November 15, 2011

Made It Moment: Elizabeth Main

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:15 pm

No Rest for the Wicked

I met Liz Main while we were traveling west last summer, and I read her sharp small-town cozy not long after. The two experiences will forever be united in my mind by a vivid sense of place. Liz creates that sense of place in her fiction. And she creates it in her Moment below.

You can see the lawn on which she cartwheels, can’t you? I can practically smell the scent of her dogs. And see the sky rockets, which mean, eternally, that somewhere someone has made it.

Elizabeth Main

The tricky proposition is to define “made it.” I used to move the goal posts a lot: “The first sale might have been a fluke. If I sell a second book, or a third, then maybe . . .” I stopped playing that game about the time I started giving my occupation as “writer” when asked.

The initial cartwheels-across-the-lawn writing moment came one magic day 20 years ago when I slit open an envelope and found a check for $25 from a real magazine for a short story I had submitted. Independent verification of my dream!

After I stopped jumping up and down, I was wild to share my joy. But with whom? By chance, all my immediate family members were unavailable. I couldn’t think! I couldn’t think . . . let alone wait another moment to tell someone my news.

Aha! I tore outside to the deck, where Tar and Trapper, our black lab and golden retriever, dozed in the sun. Waving the check in their furry faces, I shouted, “I’m published! I’m published!” At first alarmed by my antics, they soon recognized the momentous nature of the occasion and jumped around with me, wagging their tails in admiration and grinning, as only dogs well-acquainted with the difficulty of getting published can do.

I’ve had both public writing successes and special, private affirmations. Our daughter once created a cardboard book cover (complete with rave reviews) as a stand-in for the real cover she was sure my first book would someday receive. Our granddaughter found the climax of my juvenile adventure novel so scary she made her mother stay with her while she read it. It’s a hoot to be known as the family author.

But several years ago I discovered, to my own surprise, that my deepest writing satisfaction comes from working on a project that I deem important, even if it doesn’t advance my career. It’s gangbusters when my work and the needs of the market overlap, but not necessary . . . the difference between the blaze of a skyrocket across the night sky and the visceral warmth of a steady, internal light. Each has provided me a “Made It Moment.” No need to stop at one.

Elizabeth C. Main has lived in and loved the High Desert country of Central Oregon, where she and her husband reared their two children, for over thirty-three years. She majored in English and taught in high school, but her primary focus was her family and community for many years. She became serious about writing only after the kids left home. She writes in whatever genre catches her fancy, currently cozy mysteries. The second in the Jane Serrano Mystery series, No Rest for the Wicked, was published in August, following Murder of the Month in 2005. Prior to that she published a middle-grade adventure novel, A Star for Courage, and a contemporary romance, Richer by Far. She also enjoys writing personal essays and short stories . . . anything to avoid housework.


  1. Your family’s support of your writing is touching. I hope that you kept the cover. Just to encourage you.

    Comment by JLOakley — November 15, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

  2. Congratulations on your accomplishments, Liz, and thanks so much for sharing your insight over what matters most to you in your writing career. It seems like you’ve clearly identified the big picture for yourself, and that’s a great reminder to the rest of us when we sometimes fall into a fixation with the details of what’s not going right. Wishing you all the best with your latest release, as well as your next project! I’ll definitely be checking out your books! ^_^

    Comment by Becca — November 15, 2011 @ 11:17 pm

  3. Beautiful and so very true for everyone one of us who’ve opened that special check in the mail.
    I will have to admit that moment came for me in 1952 with a lapse of many years before it happened again.
    Thank you for sharing a special experience.
    Nash Black (Irene)

    Comment by Nash Black — November 15, 2011 @ 11:25 pm

  4. I love your family’s support as well. Nice made it moment! Thanks Liz and Jenny.

    Comment by Pamela DuMond — November 15, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

  5. Janet: You’ll be glad to know that my original book cover has a place of honor on the bookcase next to my computer. The back cover copy imparts the following information: “Elizabeth C. Main began her brilliant writing career as a child, writing scary Halloween plays for her neighborhood.” (True.) I get terrific support from my family.

    Becca: Thanks for your kind comments. It’s taken years to determine just which part of writing means the most to me. I’m still quite capable of getting fixated on the wrong things–just ask my long-suffering husband–but the big picture remains front and center most of the time now.

