My Love-Hate Relationship with Writing for Cash

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I’m an old writer.

My oldest stories, which I still have in a banker’s box on the top shelf in my basement, are written in striving cursive on blue-lined manilla paper that is more than a half century old. My fifth-grade teacher has written “great story” in red ink next to a gold star at the top.

In the next box over on the basement shelf are 3 x 5 floppy disks that back up the typed manuscripts that back up the tall stack of yellowed newspaper clippings of stories I wrote for…


Making Space for the Single Woman Inside Me

Photo: Beth Vilen

Today I have lived in my own home by myself for one month.Today I received a letter from the bank that begins, “Your mortgage loan referenced above was recently paid in full.”

I own this house.

I live here.

I paid for it.

It’s mine. It’s mine alone.

I love this aloneness.

When Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One’s Own in 1929, it was radical to think and even more radical say that a woman, a woman writer, must have a space — literal and figurative — of her own in which to create and be herself. Now, almost…


The birds chatter in the trees. The river hums softly.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Every day I walk alone for several miles. From my apartment, it’s just a few steps to a nearby nightlife corridor, which a month ago took me past bustling restaurants and bars, their garage doors open to the spring sunshine, tourists and locals gathered in knots all down the sidewalk. But now every window is dark, the sidewalks ghostly. Even the staunch Baptist church on the corner, overlooking a tattoo parlor, a bar, the Good Karma clothing shop, and a yoga studio, is shuttered. On the stoop in front of the church sits a solitary man, pouring something from a…


When where you are is in between

Photo credit: Beth Vilen

When Paul* and I separated after 34 years of marriage, my adult daughter, who lives a day’s drive distant, seemed at first to take it in stride. But after a few weeks, I could tell she was screening my calls.

And then one day she called me back to explain, “I don’t know where home is anymore, but it isn’t there.”

Her comment, served with a spoonful of wistful nostalgia and another of acerbic judgment, hit me with the force of truth. I don’t know where home is anymore either.

I know what is not home.

I’m living in a…


How I Got My Groove Back When the World Was Already Planning My Funeral

Photo by JoelValve on Unsplash

Last week I celebrated my 59th birthday.

And the first six months of my life as a single, middle-aged woman.

Social commentary and statistics do not speak kindly to either of these benchmarks.

Older women are often written off as invisible, fragile, or despicable (witness the comments on my previous essay, in which I reflect on my own internal wicked witch). The National Center for Family and Marriage Research calls divorce in the second half of life — a “grim” predicament that sends most women straight into depression and financial ruin.

Nevertheless the number of grey divorces is rising, and…

Beth Vilen

Writer. Taking a leap.

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