Friday, July 13, 2018

Working Life Update

I got a message on June 28th that I didn't realize I'd been waiting and hoping for. The "man" who fired me more than two years ago had, himself, been fired. I immediately felt such intense schadenfreude that I actually felt physical pain from it for a short time. A very short time. I felt guilty about it much longer than it hurt.

After getting a second independent report of the news of the firing, I felt even more schadenfreude. I was also feeling deep shock and anger about the shooting at the newsroom at the Annapolis Capital Gazette. In fact, I was being torn in half by the conflicting news.

The next morning I was still on a schadenfreude high, and decided I had to go into the newspaper office to get a paper in celebration. I also had, in the back of my mind, a thought that I might be allowed to write for the paper again. Literally the only good writing I've done since my firing was for File 770, and that wasn't enough to make me truly happy (though praise Mike Glyer for making it happen!).

I went into the office on Friday, June 29th, and saw some of my co-workers who had survived the bad years. I chatted happily with them, and bought a paper, and was allowed into the back office to see how the layout had been changed since I was last there. As it happened, I kept getting delayed, so instead of leaving I kept greeting old friends as they came back from lunch and being introduced to people I'd not yet met. Including the editor. Who was delighted to meet me because Jennie, my reporter colleague the entire time I'd worked for the newspaper, was about to go on two weeks vacation and boy could the editor use some help filling the pages.

I was suddenly "hired" to write some feature articles. Just come up with a list of subjects and come back later in the afternoon and I'd be on my way.

Holy Flaming Cows.

I came up with a short list of potential subjects, people I was certain I would be able to reach out to (including the manager of the local Papa Murphy's, where Eric and I had gone after visiting the newspaper. I'd been so happy while I was there I was practically spilling joy into the air). The editor approved all but one of them (recent article on her) and I was suddenly working again.

My first article back featured the manager of the local Papa Murphy's

In order to meet my first deadline, I had to work Saturday. Oddly enough, I wasn't even slightly upset about it. This is what I ended up writing about it on Facebook:
Short 'work' day today. Went to the office with my first story, which I went over with the editor to learn his style preferences. Then I headed to where I thought I might be able to catch my next interview, and unsurprisingly found him there and chatted for awhile. Next, I spotted a group of ambulances racing by and followed them - I haven't done that in more than two years.

When I got close to the accident I was stopped by an officer at a road block, who allowed me to walk to the scene but wouldn't let me drive the half-mile down. I walked. When I got there I heard, "Laura! Hey, Laura!" It was the regular reporter - she'd got to the scene before the first responders, so I didn't need to go. Instead of walking the half-mile back in 90F sunlight, she gave me a lift back to my car.

I have been on the phone doing interviews since I got home, shaking and sweating (I'm still not completely well, but at least the anxiety hit AFTER I got home). Now my eyes are beginning to cross and my brain is going wonky, so I'm going to stop writing and thinking for an hour or so and relax. My two stories aren't due until Monday morning, so I think I can manage.
Unfortunately, the walk in 90F heat almost did me in, and I suffered a massive pain attack on Sunday. I was still able to make the interview I had scheduled, and wrote on Facebook:
Just finished an incredible interview. I don't know how I'm going to do this man justice! I got to see into a different mindset than my own and learn more about history that I didn't know, angles I'd never heard. It was amazing and awesome.

I have so missed this job!
It was a great article to write, and while I struggled to get everything done, I did what I could. Monday morning I had this to say about the situation:
I... I feel like the last week was a dream. A really good dream. And I'm about to wake up and none of it happened.

Or, alternately, I feel like we're about to get stomped on by a giant Monty Pythonesque foot.

Eric said it's like the ending of Holes, when Stanley carries Zero up the mountain and breaks the curse and suddenly everything goes right for Stanley's family. Only I wonder what curse was on us and why.

All that said, Inkwell is still sick, and I'm still fighting my first deadlines in two years... so everything isn't hunky-dory yet.
After writing that, I headed to work and then was chided for not having a photo of the subject of one of my stories. I managed to locate a photo by, surprise!, locating one of my other former co-workers. She's one who intelligently left the paper as soon as she realized what a jerk the publisher was more than two years ago. She just happened to be working in the office that had the photo I needed, and she emailed it to the editor in time for deadline. Then I had to go take Inkwell to the vet - he wasn't eating - so my energy went from high to gone in no time. As I said on Facebook:
I am so wiped.

