30 November 2006

Lady of leisure

Your Wren joins, as of this morning, the ranks of the suddenly unemployed.

After nearly 14 years with the company, and almost nine as a managing editor, my position at the paper was abruptly eliminated and “consolidated.” For a while at least, I won’t have to drive 27 miles down-mountain and then 27 miles back up-mountain every day.

There are blue flowered blessings hidden in these thorns.

Others include not having to get up at 5 a.m., no more advertorial writing in my immediate future (bleh-blechhhh-phooey!), no more sitting in a corner of that dark, mini-bus-sized newsroom and no more weekly deadlines.

Gosh. Whatever will I do with my time? Write?

To the above right please note that Blue Wren is no longer a lovely blue spiral, but me. Although it was always unlikely that the right-wing group editor and publisher of the paper would ever run across this blog, I figured it was best not to tempt fate. Now, although I’ll retain the nom de plume, I’m freed from self-censorship.

It was a good run, that job. I learned a lot and had some great fun along with the daily toil and stress of editing a weekly newspaper and three special sections each month. That’s a lot of a.m.’s and p.m.’s to change from AM, PM, am, pm, A.M. and P.M. to the proper style.

I won’t miss that, but I will miss my reporters and the opportunity to know the local news before it hits the papers. I’ll get used to it, I think.

And now it’s time to move forward. I hope to find something closer to home that satisfies my soul, my yen for creativity and somehow keeps the electricity on. Wish me luck.

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12 comments:

Wil Robinson said...

What a mistake...I'm kind of in shock.

Your writing is free now to move beyond the "parks and recreation budget for the top 2 percent" (to use your words.)

Your writing is insightful and beautiful, and hopefully you can now spread that writing around through other publications. Everytime I read your writing I consider it a learning experience - both from the technical points of writing and especially the more abstract ideas you bring forth so clearly.

Beautiful photo, by the way. Much better than the blue swirl thing.

roxtar said...

A world-class lingo-slinger such as yourself should have many an option, including the option of doing what you do from home. The always delightful Patrick Hillman at Blowing Sh*t Up With Gas, also a fine scribe, had a post on how the ability to string one word after another in a reasonably coherent manner is seen by many Very Important People as a magical skill akin to voodoo or summoning phlogiston. A skill, by the way, for which they will pay handsomely in order to avoid having to do it themselves.

And did I mention that you can do it from home?

And home is usually a pretty good place to be, especially in the Sierra in the winter, no?

roxtar said...

Here's the link from Patrick's writing on writing. Enjoy!

Hey. The guy who ran against Doolittle might need a media co-ordinator/press person. Hopefully soon.

Anonymous said...

This time of year is a pretty good time to be off work (except for the money thing). I used to work in mills where they shut down for maintenance for a couple of weeks around Christmas. It was pretty nice, actually, to have a couple of relaxed weeks to enjoy the season.

I'm sure that you'll find what you want to do next.

Blue Wren said...

Wil - Such kind words any writer would be flattered to have. Thank you. Once the smoke has cleared, I'll be looking to do other writing, for sure.

Roxtar - "World-class lingo-slinger." Aw, man. Yer a silver-tongued divil, ye are. Thanks for the encouragement. HOME is a good word. Thanks for the link, too. And the Charlie Brown campaign suggestion. More blue flowers, all.

Kevin Wolf said...

Wow. I just popped over and the news was quite a surprise.

I've been there a couple of times and there's always that mingled sense of now what do I do and relief.

Best of luck in finding something great to apply your writing and editing skills to. (But don't start with me and my crappy sentences.)

The Heretik said...

Good luck.

Mojo said...

My boss was the editor of a community newspaper in the Sierra foothills until last Thursday. She’d picked up a poetry compilation tape early in the week and was deeply moved by an unidentified poem she found on it.

When I arrived at work on Thursday morning she excitedly told me she’d identified the poem by memorizing verses while driving down the freeway so that she could Google them once she got to a computer.

Having finally captured an adequate snippet, she was delighted to discover The Stolen Child, by William Butler Yeats.

She beamed in the telling of her victory, and handed me a copy of the poem. As I settled in to read it, she was called into the lone office-with-a-door in the newspaper’s shabby digs. The group editor and the publisher awaited her with somber faces.

I’d seen that look before, and knew what it usually meant. Her uneasy peace with the conservative newspaper managers was likely coming to a head.

This day was inevitable. I’d quietly hoped that she would end it before they did. But as a 52-year-old rookie reporter, I admitted that I knew little of the machinations of the newspaper sausage factory.

This Wren didn’t play by their rules. For one thing, she took a chance on a grey-bearded rookie reporter with no journalism experience in a position that called for a journalism degree.

By doing so, she gave me an opportunity to use creative expression to earn a living. OK, it’s not really a living, but it’s a paycheck. More importantly, I got my creative flame nurtured.

I was taken under the wing of a Wren.

I replied with a lot of enthusasm and hard work. The result was too many hours on the timesheet, which got her in hot water. She also got articles that were consistently too long for publication in our underfunded “tabloid” sized weekly paper, stuffed with real estate ads for the affluent homes in the community.

Wren taught me how to serve that affluent community in my capacity as a reporter in their community newspaper. Along the way I’ve learned to understand the residents. I’ve developed a genuine fondness for them and the place.

I still work too many hours, and still write long. She wasn't done with me.

I’m not a religious man. My spirituality is a work in progress at best. But when that door closed behind my friend and mentor on Thursday, I prayed hard.

I asked for the best outcome for her, dropping all pretense of knowing what that might be.

When she emerged from the room, her heavy expression confirmed my fears. Wordlessly, we hugged, long and hard. There were tears. In the awkward mumbling which followed, I told her “This is for the best.”

