For some men, the shiny red Miata works. For others, a new wife tops a convertible.
The male mid-life crisis isn't satiated logically. A man with no writing experience might even decide to pen a bestseller. Meet Camron Wright, author of Letters for Emily.
After college, he and his wife put their degrees together (his in business, hers in fashion) and opened a bridal gown business. After many years of steady business, they were offered a buy-out too good to pass up.
"I was tired of the retail business anyway and I thought it would not be a big deal to go out and work for somebody else," Wright says, speaking from his home in Salt Lake City. Although he didn't know what he wanted to do, he quickly realized working for someone else wasn't it.
Wright, 40 and unemployed, was in the throes of a mid-life crisis.
"It was a very confusing time for me professionally," he says. "I have to be careful when I tell people I was going through a mid-life crisis — it was strictly a professional mid-life crisis."
Then came the idea for the book.
Wright's only writing experience to that point had been award-winning, after all. In the third grade, he won a contest with a borrowed poem.
"It was actually a poem my grandfather had written," he says. "You know when you ask for help and the adult kind of gets overzealous." His grandfather, Harry Wright, composed many poems and stories and compiled the best for his children.
"It was after his death in reading through those that I thought it's a shame we remember (our grandparents) in the last two to three years when they weren't really themselves instead of the 85 years when they were terrific," Wright says. He turned that thought into Letters.
Harry Whitney, aware of his worsening Alzheimer's, writes a book of poems for his granddaughter, Emily. Early in the book he passes on, and his book of poems is discovered. Each poem contains a password to a letter hidden on his computer. Emily, while excited by the game of finding the hidden passwords, is too young to appreciate the wisdom of the letters.
Their immediate effect is on her mother and father who, through reading them, gain a better understanding of the man Harry was. The personality Harry reveals in his letters is one his own son had never known.
"Harry is the one character in the book that I tried to keep most true to life based on the life of my own grandfather," Wright says. "He did many of the things that Harry did in the book, especially as he got into old age. He would be in the driveway and he would swear at the kids like crazy."
In the book, Wright explores the ever-changing relationships between parents and children. Emily sees her parents as the center of her world and doesn't know they're seriously considering divorcing. Emily's mother sees Grandpa Harry as a kind old man who has his grumpy moments but dotes on his granddaughter. Emily's father holds on to the image of his father as the bitter and depressed man he was through much of his childhood.
"I think it's a shock to many people as they get older and realize their parents are indeed human," Wright explains. "I think there comes a time for many people when they need to not hold a grudge and just forgive Mom or Dad for things they shouldn't have done or were misinterpreted."
Letters is a feel-good book, thick with sentiment. The simple writing style makes it a quick and easy read.
Writing the book perhaps proved easier for Wright than getting it published. After querying 20 agents and promptly receiving 20 "No Thank Yous," Wright chose to self-publish.
"I had read that it takes an author an average of seven years to get published once they start sending things out," he says, "and I was too impatient for that."
With his business background and the advice of a friend in the publishing business, the book became a bestseller in local bookstores in just two months. That got the attention of the publishers, and shortly thereafter Simon & Schuster bought the rights.
"I knew to get noticed we were going to have to do something like that," he says. "It's so hard to get the attention of an agent or a publisher."
Wright is busy working on his next book now and enjoying the new schedule of his life. He's his own boss again, and the work is more enjoyable than before.
"People imagine that (writing a book) really is going to revolutionize and change your life, and yet my wife still makes me take out the garbage," he says. "I'm certainly more content, happier in my life with the writing because I'm doing something now that I love, that I thrive on. Other than that, life hasn't really changed that much."
Except that the pesky mid-life crisis is over.
CAMRON WRIGHT signs and discusses Letters for Emily at Joseph-Beth Booksellers Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. and at Books & Co. in Dayton Jan. 30.