A Black Balloon Publication ©
By Robert Balkovich

Unless you are lucky enough to be born into a family with money, or win the lottery, or both, it can be difficult to make it as a writer. While some authors reach a level of success that enables them to quit their pesky day jobs, this can take years or, sometimes, a lifetime. Working odd jobs is a routine stage in the careers of most writers, and there are many famous authors who have worked gigs that make your college job rolling burritos look like a vacation. But can you guess which ones?

1. Which of these groundbreaking writers was also the first black female cable car operator in the history of San Francisco?
2. This writer of spooky, disturbing novels and short stories was a diesel mechanic before becoming a bestselling author:
3. Before writing one of the masterpieces of American fiction, this author worked as a reservations clerk for the now defunct Eastern Air Lines:
4. This master of the short story made money by catching and selling goldfinches:
5. Who supported himself early in his career by working at a saw-mill in the Pacific Northwest?
6. Despite a successful early career as an ethnographer and writer, after slipping into obscurity, this author worked odd jobs, including gigs as a housekeeper:
7. This writer, known for his/her acerbic wit, worked as a pianist for a dance academy before being published:
8. Which one of these writers owned an asbestos factory before becoming known as one of the great thinkers of the 20th century?
9. Before winning the Booker Prize for fiction, this novelist taught aerobics at five-star hotels:
10. Known now as one of the most popular living British writers, before being published, this author pursued a career as a musician, playing in clubs and sending demo tapes to record companies.

So how did you do? Which author odd job was the most surprising? Know of more outrageous work writers turned to before picking up the pen? Tell us all about it in the comments below.


Robert Balkovich is an Oregonian-cum-New Yorker currently living in Brooklyn. He is not from Portland. His writing has appeared in/on 7 Stops Magazine, Park Slope Reader, The State Column, Ubiquitous and TravelSquire.com. Besides writing, he enjoys anthropology and ethnography books from the 1970s, and clay face masks. He is really trying his best at Twitter, so please follow him: @RobertBalkovich

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