ITW Member Spotlight Monday

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Today’s ITW member spotlight is Mimi Latt




Bio: (from the author website)

As a child, I loved books. At bedtime, after the lights were off, I used to hide under the bedcovers with a flashlight and read until the wee hours, or until I got caught–which happened quite often. It would have been great if I’d just grown up to become a writer and lived happily ever after, but . . . on with the real story.
At seventeen I graduated from high school with honors and was accepted into the University of California at Berkeley. My folks thought I could do no wrong, equating good grades with common sense. I proved them wrong when I made a rash decision that summer to get married instead.

By the time I was eighteen, I had a little girl. At the ripe old age of twenty, I was divorced with absolutely no way to support the two of us. So I moved back in with my folks and borrowed the money for secretarial school. After a year of shorthand, typing and bookkeeping, I became a legal secretary–sparking a future interest in the law. Before long, I remarried, and together we had another daughter. Although I loved my family and willingly helped in my husband’s architectural and interior design firm, I still longed for a career of my own.

It was the early seventies and the women’s movement was still in its infancy. But after reading Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique and listening to the words of Helen Reddy, “I am woman, hear me roar,” I decided to go back to school. I was the first in my circle of friends to do anything like this, so it shook everyone up. My mother was worried that I’d ruin my marriage. My husband’s friends told him he shouldn’t “allow it.”

In those days we still said the word obey in our marriage vows. A lot of my women friends did not approve of my decision. And some male lawyers we knew said that “after I graduated, I’d make a great legal secretary.” But my dad–having always treated me as the son he never had–was excited. At one time, he’d wanted to be a lawyer, and I know that influenced me, too.
During law school I became, like many other women, an expert at micro-managing my time. At the market or driving the kids around, a tape recorder was plugged into my ear as I listened to law lectures. Even during my last year when my mom was in the hospital battling cancer, I studied in waiting rooms and hospital corridors while she underwent treatment. And I learned to do with less sleep, most of the time getting three or four hours a night–something I couldn’t do today.

Despite the difficulties, I loved law school. What helped the most was the support of the other women students who were either married, divorced, and/or with children. We formed a support network that still meets today, twenty years later.
My mother changed her mind and cheered me on as I neared the finish line with my marriage still intact. Although she had terminal cancer, she kept willing herself to live long enough to be at my graduation. Sadly, she died two weeks before the ceremony.

Taking the California Bar was an experience I’d like to forget. To be close to the site where it was given, I checked into a motel that had never seen an overnight guest and didn’t have a bellboy to carry my three electric typewriters. Then, during the exam, the electricity went off. We were shut out of the auditorium and didn’t finish until late that night. From all the tension and stress, my back went out. It’s a miracle that I passed. Worried that I might not find something better, I took the first job offered to me at a firm that specialized in litigation. On my second day there, they handed me a file and told me to go to court. I didn’t even know where to stand. Without ever really meaning to, I became a trial lawyer.

From the years I spent practicing law, I garnered a wealth of behind-the-scenes stories. The world is filled with some really good lawyers–and some really lousy ones–but I’ve never seen a firm where the partners didn’t fight. Sometimes these conflicts were overt, ending up in shouting matches. Other times it was under the surface, but I felt the tension in the hallways. I worked at one firm where the older partner ruled the top floor of a small building and the other partner commanded the bottom floor. Since they often weren’t speaking, I was continually running up and down the stairs passing messages between them–a most unhappy and frustrating experience. Thinking it would be better, I opened my own practice. But then I made the mistake of taking on. . . a partner.

After a number of years in the trenches, I was getting tired of the constant stress, the eighty-hour weeks, never getting enough time to see my husband and children. More and more, I found myself day-dreaming about writing. As lawyers we see the best and the worst in people. We also hear the most unbelievable stories. It wasn’t long before I had enough material for dozens of books. I particularly wanted to tell the stories of the courageous women lawyers I met along the way and the issues they face in both their professional and personal lives.

After taking a few creative writing courses, I ended up in a writers workshop where I spent the next five years. In searching for my own voice, I easily discarded the first seven hundred pages I wrote. Eventually, I finished my first novel and looked around for an agent. A friend introduced me to the Janklow & Nesbit Associates Literary Agency in New York, then told me not to get my hopes up as they almost never took on a first time writer. About two weeks after I sent them Powers of Attorney, Anne Sibbald called to say she was half-way though my eleven hundred page manuscript, and was impressed by the professional quality of the writing as well as the passion of my characters. She said she’d get back to me as soon as she could. I was overwhelmed when she took me on as a client–a lucky day, as she not only became my agent, but a dear friend.

My good fortune continued when Anne sold my book to Michael Korda, Editor-in-Chief of Simon & Schuster, and Chuck Adams, Senior Editor. Working with them is a real honor because they are both so gifted and have worked with so many writers I admire. The first time Michael called, I was so excited that after I hung up, I danced around the room. He usually looks at the overall picture and explains what works for him and what doesn’t. He’s also a talented writer himself, so he understands how it feels to be on the other side. Chuck, who happens to also have a law degree, gets into the nuts and bolts of the writing. He has an amazing gift with words and can take a complicated legal theory and help me say it in a clear, concise, yet entertaining way. He’s also very nurturing and caring. I’m truly blessed to have them both in my corner.”

I’m asked quite often what it’s really like to be a writer. It’s great, but also a lot of hard work. I still put in very long hours, and sometimes there are stretches of time when I don’t see anyone but my patient, loving husband, our faithful dog and the mailperson. Luckily, my family and friends are very supportive, in spite of the fact that I owe many dinners and phone calls, not to mention that all of our family pictures–representing many years–remain in their storage boxes awaiting the day when I have the time to put them into the albums I’ve bought. There just never seems to be enough time to do everything.

Yet, the joy I experience from writing makes all the effort worthwhile. When I saw Powers of Attorney for the first time in the window of a book store I cried. The births of Pursuit of Justice and Ultimate Justice have been likewise miraculous. And the best part is having readers write to me. Thank you. And please keep your notes and letters coming, they are so heartwarming.



Pursuit Of Justice  |  Powers of Attorney 


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