Women in Journalism: Carol Ross Joynt

Carol Ross Joynt

Carol Ross Joynt

Carol Ross Joynt is a Washington D.C. based writer, interviewer, broadcaster, photographer and public speaker. I am an avid reader of Carol’s great blog, ‘Swimming in Quicksand,’ and regularly read her contributions to Washingtonian magazine (where she is Editor-at-Large,) and the New York Social Diary.

As a writer and a journalist, Carol’s career is one that inspires me. Carol worked with the esteemed Helen Thomas during her time at United Press International, covered antiwar stories in the 1970s and worked for Time magazine reporting about politics. She was a writer on the CBS Evening News, working with Walter Cronkite, and it was here that the efforts of her and her colleagues were commended with Emmys, the DuPont and Peabody awards for the program’s outstanding coverage of Watergate and Vietnam. Carol has also worked in producer roles at NBC, The Charlie Rose Show, Nightline, Larry King Live and Hardball with Chris Matthews. Carol also directed documentary films, notably for the National Gallery of Art.

In 2011, Carol released her memoir titled ‘Innocent Spouse.’ The book chronicles her life following the death of her husband in 1997, and her subsequent fight with the IRS to gain innocent spouse status due to tax fraud by her late husband. Carol inherited the landmark Georgetown restaurant, Nathans, and it was here that she created the fantastic Q&A Café. Nathans closed in 2009, and the Q&A Café is now held at The George Town Club. Carol regularly interviews a range of fascinating individuals on all topics, and you can watch some of the recordings here.

Innocent Spouse is truly one of the most fascinating memoirs that I’ve read, and Carol’s personal journey of survival inspires the reader to stay strong and make the most of every moment.

Carol has been generous to give a signed copy of Innocent Spouse to one lucky reader- further details on how to enter can be found following our exclusive Q&A. 


Tell us about your journey to where you are today. 

I was always the girl in the pioneer movies who had to make it to the other side of the river, no matter what. Failure wasn’t an option. I’m a driven person. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because my beginnings were humble, but we had a TV, and I looked at the world through that screen and thought, “I want to be part of what’s out there in the biggest possible way.”

There have been many successes, especially early, as I began my career at age 18, and with no college education, only determination. At 22, when I started writing The CBS Evening News for Walter Cronkite, overnight I was earning more money than my father. That was odd. My son, now 22, could lap me. What goes round, right?

Even with early success there were major hurdles, even roadblocks, but I viewed them as that river and that I had to get to the other side. Again and again, I’m bolstered by my family and friends. I do it for me, but also the people who matter to me.

How has your life experience made you the individual you are today?

I’m as comfortable in my skin as I can be, but I’m still a work in progress and hope to always be. I know myself. I like the woman I see in the mirror. I’m open to the world and I love to adapt to change, to be as modern as possible. Just like everyone I can get low. I allow myself a pity party every now and then, but it has to be brief. Like a minute. Self-pity accomplishes nothing. Find the solution. Get through it. If you need help, ask for it. If help is offered, take it.

What have you learned from these highlights and challenges?

To go forward, always, to not live in the past. Mooning over what’s been and gone can be a kind of heartbreak. Take from it what makes you stronger and move on.

Why did you feel compelled to write Innocent Spouse and how has it helped you personally?

It was in my DNA to share that story. If it could happen to me, it could happen to others. If I could get through it, others could, too. Writing it enabled me to purge a lot of the baggage of the 12-year saga. I’m a natural born storyteller, and that was my story to tell.

How has your book helped other women who have experienced similar situations to yourself?

I hope it has helped. I see it as a story of survival against the odds, being thrown into chaos with no guidebook.  How many middle-aged female television producers suddenly become owner of a full-blown saloon on the busiest corner in town? In every way I had to keep calm and carry on, though on the inside I was confused, lost, vulnerable, scared. You name the anxiety and I felt it. All that mattered to me every day was not going down with the Titanic, which is how I viewed Nathans (fun on the upper decks, misery down below, and sinking).

You have your own blog that chronicles your life in Washington D.C. What do you enjoy best about being a blogger?

It’s mine, good or bad. It reaches people all over the world. It’s my ability to communicate directly with an audience, however large or small. A faithful reader who is a screenwriter sent me a review of my writing that I put on my website because it made me proud. I call him “Hollywood Bob,” because I can’t use his real name. It says- Carol Joynt has “a perfect eye, an infallible ear and the unequaled gift of rearranging the alphabet into words which both entertain and mean f**cking something.”

You’re also the brains and host of the Q&A Café series. What have you enjoyed most about doing the series and how do you see it evolving in the future?

I love those 45 minutes of looking into the eyes of an interesting person and asking them questions I’d never get to ask them in any other setting. I have no idea where it will go. I’m thrilled every time I book a new interview, walk into the room, see the crew and the audience.

Do you have any other exciting projects in the pipeline?

Since I’m a sailor, finding my wind.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

All I do is work. Beyond that, I cherish any time with family and friends.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I had some wonderful mentors in my early years. They were men, because those were the times. They’ve passed on, but the lessons remain. I have never had a woman mentor, oddly.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I’ve come to admire HIllary Clinton. I warmed to her during her performance as Secretary of State and her relationship with President Obama, who I like a lot. That said I’m not sure she can win the White House, unless the economy improves substantially in the next year. People are hurting and voters will blame the Democrats.

