Writing for Free

This summer, my daughter, who will be attending college in the fall, is volunteering in two different programs. She had the option to spend the summer with her parents. Knowing that her younger brother would be in camp, I don’t blame her for preferring staying in town with her older sister and work.
When she got her interviews – yes, volunteers get screened and interviewed – she was thrilled to be hired and proud to enter the work force. It’s only when she started working that she realized that, unlike her sister who is also working, she wouldn’t be paid. Of course, she knew that being a volunteer means working for free.
“I think it would have great to get a paying job,” she told me.
I totally understood that. My first summer salary that I earned working at a cash register in a supermarket remains one of my most exhilarating memories.
“Some of my friends got real jobs,” she added with a pang of envy.
She has another valid point, I thought, you get paid for real jobs.
I thought of my own life, and how no salary can ever match the hours spent writing. I also thought of the thrill of the occasional check for a story or a winning contest entry.
She’s right, I agreed, money valid jobs and us as well.
Yesterday morning, I picked up the mail; and here was an acceptance from Valley Public Radio, a mix of National Public Radio and locally aired programs based in Central California. Late spring, I entered their annual writing competition called Valley Writers Read. The program is opened to the entire California Valley, which is one of the most populated areas of the state. The radio said yes to my fiction story for the upcoming 2013 season. This fall, I will record the story at the studio. 
The same thrill I remembered so vividly from my first summer salary traveled through my body.
And yet my story will air for free.
And I didn’t enter once, but twice already.
What’s up with writing that makes it so special that no money can buy?

Is it because all writers I’ve met – we all agree it’s hard work –never said it’s a job, even less a business?

Many locals listen faithfully to Valley Writers Read. Some have e-mailed me after hearing my story; some have complimented me, many have thanked me for writing it and reading it – not a small task for a non-native speaker. Many, I know, don’t read much and prefer listening to the radio on their long commute to and back from work. A woman told me that she would never miss Valley Writers Read and would sometimes hope for road delays so she could listen to the whole story. That’s so nice to hear. Especially when it’s one of your stories. 
My daughter, I’m sure, will also receive many grateful thank yous for her volunteering jobs. 
Now that I think about it, that’s what the thrill is about. 
Doing something, that someone, somewhere, will appreciate. 
So as long as my husband agrees to work for money to provide such a great life for all of us, I feel fortunate that, once a year, I can write a story for free. 
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