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Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

Jon Ortiz

The State Worker: Water department worker becomes published author

Published: Thursday, Jul. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Thursday, Jul. 11, 2013 - 7:35 am

She's a second-generation state worker who has endured a decade of insecurity, a cubicle dweller who writes about fantastic worlds, an 8-to-5er who wakes up inspired to create at 4 a.m.

Now, after years of frustration and fighting self-doubt, Stacy Garrett is a published author. Last month, Hydra Publications released her first novel, "Chronicle of Destiny, Book 1." List price: $14.99.

The book symbolizes how Garrett escapes the daily grind of office work at the Department of Water Resources.

"I'm not cut out to do this forever. I'm a paper pusher," she said during a recent interview. "The work I do is run-of-the-mill. It doesn't give me a creative outlet."

Inspired by romance writers such as Nora Roberts and fantasy authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Garrett's first book weaves a tale of other-worldly Lucksphere about star-crossed lovers who, says, "will have to fight for their right to live, and to do it, they might have to save the very world that wants them dead."

The story is so complicated that it will take two books to tell it. Hydra Publications owner Frank Hall didn't hesitate to give the 31-year-old Garrett a two-book deal.

"I believe that Stacy has a vibrant voice that will stand out from other authors in her field," Hall said. "Her writing will have no trouble finding an audience."

A writer since her teen years, Garrett also has an associate degree in photography (she shot her book's cover), makes jewelry, cross-stitches and "when I really feel like crushing my ego, I pretend I can draw."

Her government career started 13 years ago as a student in the photo lab at Water Resources. After a brief full-time gig in the unclaimed property division of the State Controller's Office, she went back to the water department, where she's an office technician.

Meanwhile, she wrote manuscripts, pitched them to publishers and endured rejection.

"It was hard to keep pushing," Garrett said.

Family and friends encouraged her, especially her grandmother Jeannette. "She read everything I wrote, even the awful stuff," Garrett said.

Garrett's pen name, Etta Jean, doubles as a play on her own middle name, Jeannetta, and pays tribute to her grandmother.

Then last year the career bureaucrat realized she needed to pierce the publishing bureaucracy with a better spiel. She rewrote her "Chronicle" pitch and sent it to Hall. His reply: "We want to offer you a contract."

Garrett started crying when she read the email. "One approval erased all the years of rejection," she said.

The book deal gives her more than half the sales revenue, Garrett said, but she's not quitting her day job. "Chronicle" is at No. 1,075,487 on Amazon's sales.

Still, it's a start. And the state work is OK for now, Garrett said, "but it doesn't define me. Ask me what I do, I'll say I'm an author and photographer."

Not a state worker.

Call The Bee's Jon Ortiz, (916) 321-1043. Follow him on Twitter @thestateworker and read his blog, The State Worker.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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