Heather Saunders Estes K'74

I write every morning (mostly) with my husband, Fred Estes (Hamilton Class of 1972), who is also a writer when he is not being a professor. His biography of young inventors is under contract, with an advance about to come in the mail. Poetry, which I write, doesn’t pay advances unless you are a Poet Laureate or Rupi Kaur. My hope is to make enough money to pay for the modest fountain pen I bought to autograph my book, Inner Sunset (available on Amazon, or by order from your local book store—please leave a review.) But that isn’t the point for me. I enjoy writing, reading my poems, and perceiving the world, now and then, with poet’s senses— coming home from traveling to see my life with new eyes. 

You can make a living writing—I have heard it has been done. Living to write makes more sense. If perchance you can get paid, even better. I was a ceramics and education major at Kirkland. After graduate work at Syracuse University, volunteering and paid jobs in between, I followed a beloved mission and became CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern California. Thirty-seven years later, I stepped away, certain we were about to have the first woman president and reproductive health and freedom would be in good hands. Ah well. What does endure? Management is creative, but art continues to be my next life chapter. 

Yes, I write every day, at home, in coffee shops, or in the back garden. I take classes—online and in-person—read books, and participate in two writing groups. Seems to me the way to get better at something is to keep doing it. I write a lot of poems, good, bad, and indifferent. Thanks to my Hamilton-Kirkland education, I love learning this new skill. 

My basic recommendation for authors-to-be: ignore your inner critic and keep writing. Read. Experiment with genres. Hang out with other writers, publishers, editors, and artists, if they are supportive. Ditch them if they are not. I have friends who patiently read my morning poems or musings. Our daughter also writes—science-fantasy, and is an exceptional editor. Write because you have something to communicate to yourself and maybe others. Life is too short, love your work and play hard with it. Keep writing.

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