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 2:14 am

  6. Irene: Ah, that special envelope! You may have had a hiatus after that first check, but that certainly didn’t hinder your career.

    Pamela: I’ve been lucky to have such wonderful family support. The truth is that my family is loaded with writers far more talented than I, but I seem to be the only one driven to write. I guess they satisfy their writing urges by cheerleading for me.

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 2:25 am

  7. I’ve noticed all of our comments have the same theme which is the theme in your post about your wonderful family support. You have so many moments to treasure and I anticipate many many more. Congratulations and thanks for sharing with all of us.

    Comment by Cindy Sample — November 16, 2011 @ 4:22 am

  8. Hi, Elizabeth,

    We seem to have a lot in common! I too started writing back in elementary school, originally majored in English which I taught at the high school level and spent many years raising a family. I guess writing is in our blood.

    Congrats on the new mystery release and the excellent reviews the novel is receiving!

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — November 16, 2011 @ 6:23 am

  9. LOL – loved the cartwheels and sharing the news with the dogs. I can SO relate! Persnally, I think the biggest moment would have been when your story was real enough to scare your granddaughter! Beautiful.

    Comment by mountainmama — November 16, 2011 @ 6:36 am

  10. Great Made It Moment, Jenny and Liz. What a wonderful story about the family support!


    Comment by Sandy — November 16, 2011 @ 8:48 am

  11. Cindy: My family’s support has been particularly important because I used to think I shouldn’t be *playing* when useful tasks surrounded me, unheeded. Perhaps my family has given up on weaning me from my mania and simply gone with the flow. :-) One surprise benefit: I’m happier when I write, so I get more useful tasks done, as well.

    Jacquie: Our paths (writing, teaching, family, writing)do have a lot in common. Just goes to show that early interests are often the most telling. I still want to write scary Halloween stories, only for a bigger neighborhood.

    Thanks to both of you for commenting.


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  12. I love the idea of moving the goal posts. I do that a great deal when I miss my self-imposed deadlines for completing a scene/chapter/project. But now I’ll use it to define success and start by reeling back in time and setting today’s goal post at “get out of bed and feed the dogs.” Yay. I made it. Now anything else is gravy.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — November 16, 2011 @ 10:50 am

  13. Hi, Mountainmama. Perhaps the dogs were pre-programmed to approve of my writing careeer. After all, they looked to me for food. But you’re right about the tremendous thrill I received when I learned of my granddaughter’s reaction to the scary scene in _A Star for Courage_. (Some grandmas are warmer and fuzzier than others.) It’s been so much fun to present our grandchildren with samples of my published writing–not my mysteries yet, except for the one already named, which was designed for kids–and have them take the short stories to school for show and tell. Some grandmas knit and others make up silly Christmas plays, with roles for everyone in the family.

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  14. Thanks, Sandy. I’ve already commented at length about my consistent family support, but sometimes I wonder whether I have a harder row to hoe as a writer simply because of all this support. Aren’t writers supposed to have dreadful lives, starving in garrets and such, to provide fodder for their writing? I’m forced to dig around in a very satisfying life and find little pleasures that matter a lot to me. One of my greatest difficulties in writing is to make life difficult for my characters. I want everyone to be happy, but that leaves me with no story. I did burn our dinner last week, but that’s hardly the stuff of drama. Where’s that garret when I need it?

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 11:05 am

  15. Oh, Carolyn. You make me laugh. You have proved time and again that you know how to reach your goals. It’s encouraging to hear that someone like you also misses the mark now and then. Good luck in getting some gravy today.


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 11:10 am

  16. I don’t know if one person could get anymore excited. Well done Liz. You can’t beat family support. I like the part about the cardboard box cover.

    Comment by Jeff Dawson — November 16, 2011 @ 11:17 am

  17. What another wonderful made it moment, Jenny! Elizabeth, I can visualize the dancing dogs as they celebrated your triumph with you. It’s always so nice to hear how we keep moving forward and make the best of everything life throws our way.

    Comment by Collette Scott — November 16, 2011 @ 11:35 am

  18. Dogs are quite canny and savvy to the publishing world. Congrats!

    Comment by Savvy — November 16, 2011 @ 11:41 am

  19. Jeff: I’ve never been known for my reticence, so the dog episode is quite in character. Probably the neighbors didn’t notice a thing. As for the cardboard cover, I just checked the date on the back. I received it in 1992 and that book wasn’t published until 2001.

