5 Writers with Surprising Career Paths

It may seem like our favorite writers were born with writing genes, went to writer schools, lived writerly days, and channeled all their natural writerliness into, well, writing. Turns out most of them are just like us. Their journeys are winding and weird. These five writers have career paths that are a litte more unconventional, and might provide some comfort to us!   

Mary Shelley

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Some say the tale of how Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein came to be is better than the work itself. Frankenstein’s monster literally came to her in a dream! During a summer vacation on Lake Geneva, the literary A-team of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Mary Shelley were stuck inside telling ghost stories because of the harsh weather.  Shelley could not think of a story to save her life, until the iconic creature showed up in a nightmare! Unfortunately, Shelley never had a fully fledged career as a fiction writer, but her books have inspired Halloween costumes, which is more than most authors can say!

  Harper Lee

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For some authors, one is more than enough.  To Kill A Mockingbird  is what you might call a literary one-hit-wonder. Lee apparently wanted to write her whole life, but called it quits citing discontent with the book tour rigamarole. Apparently, she thought the book was a good enough measure of what she had to say as a writer. In her own words, “I have said what I wanted to say, and I will not say it again”.

 Amy Waldman


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For Amy Waldman, being a prominent reporter and correspondent for The New York Times and The Atlantic just wasn’t enough. She had to go and publish a New York Times bestselling novel too. Waldman turned her eye towards fiction in The Submission: A riveting book about a Muslim man whose design for the 9/11 memorial is anonymously selected. The award winning book had us eagerly awaiting Waldman’s next move. Unfortunately for her readers, there is no word on a sophomore release.

 Kathryn Stockett


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Kathryn Stockett hopped from magazine publishing and on to the fiction train following the debut of her wildly popular novel The Help, and the world is all the better for it. Stockett apparently fought hard to get the thing published. It got rejected by over 50 agents, who are all no doubt having to eat their words. The book sat comfortably atop the New York Times bestseller list for over 100 weeks, and even got its own movie adaptation. Stockett is reportedly working on a second novel, but it remains to be seen.  

 Haruki Murakami


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This one takes the cake as the most bizarre origin story of them all.  It’s not uncommon for a nonfiction writer to try their hand at fiction, or for a writer to publish just one book and say that’s that. What’s really impressive is going from jazz club owner to prolific novelist all in a matter of seconds. So the story goes for Japanese author Haruki Murakami, who decided he could write a novel while watching a baseball game at Jingu Stadium in Japan.

American player Dave Hilton steps up to bat, hits a homerun, and as the ball is soaring through the stadium Murakami realizes he’s got what it takes. He describes the moment here. If only the stars aligned for the rest of us like that. I went to a Knicks game last week, but still can’t get a short story published in the New Yorker.

Featured Image courtesy of The Guardian