I admire women who are themselves and don’t succumb to the pressure to fit into molds. It’s tougher that way, I know. It breaks my heart to see what some women do to their faces and their bodies in this era to live up to a ridiculous standard of artificial beauty created mostly by people selling products. I admire the women who resist.

Also, spare me women who hold their skyrocketing success over the heads of others, bragging. Often their opportunity is due to means and education and connections, but they soft sell that part and act like it’s that easy for everyone, when it’s not. Their message is: “I’m awesome. Buy my book and you can be awesome, too.” Yeah, right. It’s the quiet, steady and humble success stories that impress me more.

Which words sum up where you have got to today?

Don’t look down.

Innocent Spouse

Innocent Spouse

Fancy winning a signed copy of Carol’s gripping memoir, Innocent Spouse? Send an email with the title ‘Innocent Spouse’ to laura@womenin.org.uk by midnight EST on May 20th 2014. One winner will be drawn at random- and this giveaway is open worldwide. 

Women in Writing: Antoinette van Heugten

Antoinette van Heugten

Antoinette van Heugten

Antoinette van Heugten is a former international trial lawyer and mother of two autistic children.  Van Heugten’s first novel, Saving Max, was widely acclaimed and a USA Today bestseller.  The story follows a single mother whose teenage son has Asperger’s syndrome and becomes the primary suspect in a gruesome murder case.  More than just a heart-pounding thriller, Saving Max is based on her real-life experience raising autistic children.  Van Heugten received both her undergraduate degree and law degree from the University of Texas.

Why did you choose writing as your career?

As a young girl, I was consumed with reading and my dream was to see a book on the library shelf with my name on the binding and to be able to flip through the card catalogue and find myself there. (Those of you who don’t know what a card catalogue is, now know that I roamed the earth with the dinosaurs.) Prior to writing, I was a trial lawyer for 15 years, but didn’t stop practicing law to become a writer. I stopped to take care of my special needs sons and my family. I had always written, but it was the experiences I had with my son who has Asperger’s that made me want to finally write a book. Writing was how I coped with my life at that time. Now I do it because I love it.

Saving Max has quickly become a USA Today bestseller, how are you dealing with the success and publicity?

Saving Max was published in 2010, so I have had time to adjust to its success. It happened so quickly, though, that although I was thrilled, I was somewhat taken aback by the overwhelming response. No debut author expects to have a bestseller! It took time to absorb it all.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The luxuriousness of it all – the blank page, the solitude, the reflection, the work and schedule no one dictates but you. To actually have the opportunity to translate your voice and soul onto the page and share that with others is tremendously fulfilling.

How has your life experience made you the individual you are today?

An understatement! I am 57 and an amalgamation of my experiences, which have been beyond any expectations I had when I was young. I never imagined I would practice law, travel as widely as I have, have children (I was determined to be single!), or write novels. I think we are all part and parcel of those strands of experience. As a writer, I am fortunate enough to have these to draw upon.

How have you learned from these challenges and successes?

The challenges have made me more patient – never my forté – and the successes, particularly watching my children grow and flourish, have been made all the sweeter by the valleys we have endured to reach the peaks. Raising children with special needs while balancing two careers and marriage have taught me so much about the wonders we all experience on our paths in life.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I don’t! When I am working, really working, life falls too much by the wayside without my noticing. My husband, a saint, makes sure I am fed and come in out of the cold when I am in the zone like that. When I’m not working, I tend to want to “live” more – see my children, travel with my husband, visit friends. I fully intend to achieve balance before I’m 90. A work in progress.

What advice can you offer to those seeking to navigate the publishing industry?

Patience: It is the most important quality that anyone seeking to navigate the publishing industry can have. The process of getting a book published is very long, and painful at times. Just because you think your book is finished, doesn’t mean anyone else will!

Do you have any top tips for aspiring writers?

Keep your day job.

Get a reader.

Rewrite until your thumbs are blue and half of your original book is on the floor.

Find a good agent. Don’t stop until you do or you’ll get nowhere. (Unless you self-publish, of course.)

Be true to yourself.

Get a real life. Be happy. Don’t just write or you’ll go nuts and people won’t be able to stand you!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Balancing children and career. I still remember running back and forth between home and the office when I was a lawyer and nursing, feeling horribly guilty when I went on overseas business trips. It almost killed me. Now none of my grown sons even remembers when I worked!

Being paid the same as their male counterparts – still!

Dreaming large enough.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I have had two marvelous mentors in my careers. When I was an attorney, my partner became my second father, encouraging me in all things and helping me turn from a headstrong, aggressive and ambitious lawyer into, I hope, a good one. My other mentor is my agent, Al Zuckerman, an icon in the publishing industry. He is Ken Follett’s and Stephen Hawking’s agent – need I say more? He is both a superlative editor and agent, deeply involved in every word I write, literally drawing the story out of me and helping me craft my work into the best it can be.

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?

You’re very cruel to make a novelist use only one word!