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Interview With Carol Ross Joynt on Reinventing a Life

Widow talks about recovery from financial ruin

Q. How do you make a living?

A. I live on fumes.

Q. That doesn't make sense.

A. Yes. It doesn't seem to.

Q. I know you write about Washington for the New York Social Diary and you have your talk show, Q&A Café, but what do you rely on for income?

A. We're sinking. When I had to get out of Nathans, it cost me $250,000. I'm a big believer in having no debt, ironically. We owned our house free and clear. I had to get a $500,000 mortgage on it. New York Social Diary brings in a whopping $250 a week. It's good fun. And there's my show. That's $750 a month. Some of that loan I took out against my house went to Spencer's college for the last two years. Also, things happen; you need a new boiler. A great deal went to health insurance. And then I had cancer.

Q. Cancer? Do you have the feeling you seriously pissed someone off? Like Zeus?

A. My psychiatrist was musing about that, if I killed babies in a previous life. It was a stage zero, very early, very treatable breast cancer detected at a yearly mammogram — the kind we're not supposed to need — so early that my body wouldn't even have recognized it as anything more than tissue. I had a lumpectomy and am having radiation and there is every confidence.

Q. Yet, this is very hard. Surviving so much to need to survive more. What is the plan that you have now?

A. I don't have a job yet because my feeling was that I had to give myself to the book. I hoped I could make it till the book came out. I've made inquiries about jobs. People say, "oh, use your contacts. You have so many contacts!" But what happens when you contact them for that reason, they start avoiding me on the streets. As I get closer to the book coming out, when it's finished with its moment, I'm going to be out there with my hand out, hoping for a job doing what I do best.

Q. Writing.

A. Writing. And it doesn't have to be in Washington and it doesn't have to be for TV. What I do best and what makes me happy is writing. I've put out feelers. I've even been applying for jobs on Craigslist, and they don't even respond to my résumé.

Q. Do you think that age is an issue with finding work?

A. I hope not, but having been in the position of hiring people in television I know that if the person doing the hiring is in his or her 30s, it is tough to look at a 60-year-old old and see viability. But my age is irrelevant to me. After all, I was writing the CBS Evening News for Walter Cronkite when I was 22. Where's the logic in that? But I was perfectly suited for the job.

Next: Preparing for the next stage of life. >>

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