Entertaining real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life. The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on January 20th, 2015

Billie Letts: A career teacher who became a bestselling author at age 60.

Billie Letts
Billie Letts   Photo: flickr.com

That's right, age 60.

Billie, who at age 76 recently passed away, and her husband Dennis were English professors at Southeastern Oklahoma State University for many years.

But Billie had a dream. For over 20 years, in her spare time, she was a writer.

However, nothing Billie wrote got published and it appeared her dream of becoming a successful writer would never be fulfilled.

"I was still dreaming of becoming a 'real writer', a writer with my name in the credits of a movie or on the cover of a book," she later wrote.

But then things began to change.

At a writer's conference, Billie shared one of her short stories. It was the story of a pregnant 17-year-old travelling 2,000 miles from Tennessee to California with her boyfriend in his beaten up old 1963 Plymouth.

However, in a small Oklahoma town, when they stop at a Wal-Mart for her to use the bathroom and to buy some shoes, he drives off, abandoning her there.

Alone and desperate, she secretly lives in the Wal-Mart and eventually she gives birth to her baby overnight in the store, barely surviving the ordeal.

Her rescue brings media attention and with the help of the many people who learned of her plight and befriended her, she builds a new life in this town.

A New York literary agent at that writer's conference thought Billie's story was compelling and convinced her to pursue it.

The result was "Where the Heart Is," published in 1995 when Billie was 57.

However, just when Billie thought her dream as a successful writer would be fulfilled, some critics trashed the book and with modest sales, the book went to paperback, seemingly forgotten.

But that's when destiny stepped in on a grand scale.

In January, 1999, over three years after its original publication, Oprah Winfrey discovered this book, loved it and invited Billie to come on her highly popular television show, a show syndicated around the world.

Oprah endorsed "Where the Heart Is" and sales skyrocketed.

"Where the Heart Is" hit Number 1 on the New York Times paperback bestseller list and stayed on that list for more than two years. To date, it has sold three million copies.

The success of "Where the Heart Is" led to a popular movie by the same name, starring Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd.

As a well-known novelist, Billie wrote three more novels. But "Where the Heart Is" continued to live in Billie's heart for the rest of her life.

Success Tip of the Week: Whatever your dream, as Billie showed us, it may not be too late to attain it, if only you will pursue it.

Editor's Note: To see a wonderful 9 minute interview of Billie, click here. To learn more, see Billie Letts, 'Where the Heart Is' Novelist, Dies at 76 from which this story's quotes were taken.

In the next KazanToday: The man who wrote one of the most controversial speeches in U.S. history.

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