By Chris and Nancy Jennison
We’ve always loved writing. And when we left our full-time jobs, we knew we could use our experience as writers to help teach kids. But we needed just a little retooling to shift our focus.
We had changed our lives dramatically in the late 2000s. Nancy retired from her position as literacy staff developer for a northern New Jersey school district. We returned to the Boston area, and Chris cut back his hours as an education book publisher, retiring in 2010. Though we considered ourselves retired, we were really searching for our encores.
During those years, Nancy consulted with teachers in Massachusetts and New Jersey and wrote a resource book designed to ease standardized test pressures on educators and students. Meanwhile, Chris wrote a baseball history book, bringing a golden age of baseball to life with his words.
Luckily, writing was not new to us. Nancy’s book was her third, and Chris’ was his 10th. But, a lifelong dream of Nancy’s was to write children’s books that educators could use to teach writing to children. And Chris had a baseball book for middle school kids in mind for several years, inspired by his desire to motivate boys to read.
But we needed training on how to write for children. At an International Reading Association convention, we found out about a weeklong workshop called Fiction Writing for Children and Young Adults, sponsored by Highlights Foundation and led by noted author and editor, Patricia Lee Gauch.
Day and night we attended classes and most importantly, we wrote, wrote, wrote! We had mentors who critiqued our work and helped us set writing goals. We learned about further training opportunities and writing groups that we could join for more help.
Transitioning to our encore careers has been easy for us, since we have been able to draw from skills we built during our years in the workforce. If you’re not sure where you’ll begin, think about the following:
- Is there something that you’ve always dreamed about doing, but never had the time to accomplish?
- Is there a skill that you developed in your work that you can reframe and use in an encore career?
- Is there further training that you can undertake to help you clarify your goals? Or, can you consult with those who are accomplished in your field of interest for suggestions?
- Is there a support network to help you once you embark on this new goal?
- Is there someone who can mentor you?
Investigate volunteer activities that take advantage of your skills and experience. Starting something new can be invigorating and challenging. But, once you take the first step, you’ll be glad you did!