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I’ve had some messy careers. Not careers I went at in a messy fashion—I’m actually very organized—but careers that brought a slaughterhouse of stuff with them. To whit:

Dressmaker and milliner. I owned a wedding and maternity clothing business at one time. It wasn’t unusual for me to answer a knock at the door wearing a headdress of threads and garments bristling with safety pins and needles. The house? Knee-deep in snippets of cloth, pattern pieces, feathers, and half-finished projects. Walking barefoot was risky; loose straight pins were everywhere.

Theater director. My mainstay for 25 years, a frenetic, fun, and fraught juvenile theater company, just chock-a-block with costumes and props. Forty mermaid tails. A platoon of fairy tutus. Victorian capes and bonnets in assorted small sizes. Pirates and Munchkins and Dalmatians…Oh, my. Dinner at my house came with a choice of sequins or tufts of fake fur in your soup.

Actor/dancer/singer. Yes, guilty as charged. In my stage career, I played everything from a tap dancing lobster to Queen Victoria. In addition to the mess created by making most of my costumes (see Paragraph Two), I had to store all that gear. I can make you a fabulous deal on a Georgian Era frock coat, if you’re interested.  

A cavalcade of clutter, to be sure. But the messiest career I’ve ever had is the one in which I’m now engaged.


Sounds like nice, neat, sort of profession, doesn’t it? Especially now that we’re not scratching with quill pens or writing novels longhand in ruled notebooks. Ah, but that’s where the Rule of Rackety steps in. No matter how many times I’ve told myself that the modern novel is TYPED on a COMPUTER KEYBOARD, I still rootle around in mountains of paper scraps that I’ve scribbled on when I’m trying to find my notes about the demolition of Wych Street in 1901, or the last date a smuggler was arrested in Kent, or that incredibly brilliant passage I conceived in the middle of the night when I woke up and jotted it down on the scrap paper I keep on my nightstand.

It's amazing how neat it all looks when it finally ends up on the printed page. The bloodstains hardly show at all.


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