DELMAR — Meryl Day wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s a characteristic, the Guilderland Central High School graduate admits ruefully, that doesn’t always serve her well at her day job.
“I’m a lawyer,” Day told Spotlight News on a pleasant Wednesday morning on the patio of Perfect Blend in Delmar, “which is just the most miserable job on the planet, as far as I’m concerned.”
Hearing the ebullient Day describe the challenges of a career in litigation, first in divorce law and then in family law, it becomes clear that she feels keenly the weight of the cases she has argued over the years. In 2004, she said the emotional toll of working in divorce law, a burden she would bring home at the end of the day, worried her husband and ultimately caused her to reconsider her priorities.
A former English major, Day said she realized that she missed the creativity she associated with writing, “the act of creating something.” So she told her husband that she was going to quit her job and start a poetry business.
Day called her new endeavor ‘Poetic Pooch,’ and wrote personalized poetry for pet owners who sent her a photo and a little information about their pets. “I’m not Keats or anything,” she said, “but rhyming comes easily to me.”
The problem, she found, was making it profitable. “You certainly can’t charge that much,” she said, with a laugh. She expanded into personalized pet Christmas tree ornaments, but she still wasn’t making any money.
“He was such a trooper,” Day laughed as she shared memories of dragging her husband to craft shows where they would spend the day making just enough to pay for their table.
“It clearly wasn’t going anywhere,” she said, ultimately. “But I was
Around the same time, the couple had adopted a rescue cat. He had an issue with his ear and, when they got him home, they found out he was 11 years older than they had been told. But, said Day, “He was the most loveable, amazing cat ever. And I’m not even a cat person. I’ve always been a dog person. But this cat completely stole my heart.”
They named him Jordy, Jordy the Jaguar. Sadly, Jordy was diagnosed with cancer within a year of his adoption and died shortly thereafter. One day while he was still alive, however, Day was inspired to sit down at her computer and write about Jordy. She penned a few stanzas, played around with some clip art, and then shared the results with her husband. That, she said, was when she got the idea to write a children’s book — an idea that wouldn’t become reality for another ten years.
In 2005, Day was given the opportunity for work for the Columbia County Department of Social Services and returned to law. “I thought, well, at least I’ll be helping kids,” she said.
Day moved rapidly into the position of head attorney in the department — primarily, she said, because it was hemorrhaging legal talent due to an area judge who seemed to relish bullying DSS counsel. While she was able to work with him for a time, she ultimately felt he used his position to unfairly punish her for resisting his disparagement of her department. “The salary was nice and my co-workers were great,” she said. “But, I couldn’t stay in that situation.”
During her time at Columbia County, Day heard a case in Rensselaer County and developed a relationship with a judge there — a woman who appreciated Day’s forthrightness when she claimed responsibility for an error during the trial. Day reached out to her in 2006 and the judge helped get her appointed to a panel of private practice attorneys who are tapped by the state to represent children on a case-by-case basis.
“She saved my life,” Day said.
While she wouldn’t return to her literary endeavors for another eight years, the years of experience representing kids in difficult situations has informed the way that Day, who has no children of her own, approaches her children’s books, of which there are now three.
She wrote the first in March 2014. Day was going through files to transfer to a new computer when she came across the file containing the stanzas she had written about Jordy. She showed them again to her husband and he suggested that she finish the book. When she asked for a deadline to inspire motivation, he gave her until the end of the month.
Day finished “Jordy the Jaguar” in under three hours that very day. “The minute I committed to it,” she said, still seeming incredulous. “And I didn’t make any changes to it.”
Happy with her effort, Day got online to see how she could publish her book. Google quickly took her to a survey that indicated she could be contacted by publishers if she answered a few questions. She answered several questions about her book and, within a week, was contacted by Page Publishing. Within another week, they accepted her manuscript.
Day said she was initially skeptical and requested a meeting with Page’s president. “They immediately agreed,” she said. “We went down to Manhattan and the president was awesome. He told me right away that I wasn’t going to make any money.
“He said I would have fun and that I was going to have a beautiful finished product, but that I wasn’t going to make money on this,” she said. “And I was like, ‘okay!’ It’s been my dream, right? And so I was ready to try it anyway.”
Day paid for the illustrator and to have her book assembled. Page Publishing essentially provided the avenues and connections she needed to do so. The process, she said, “was arduous.” From choosing an illustrator to laying out pages and defending her editing choices, it took more than ten months before publication in early 2015.
Since that first book, Day has published three more — two more “Jordy” books and a murder mystery. The mystery, an entirely self-published 214-page novel told from the perspective of a 16-year-old boy, represents the crystallization of another dream: becoming a murder mystery novelist.
“I’ve always been a fan of murder mysteries,” she said. “Like, disgustingly bad.”
After attending a writer’s conference in 2015 and meeting an author who had written a crime thriller, Day “got the bug.” While it took her a year to complete the novel, she said that she wrote the first chapter in a day. Constructing the plot, she eventually found, was more challenging than constructing the sentences. “The Scorpio Society: A Jesse McAdam Mystery” was published in February of this year and, after receiving positive feedback, Day is already planning the sequel.
On Sat., Oct. 21, Day will be promoting her latest “Jordy” book during a Barnes & Noble book signing at Colonie Center, but shoppers are welcome to buy all three. The first book deals with accepting new family members, the second addresses bullying , while the third, “Jordy the Jaguar: Fostering A Dream,” deals with the foster care system, something Day has spent the last eight years helping children to navigate.
“The heartbreak of a child who knows they might never go home to their parents is unbearable,” she said with emotion. “Jordy is a bit different in that he never had a home, but it’s just a way to bring up the word and to let kids know that a family could adopt you, that there could be a happy ending.”
Day hopes to market her children’s books to organizations, as well as households, that would benefit from talking to kids about the various issues that she covers. She says she’s had less luck pitching them to local vendors than to larger chains like Barnes & Noble, which she has found surprising and, at times, frustrating. She also said she’s interested in doing readings for children in local schools.
“Some days I’m motivated and I’ll call places, and then there are days when I’m so shy and the thought of anyone even reading my books is hard to deal with,” Day said. She has considered organizing a local authors event, as she has met many over the last few years, where lesser known local writers could showcase their work and have a chance to meet and talk with readers.
To aspiring writers, she says, “Don’t get your heart broken. Most large publishing houses don’t take unsolicited manuscripts. Don’t be afraid to self-publish.”
Day said that while she is certain that Jordy will be back for more adventures in verse, but that’s on hold for now, as she is currently working to publish a series of short mysteries — “featuring a wealthy couple a la Nick and Nora” — before completing the sequel to “Scorpio Society.”