Symposium: Turning the Page

By Lois W. Stern ’58

I rarely think about my age. Somehow I still envision myself more as that plaid-skirted coed dashing up the steps at Milbank Hall than as that woman of a certain age — the one I am today. Suffice it to say, I continue to be energized by new challenges even now, without the pressure of producing an end-of-year positive balance sheet. But it wasn’t always like that for me. My backstory is quite different

After 21 years as an active educator, I retired from that career. I continued to pursue my love of writing, volunteering my time with a popular Long Island webzine, where I launched my own column,“Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives.” But even when the webzine closed down, my urge to write did not.

sketch of typewriter with pages flying

It was time to get serious. After five years of intense labor and equal amounts of emotional toil, I wrote my first book, Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery. I conducted over 100 interviews with patients, nurses, and physicians in the field about some of the most intimate aspects of their lives.

Score one: I landed a contract with a reputable NYC agent, who was sure this book would take off and fly.

Score two: Dr. David Sarwer, an esteemed professor of psychology and psychiatry then at the University of Pennsylvania, agreed to edit the research portions of my manuscript and wrote a glowing foreword for the book.

I had begun to see dollar signs before my eyes, envisioning my name emblazoned in lights. I held my breath as my agent submitted my manuscript to several publishing houses. One by one, the rejections came flooding in. “She doesn’t have a strong enough author platform,” they said. At the time, I didn’t even know what the term “platform” meant, but what I did know was that my bubble dream of earning some serious money as a famous published author had popped.

So I took an alternative route: I paid a print-on-demand company to publish the book, as well as a second one on less invasive forms of aesthetics. But the sting of rejection still smarted. Was it money I really wanted — or something else? It took me sometime to sort that out. All the while, I was penning what I call “inner beauty stories,” stories to touch the heart and soul. And then it struck me. There must be many other talented writers out there whose manuscripts have met the same fate as mine. What if I initiated an “authors helping authors” project to help talented writers build solid author platforms? What if I could establish an annual contest that would provide opportunities for those with promise to refine their skills? No fees involved. I would do it simply for the joy of helping other authors hone their skills and publish the best of the best in short story anthologies.

And that’s how Tales2Inspire® began — as a sharing of inspirational true stories, including some of my own, written by authors from across the globe. I never dreamed it would grow in such strength and numbers as it has. I never charge for my services. So instead of putting more money in the bank, each year my savings account shrinks a bit more. But this project has given me something else in return: It has opened a whole new chapter in my life.

Lois W. Stern has been married to her college sweetheart, Ken Stern (Columbia ’58), for over 60 years. They raised two sons and are the proud grandparents of two granddaughters and two grandsons. To receive a free e-book of Tales2Inspire stories, visit

Latest IssueSpring 2024

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