The Flying Nun, Oprah and Me

By John Riddle

When I was 17 and a few months away from graduating HS in 1970, our family lived in public housing projects in Chester, PA.  While watching an episode of “The Flying Nun” one night, I was intrigued by the closing credits that were dedicated to one of the writers who had passed away.  Right then and there I prayed and asked God if he wouldn’t mind making me a writer one day.  Moments later, I felt inspired to write my own episode.  Using an old Royal Typewriter (with a few bent keys), I created 8 pages of what I thought was “great material.”  However, when I showed it to my English teacher at the Catholic HS I was attending, he told me “it was the worst piece of crap (he used a different word) that he had ever read, and that I should consider a career as a ditch digger.”  Right then and there I vowed that one day, I would see my name on multiple covers of books, and that I would travel the country, inspiring and teaching other people to follow their dream of writing.  A few months later I enlisted in the Navy.

Fast forward to 7 years of collecting rejection slips and I finally sold my first magazine article!  I had arrived!!!

With no college degree, but lots of clips, I could not get a job as a “real writer,” so I drifted from being a payroll clerk at the Dupont Company (7 years), to a few part time jobs after I left there to pursue my writing dream.  A few years later I found myself working as a Development Director in charge of fundraising and public relations at a local nonprofit agency.  It was the best of both worlds: it allowed me to use my gift of creative communication to write grant and fundraising letters, and do create special events (tried to set the Guinness Book of World Records by having the largest number of people dance the twist with Chubby Checker!).  After 7 years at one agency, I took another Development Director job at an agency closer to my home.  Raised a boatload of money for them in the first 15 months or so, and they rewarded me by laying me off.

As I sat home, licking my wounds, wondering where I was going to find another full-time job, etc.  I remember watching the Oprah show one afternoon.  She was going through the phase of the show where she would have self-help experts come on and tell people “if you want it, make it happen, etc.”

I finally had my “lightbulb moment!”

Why was I wasting my time looking for yet another full-time job, when by this time, I had tons of clips (The Washington Post, among others)?  Thankfully, the Internet was still in the early stages, and I found out how to start reaching out to editors online.

As of this date, I have written and sold 34 books to traditional publishers and have worked as a ghostwriter on numerous projects.  My byline has appeared in major publications all across the U.S., and I have written articles for over 200 Websites.

And I’m not done yet…