    Collette: I can’t always claim to make the best of everything life has thrown my way, but I will say that my most profound changes for the better have come from what I considered distastrous events at the time they occurred. The dancing dogs were a nice change from rejection letters though.

    Thanks to you both.

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 11:46 am

  20. Hi, Savvy. You’re perfectly right about the perspicacity of dogs, as any dog-lover knows. Apparently, publishers know something about this, too. When my publisher had the choice of two pictures for my book jacket, one featuring the dog and one without, guess which one she chose?


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 11:54 am

  21. What a great story. Loved you sharing your joy with your dogs. Pets of writers do understand the ups and downs of the publishing world. (smile)

    Comment by Maryann Miller — November 16, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

  22. Yes, Maryann, my dogs have always been amazingly smart. For example, right now Patsy (our 12-1/2-year-old lab featured on the book cover) is lying at my feet, contemplating a revolt against all this sitting at the computer business. Though she wholeheartedly supports my writing, as have all our dogs, priorities must be set. Writers–and dogs–need to get out in the fresh air now and then to recharge. :-)


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  23. Perspicacity? Boy, you are an author.

    Comment by Jared Romey — November 16, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

  24. The home-made book cover is a great story. My daughter made me a Ph.d. when I thought I couldn’t get one. Now you have made me a “cozy” fan, at least of your cozies. My family likes them, too.

    Comment by Janis Lull — November 16, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

  25. How great to see you all here, coming out for Liz! She is a wonderful author & person. Here’s to streams of Made It Moments for all!!

    Comment by jenny — November 16, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

  26. Jared: Nope. Just pretentious and/or stuck in the “p” section of the dictionary.

    Jan: You should have asked me back when we were in elementary school together. I knew you’d earn at least one Ph.D, and possibly more. However, I wouldn’t ever have predicted that you’d read a cozy. Thanks.


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  27. Hi, Jenny,

    Thanks for providing me with the opportunity to have such a good time today. I salute you for providing encouragement to authors all across the country, day after day, week after week, year after year.


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  28. I would not be here without the encouragement of authors, Liz, so saluting you right back! Thanks so much for sharing your Moment…

    Comment by jenny — November 16, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

  29. Loved your post, Liz. I didn’t start writing way back when because I wanted to be outside climbing trees. Having a daughter who lived in Ashland, Oregon for many years and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in her backyard, how could I not bring the Bard to Livermore, CA.

    Comment by Carole Price — November 16, 2011 @ 7:00 pm

  30. Carole:
    Proximity to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland is one of the many benefits of living in this great state. Good idea to transplant Shakespeare to your fictional vineyard in California so people there can enjoy him, too.

    Climbing trees as a kid was probably the best thing you could have done for your physical fitness. Excellent! Unfortunately, I didn’t go in for it much because it necessitated putting down a book.


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

  31. What a terrific experience and, since I began my writing career just a few years before you did with the sale of an essay I can sure identify with how you felt. Except . . . except . . . we didn’t have a dog, let alone dogs! Or a cat–in singles or multiples. Darn.

    Comment by Radine — November 16, 2011 @ 8:40 pm

  32. For Pete’s sake, Radine, don’t leave me in suspense. What did you do under the circumstances? With no dogs or cats nearby, did you have to report to a goldfish, or what?


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 16, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

  33. Thanks again, Jenny, for hosting me today. It was fun. Liz

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 17, 2011 @ 1:55 am

  34. I know what you mean about defining a Made It moment…there can be so many and the goal posts do change all the time. I really enjoyed this post. And Jenny, you are so good at drawing out the loveliness in people.

    Comment by Niamh Clune — November 17, 2011 @ 8:31 am

  35. Niamh,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Jenny is such a warm and caring person that your observation about her “drawing out the loveliness in people” is spot-on. Thanks for describing her magic so beautifully. No wonder you have been called the “female Pat Conroy.”


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 17, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  36. My kind of lady :) I LOVE this–especially the bit about housework :)

    Comment by Elisa — November 18, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

  37. Thanks, Elisa. You think I’m kidding about the housework? Let’s put it this way: the white-glove test would soon become black-glove proof, if I were to allow anyone into the house. I like to entertain in the summertime, when we can sit outside under the cherry tree. I claim it’s to enjoy the beauties of nature, but that’s not exactly the whole reason. Liz

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — November 19, 2011 @ 10:21 pm

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