This is a guest post by our colleague and friend, Dr. James A. Zarzana, retired Professor Emeritus. He is the author of the The Marsco Saga novels. In addition to writing, he enjoys spending time with his lovely wife and daughter, traveling around the globe, and sipping a good cup of coffee. You can find and follow him on the Marsco Saga website or on the Marsco Saga Facebook page.
I’m quick to tell people who think I’m retired that I am not. It is true that last May, I finished my 41-year teaching career, but I am onto a second career now. I am far from retired.
During the last 18 years that I taught at SMSU, I was also working on my writing. Writing in snatches. Writing on weekends and nights. Writing during the few weeks in the summer I didn’t teach summer school or have English Department Chair duties. During that time, I published one novel, The Marsco Dissident. And additionally I managed to draft the three remaining novels of The Marsco Saga, my four-volume work of speculative sci-fi.
Don’t get me wrong—I loved teaching and gave it my all. I had students who are now teachers and principals. Professors and journalists. Doctors and lawyers. Farmers and business owners. I see one or another here and there in unlikely places, like the hotel I checked into in the Cities—the manager was a former student. He gave me free breakfasts during my entire stay.
But, I also love my writing life. So, I stepped aside from teaching and haven’t missed it. I miss my students and my colleagues, I miss lecturing about my favorite topics (the novel genre and certain authors), but I’m happy doing what I do now. Extremely happy.
And I am busy. . . as busy with my writing career as I was as a prof. No office hours. No committee meetings. But plenty to do.
So, in the year since I retired from teaching, I’ve been to five conferences tied to writing generally or sci-fi specifically. Spoken at two high schools and one university. Been on the radio. And I’ve launched Book II, Marsco Triumphant.
Over the next several months, I have two sci-fi conferences lined up, two reading dates confirmed, one school visit in Sweden set up in May, a research trip to London planned for September (that may include one or two readings), and I am editing Book III, The Marsco Sustainability Project. Look for me on May 26th at the Marshall/Lyon County Library at noon. I’ll be giving my first public reading from Book II.
As an aside, writing a draft of anything is easy. Create your Word document, set your typeface and spacing, save it, and write like the devil. The rub is in the details, and the details are enormous when the draft is 600 or 700 pages long.
I have three words of advice to anyone who wants to write anything, not just fiction. The three words are: revise, revise, revise. When you buy a copy of my book, you are holding my 35th or 40th draft. I have each text professionally edited twice. I have lived and breathed with that novel for years. For several months during that time, all I do is edit. It’s the secret to my overnight success.
So, my “retirement” is not a cabin at the lake. It is not fishing or hunting or trekking around in a new RV. All admirable and enjoyable activities for those who love those sorts of things. But I’m diving into a second career, as far from retirement as ever.
It reminds me of when the space probe Philae landed on Comet 67P in November 2014. This spacecraft launched from Earth, caught up with a distant comet, and landed Philae on its surface, the first such mission in human history. The Head of the European Space Agency, who commanded this incredibly complicated and challenging space mission, stated: “The biggest problem with success is that it looks easy.”
The problem with my kind of retirement is that it may not look like work, but it is. Enjoyable work, but work nonetheless.
I hope you enjoy the fruits of my labors.