your ms. at Harlequin too. That is so cool.

Smarty Pants said...

Popping over from the Playground to see how things are going over here, today.

*waves to Marilyn and the Top Down Ladies*

I'd never read confessions before Marilyn started selling to them. I got inspired and wrote a couple of my own. Its fun to take a break from writing longer pieces and write something else (especially when it sells). Helps me through writing blocks sometimes.

Have to watch what you say around Marilyn, though, or it might end up in the magazine. :)

Michele Hauf said...

Hey, Marilyn, good to have you hear today! Never read one of those magazines, but always wondered about the people behind the stories. Could they possibly be mini romances in disguise? Are they really true? Fun!

Angel said...

I, too, have sold a few confessions and appreciate the more immediate gratification in finishing a shorter story. The money isn't a bad incentive either. :)

But Marilyn is the Confessions Queen and we're quite proud of her accomplishments on the Playground. Enjoy your time with the grandbaby!

Keri Ford said...

Hi, Marilyn. I don't think I've ever heard of the True magazines! Sounds like you're having success. Good luck with that submission.

Amber said...

Loved this column. I find it fascinating that you write for True Confessions. I haven't read one for years, but I read them as a teen.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Marilyn, I'm pretty sure I have the two cutest granddaughters in the world. They take after their great-grandma--the most beautiful woman in the world.

Clyde's sisters trade around Trues. They love my books, too, so we know they have good taste. I remember seeing them in "other people's houses," but Mama said they were not for us. We preferred movie mags.

I hope you get good news on your book. No matter what, you done good, girl. You wrote it start to finish, and an editor is interested. Congratulations!

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Hi Marilyn!
I remember True Confession and True Crime magazines! I had a friend used to pick them up all the time.

Sounds like you've fulfill some of your dreams with the ability to write. What a great post.

Dottie :)

Playground Monitor said...

Just got back from an excursion to an "Old McDonald's" as the grandbaby calls it. It has the BIGGEST playground I've ever seen at a McDonald's. HUGE! Like tow stories high. Like a Grammy's nightmare cause you can't see them every minute. LOL!

Anyway, to answer Michele's question, many of my stories ARE mini romances in disguise. And as far as truth -- some of the stories I've sold are straight from the extended family's crazy antics. Others are based around a kernel of truth. And some are well... the product of my fickle muse.

I've heard lots of folks refer to them as "trashy" but I can assure you the titles on the cover are probably the most sensational part of them. Most have a moral to be learned or a happily ever after.

And Kathleen, I'll argue that "cutest grandbaby" statement. ;-) Mine's piled up on the sofa under her fuzzy blanket and watching "Enchanted."


Cindy Gerard said...

Hey Mrs. P. Great to have you here with us today. You and Kathleen E and I all have the most beautiful grandchildren in the world. Gee. how did that happen?
Cudos to all your success with True Confessions! Totally rocks. And I've got everything but my eyes crossed for you and your Harlequin submission!

ForestJane said...

Interesting post! Now you have me wanting to go buy the magazine to see what it's about. :)

Debra Dixon said...

Marilyn-- Hey!!! I'm late but I'm so glad you did a Follower Friday!!

I don't know why, but I didn't know you'd done confessions!

There is such an art to writing confessions, to finding that unbelievable story that is actually believeable. I had a friend (moved away now) who wrote confessions years ago. The thing that I always loved were her titles. They were brilliant.

I also love the differences in the covers from then to now. When we look at the one in your hand it's very upscale.