Words to write by

Nora Profit uses her experience to inspire students at The Writing Loft

WORD WORK <br> Writing instructor Nora Profit (left) works with screenwriter Emily Gallo at her Writing Loft school in Paradise.

Writing instructor Nora Profit (left) works with screenwriter Emily Gallo at her Writing Loft school in Paradise.

Photo By Martin Stentzel

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“My motto is, ‘Anyone can learn to write, and write well, and make money,’” said Nora Profit, who runs The Writing Loft, a creative-writing school housed in a cozy, cabin-like building nestled in the pines behind her Paradise home. “It’s easy. It’s not rocket science. You just have to know what the game plan is.”

Profit wasn’t just spouting airy affirmations. Her school has turned out a number of success stories, including Victoria Hunt, whose metaphysical book Animal Omens was published by new-age publishing giant Llewellyn in July 2008. Another student, Emily Gallo, recently signed with a Hollywood production company for the rights to her first screenplay.

“She came [to The Writing Loft] just to learn to format a screenplay,” said Profit, “not to be picked up by Hollywood.”

Profit founded The Writing Loft in 2001, shortly after moving to the North State from the Bay Area, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Jose State University. Profit worked as contributing editor for San Jose Magazine and also ran a successful online writing school.

Seated at the large conference table dominating the teaching area of The Writing Loft, next to a bookshelf holding a number of old, black typewriters in pristine condition, Profit dispensed words of wisdom on the craft of writing, sounding part teacher, part experienced writer and part motivational speaker.

“Almost all writers are showing up to play football on the playing field, and they’re in a bathing suit. They don’t know the rules of the game,” explained the spunky 63-year-old. “You have to know what the game plan is, how you think about writing.”

Profit should know. She is the woman who somewhat famously had a piece she penned in 1980 for an article-writing class at Sacramento’s American River College picked up for inclusion in Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, a book co-edited by her American River writing teacher Bud Gardner.

In the story—titled “You Can’t Afford to Doubt Yourself”—Profit succinctly tells how she learned that nothing but her fear of rejection sabotaged her first attempt to become a professional writer. The story recounts how, after believing she received a rejection letter for a submission she made to Essence magazine, she threw the unopened envelope in a closet. Five years later, while preparing for a move, she found the envelope, opened it and discovered that her article had in fact been accepted.

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“The fear of rejection is worse than rejection itself,” wrote Profit—a quote that she says is now “all over the Internet, next to [quotes by] Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin.”

Profit, who is originally from New York City, began writing at about age 29, as the single mother of a 10-year-old son.

“I started out writing newsletters for people,” said Profit. “I was on unemployment and had a little money coming in. I figured it was a good time to do it.”

But Profit’s pluck goes back even earlier, to when she was in her early 20s and decided to open a dress shop in Manhattan. Her eyes lit up as she told the story of how she took $25 (all the money she had to spend) and “talked to a guy with [an empty] storefront. I told him I’d clean up the store in exchange for several months of free rent. My mom thought I was crazy.”

With her $25, Profit bought a box of hats, and sold those out on the sidewalk in front of the store (she didn’t have enough inventory yet to set up shop inside). She doubled her money from the sale of the hats and spent the $50 on “a box of hats and gloves,” with which she again made a profit by selling them on the sidewalk.

With that money she invested in “odds and ends” dresses from a wholesaler on Manhattan’s famous Orchard Street; “I couldn’t afford to buy in bulk, so I said, ‘It doesn’t matter what size, I’ll take ’em.’ ”

In a couple of months, Profit had acquired enough inventory to move her business inside the shop and “get a rack, get a mirror and dress it up with a few plants.”

It’s that same infectious, can-do attitude that she uses to motivate her writing students.

“You can’t be afraid of failure,” Profit emphasized. “The only thing that will happen is that you’ll be back where you were, and that alone is not scary.”

Profit boasts of an 80 percent success rate of her students becoming “traditionally published” (not self-published) authors.

“The only thing that stops you from getting what you want,” summed up Profit, “is if you don’t go do it.”