Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Guest Blogger: Kathryn Maughan

Yesterday, I posted my review of DID I EXPECT ANGELS? by Kathryn Maughan. I hope you got the chance to read it because I think it's a wonderful book and a very special story. I think it's one of those books that can really make a difference in people's lives. I am very honored that Ms. Maughan agreed to be a guest blogger here and talk a little more about the angels in her life.

I believe in angels. I don’t know about the type with wings and a halo (I’ve never seen one) but I firmly believe that people can be angels too. I’ve experienced them, I’ve heard about them, and—dare I brag?—I’ve even been one. And it’s wonderful to be a part of all three.

I talk about this on my site,, but in case you can’t hear me (the sound is bad—I’m getting it fixed), I’ll sum up. Back in the summer of 2001, I was having a very bad year. I’d worked the first half of the year for a small publisher, and while on paper it sounded like a good reality, it made for a lot of terrible, awful, horrible, no-good, very bad days. (No, they didn’t publish that book. It’s not a hint.) I started applying for other jobs in April, and at the end of May, I got one. Or I thought I did. Really, looking back, I should have been smarter. I got a job as a “model scout”—going around to clubs and parties and parks etc and accosting attractive people to ask if they wanted to sign up for a modeling website. Of course, they had to pay to post their pictures on the website. So their excitement (someone thinks I’m attractive!) was tempered when they got to the meeting (it’s all a scam!) and they walked out in a huff. I am not a saleswoman, so I didn’t get a lot of people to the meeting. And I have a conscience, so I didn’t try too hard to get people to the meeting. (I will tell you that I was not aware of the “catch” when I signed up for the job.) Above all, I am a writer, so I didn’t like approaching strangers at all.

Well, I lasted a full week. I had already given notice at my awful job, and I was so thrilled to be leaving, I decided not to rescind it. I’d get another one right away, right?

Ha ha.

Temp agencies liked me. They just didn’t send me out on any jobs. Recruiters liked me, but said there wasn’t much going on. I didn’t get responses from resume blasts. was a joke. June turned into July and July faded into August. I kept hope alive, that soon I would get a job, but then we ran into September 11, 2001, and the world changed.

I mourned with the rest of my city for a month. Finding a job suddenly didn’t seem so important; I just wanted the world to get better or go away. My personal situation didn’t help any; while I like sleeping in as much as the next person, I needed a reason to get out of the house. Companies that didn’t want to hire anyone in the summer now couldn’t hire anyone in the fall. My money was running out, and my prospects were dim indeed.

My friends were supportive, but in that “you can do it” sort of way. I was sinking into a depression and needed more than general encouragement; I needed a kick in the rear. My dear friend Marisol (whose father loosely inspired Diego, the benefactor in Henry’s story in my book, Did I Expect Angels?) gave me this kick. She’s from the Bronx, and doesn’t suffer fools. She became my Angel Number One.

"Get out of bed and get a job,” she told me.

Well, I never. I huffed for a moment and then whined, “I’ve done everything I can. I don’t know what else to do.”

“So get to Career Services. At least take a step out of your house. If you don’t go to Career Services this week, I’ll come over and drag you there myself.”

(I am editing to keep this PG.)

Marisol didn’t have to drag me to Career Services. I was grown-up enough (even at that point) to make the appointment myself, and keep it. I walked in and sat down across from a woman named Francine Bard, who promptly established herself as Angel Number two.

Francine looked over my resume, and asked, “What do you want to do?”

I’d spent the previous year as an assistant; I’d gone through college working assistant positions; I’d temped; I’d worked for my dad years before that. Of course, I really yearned to be a writer...but that didn’t matter anymore. “I...I’m looking for an assistant position,” I said.

"Why aren’t you pursuing writing?” she asked.

I promptly began to cry. (It embarrasses me no end, but I just can’t control it. At least I’m a girl.)

Francine set my resume down. I still remember the look on her face as she calculated and decided the best course of action. She did not start going through my resume; she did not tell me to dress better. (All that came later.) She said, “Have you ever considered therapy?”

"I can’t afford therapy.”

"Actually, Teacher’s College offers therapy on a sliding scale. No matter what you earn, you’ll be able to afford it.”

Even in my less-than-prime state, I recognized that this was a good idea. Maybe it was because of my less-than-prime state. I sniffled and took the proffered tissue and agreed that I ought to check out Teacher’s College sliding scale therapy. She wrote out the referral with me there and promised to mail it later. And two days later, she called me. “I just wanted to check with you before I send in this referral,” she said. “I didn’t want you to feel railroaded into anything.” But I was grateful for her help, and told her so. In the coming weeks, I had several more appointments with Francine. We went over my resume, talked about my shortcomings (very bluntly, I thought), had “mock interviews” and coaching sessions on how to dress. (Do not go to the gym, come home late, shower and put your wet hair in a bun. They can tell your hair is wet. The bun fools no one.) I got a job within a month.

Francine’s referral brought me to Angel Number Three, Heather Trish. Heather was my therapist at Teacher’s College (which charged me $7 a session, affordable even for the unemployed). I know therapists are paid to help people, but I have looked back on my time with her and thought that she really was sent to help me specifically. She always had the right questions to ask, the right words to say. “Why aren’t you writing? What are you scared of? You have no idea what you are capable of, and I want you to find out!” I walked away from sessions with her questioning myself (in a good way), getting motivated, realizing I had to make some major changes.

The first thing I did was start writing. I went to the head of the playwriting department at my university and asked him if he had a spot in his class. “No,” he said, “but as soon as one opens up you’ll be the first to know.” Angel Number Four, Austin Flint. He called me the next day to say someone had dropped the class, and I was in. And then he said, “Not to pry, but what’s your financial situation these days?” This time I was able to keep from crying, but he got the message. “I only ask because we have a fellowship specifically for people in your situation: writing majors who’ve graduated but want to keep taking classes. It’ll pay for one or two of the three credits.” I rejoiced. On the first day of class, he said, “It looks like we have a little extra in the fellowship fund, so we’re going to cover your entire class.” And he did so for another two semesters, during which time I wrote the play that got me into a fabulous graduate writing program. I haven’t stopped writing since then.

Thank you to:

Angel Number One, Marisol Perez, for giving me a kick. Angel Number Two, Francine Bard, for turning that kick in the right direction. Angel Number Three, Heather Trish, for helping me figure out what to do with that direction, and Angel Number Four, Austin Flint, who helped me turn a mere direction into a way of life. And all the angels who have read and championed my book and are helping me turn it into’re on my list too.

Did I expect angels? In fact, I did...and I’ve gotten them. I love you all, and I thank you.

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