To give herself time to write, Spring's priority should be avoiding work in retirement. Since she already plans to continue with Continental Airlines for the next 10 years, Hutchinson advises her to save as much as she can - particularly in light of the fact that other airlines have reduced pension benefits.
"It's time to start thinking very seriously about paying down the debts and adding money to retirement savings," she says.
After Spring gets out of the hole, if she contributes $10,000 a year to her 401(k) for the rest of her career, she'll have an additional $230,000 to play with, assuming a 6% return.
She should also consider selling off the two houses and moving to a smaller home.
Spring is smart to try to sell some of her writing now, says Rosen. She might even start work on the book before she retires, just to explore whether she has an abiding interest in the project.
The more experience she has, the more likely agents and book editors will take a chance on her. To sell the book, Spring will have to prepare a proposal, which should include a memo explaining why her concept would sell, an outline and a few chapters (at least).
Then she should pitch the book to a few reputable agents. She can find them by searching for members of the Association of Authors' Representatives (at aar-online.org). Even good writers with solid ideas aren't always able to sell their work, so while Spring should be persistent, she also needs to brace herself for rejection from an agent or two (or four).
The book market is a fickle beast, and many would-be authors go into it with an overly optimistic sense of their chances. "Some people who are very practical in general aren't practical at all when it comes to creative areas," Rosen says.
Because the chance of failure is so high, Spring shouldn't expect a huge paycheck from writing. Instead, she should treat it as a hobby that has a small chance of paying off. "If you're able to make money, so much the better," says Rosen. "It could be a lot, and it could be not a lot," but Spring shouldn't count on becoming the next Dean Koontz.
Despite all the warnings, Spring is bullish on her literary career so far, and she's hoping to debunk a few myths as it moves along.
"Flight attendants have aspirations too," she says. "We're not just flying around and being glamorous, as the general public thinks."