I regret saying that.

I meant it, and I still believe it. But in hindsight I regret the feeble attempt to ease the pain. Toxic emotional fog does not clear quickly or easily, and to diminish its power is to disrespect it, and become vulnerable. Feel the pain Wren, and move on.

I’ve always considered myself a self-starter; someone who doesn’t need his hand held.

I like to brag that I’ve been at least a partial mentor to several people in my long and varied career journey. I like to say, somewhat pridefully, that I’ve never had a mentor myself.

Until now.

I’ve been pretty successful figuring it out as I go, and thought I’d take the same approach to this journalism thing. Writing is writing, right?

Wrong. Journalism is hard.

Perhaps it comes naturally to some people, but not to me. Some of the basic sentence construction rules were completely unintuitive. I made the same mistakes over and over. Short paragraphs, less commas and honest attribution were all new to me.

It was not just the style things. I struggled with how to construct stories, how to keep from being way long on subjects that didn’t deserve the column inches; how to maintain objectivity after spending several hours on a subject. These things, and many others, are still difficult.

But Wren was never impatient, or at least didn’t show it. She gave me a lot of leeway, and encouraged me to feed the flame of creativity, in both photography and writing.

I wrote about Rhwanden genocide, the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan, and the secret German POW’s in WW2.

We did it all within the context of local personalities. The community got to hear from the teacher who flew to Rhwanda to help out, and got his students involved first hand in a horrible chapter of recent world history.

The readers learned about an Afghani tailor whose father was killed for making western women’s clothes in Kabul.

A local publisher told us how a prodigy baseball player lost his future in the big leagues by teaching secret German POW’s how to play the American pastime during WW2.

I will take those articles and many others proudly to my grave.

We often met for coffee on Sunday mornings, where she would pour over my pieces and teach me the craft of journalism. I’d never experienced anything like that in my life; having someone who was willing to invest in me personally.

Wren said that the average life expectancy of a reporter is 18 months. I think she was optimistic. In fact, many of us don’t last a year. In her nine years as editor she must have trained dozens of us.

The problem was largely economic. The Wren’s reporters were all entry level. We could earn more money any time in the local fast food industry… also at entry level.

On behalf of all the rookie reporters you trained, thanks Wren. The gift of creative expression can never be repaid. Thanks for encouraging our voice.

My own voice can get off-key pretty easily. I will miss you behind me, carrying the melody.

I’m sure you won’t miss the weak metaphors!

Its time for the Wren to fly. Roxtar called you a world class lingo-slinger and I second that emotion. It's your gift.

I have every confidence that this life transition will be positive step for you, Mr. Wren and the tattooed fledgling. Until next time, know that you will be missed.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild

-Mojo

Neddie said...

Mojo, that was just lovely. My cynical old lower lip is trembling, and I can't help but feel that Wren's karma acquired a lovely roseate glow when she hired you.

Wren, you're going to land on your feet. That's not some kind of stupid rah-rah buck-up, stiff-upper-lip bullshit, it's a simple statement of fact.

Meanwhile, The Chumps of Choice look forward with eager jubilation to your relaxed and distraction-free contributions.

gardenin' guy said...

It really is a shame that people like your so-called group editor and publisher are able to keep their positions while you are unceremoniously dumped during this time of "goodwill and peace on earth." Knowing personally what a nasty little four-page, free, occasionally published, advertising rag your newspaper was before you became the managing editor; how you built it into a respectable weekly publication which scooped all the other newspapers in the area (the REAL ones in the valley!) when the chief despot (okay, head marionette) came to the aid of our local one; how you managed to do this despite having such a cheap budget and virtually no support from your parent organization; all this tells me just how foolish the above mentioned maroons must truly be. And I have to wonder about the "family" organization they work for since these two are still keeping the rag they have in the town above you from being a real newspaper. We might be able to read some actual local news other than that which is paid for by the local merchants if the reporters were allowed to go out and find the news instead of having to sit around in that nearly windowless, ugly, dungeon-like building writing whatever drivel your so-called group editor assigns. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that you, your paper and the paper that owns it are all located in one of the most conservative counties with such a high percentage of elderly people in Californica or if they were just terrified that someone in the group that owns both of them (read newspapers or maroons, whichever you like) might notice how you've done so much more than they. Were they upset with your reasonable views or were they afraid of finally being discovered as the biggest impediments of California's Oldest Newspaper recovering it's dignity and integrity, that they might have to actually start working instead of just hanging onto their cush, lazy positions? And why of all times now? An additional poke at the one person who maintained her integrity despite receiving absolute feces-pay while trying to keep enough people to do the job employed at even more fecular wages, perhaps? After all the additional work of those positions you did between slaves, not only without extra pay or any but the barest of support but without recognition or even a simple thank you, to think they could actually be so low is truly disgusting. The corporate world; "You kiss mine enough and I'll cover yours. If you dare show me up or in any way endanger my comfort, I will destroy you." The views expressed in this tirade are solely those of the author and this kvetch is the only one responsible therefor.

Connie said...

Me too! I'm not a writer like you Wren, but I am in the same *place* you are. I put my career on hold a few years ago when we moved to Ohio from NY. Since then I've been doing odd jobs but have mainly focused on my family. Facing an empty nest, I'm in that "what next" phase. A fine place to be I might add.

Best of luck to you!

patrick said...

Of course, I don't know anyone who has ever been fired by a bundle of suits who hasn't fallen upwards, somehow.

I was fired by a really half-assed web design firm by a fat and bald little guy who was five years younger than me.

I was hired to work for the band REM some days later. (At twice my previous rate of pay.)

Life gives, it takes. You're too talented to push ads around a page.

Now you can come visit!