In the early 1980’s, I saw an advertisement in The New York Times classified section (they still had classified ads back then) for a freelance writer for The Annual Obituary, a new reference book to be published by St. Martin’s Press.
Respondents were required to submit a trial essay. Which I did (see PDF document above). The essay was typed by me on my “cherished” electric typewriter. No word processors in those days. Typos were corrected by hand. A wavy line underneath meant boldface, and so forth.
I was excited about the opportunity to write about real people prominent in fields such as the arts and writing — I had been working as a copywriter for a college textbook publisher.
I was hired on the basis of this essay I wrote about the writer Jean Rhys. I have no desire to read her books now. But, I was thrilled then to be hired. My wife got a phone call from the editor saying that I had been chosen. “He will be so excited to hear they you called and that he has been chosen,” she said. “Well, he has,” she said, stuffily.
— Roger W. Smith