Got my two stories in, and managed (I think) to get the photos for them as well.

Shortly after deadline was Inkwell's latest vet appointment, so I drove him to the clinic. He almost refused to react for the first part of the examination, only beginning to growl a bit when he got his temperature taken.

The news is mixed. He was suffering from severe dehydration, because he hasn't been eating and drinking for two days. But the blood tests were inconclusive. The doctor thinks he may just be suffering from a bout of nausea, and gave him an anti-nausea pill. He also got a fluid injection. He's really annoyed at me now.

However, the tests also showed the possibility of pancreatic or liver problems, but again - inconclusive. We're to keep an eye on him and see if he gets over his problems and starts acting normal. I've got a few anti-nausea pills that are supposed to last 24 hours, so hopefully he'll feel better. Fingers crossed.
I spent July 3rd snickering at the Second Civil War posts mocking the rumor that liberals were going to start a literal shooting war against conservatives on Independence Day.

I got the front page, top of the fold, of the 4th of July Edition

With my physical issues, I was having a hard time getting everything I wanted to get done, done. But I managed to get up and out and to a friend's house for a July 4th Breakfast:

Went out to a friend's Fourth of July breakfast this morning and chatted with a few people. Naturally, the newspaper came up since my friend works at the paper (and did so throughout the dark days). One of the women said, "Oh, did you write the article on Greg?" ( and when I said yes, she praised it, saying it was very good. I felt myself kind of exploding with happiness inside.

My article writing has been a bit lax lately, despite my Adam West Day article at File770, and I worried that my work was going to be substandard to start off.

It helped to have such an excellent topic for the article, but I still worried. I only met the editor on Friday, and I'm still not familiar with his work, so I didn't know what, if anything, he would change. And the lack of a copy-editor bothers me... although I didn't see any glaring errors except for my co-worker getting credit for my photo (Yes, my co-worker is named Jess Quick, and yes she knows, and no, she's not a DC fan - she likes Marvel Comics' Thor, so if you have any awesome Thor swag to send to me to give her, let me know).

When I turned in my stories to the editor on Tuesday he told me how excellent they were. I didn't believe him. I felt like he was humoring me, just like I felt people were humoring me when they said the Adam West Day story was good. But I still went home after the editor said that and buried my face in Eric's shoulder and sobbed from relief. The ex-publisher told me I was a crappy writer and shouldn't be a reporter. Since writing is all I've ever wanted to do, my entire life, and he was my boss - well, I'm still stinging from that more than two years later. Even knowing he was fired, it still hurts. And explains why I feel extreme joy that he was fired.


If you've read this far, I'll give you some happy-ish news. Inkwell is not completely healthy, but he's clearly feeling a bit better. His eating is still off, but he'll eat if I hand-feed him (maybe he wants the attention?) and he's been drinking more than he did over the weekend. Hopefully he'll be his usual self soon, eating everything in sight and begging for my lunch as well.

And that's my life.

How is your life going?
I continued to write. Three stories a week is TINY for the old me, but the current me is struggling to get it done. By July 6th the pain had really kicked in:
I feel like a ping-pong ball that bounced out into the street, got run over by a mobility scooter, then picked up by a dog and left in an overgrown yard where a cat batted it around for a few minutes and now a squirrel is trying to break it open.

I needed help with getting a photo to illustrate this story, fortunately the Facebook group came through for me.

By July 9th I'd written four articles for the paper. I had an interview scheduled at City Hall, which was another part of my strategy to re-connect with people I hadn't seen in more than two years. Down at City Hall the next day, I got to sit down with a friend for an interview and see a number of people I'd missed. It was wonderful. Also, City Hall has been renovated, so I got to comment on all the changes. But even after I wrote the story very smoothly for me, I was still nervous:
I'm kind of on the edge of my seat. I did an interview this morning with my friend at city hall, loved it. We talked about all kinds of things - including what I wanted to get from him about his job - and I left feeling elated.

I got home and started writing and got into the groove, that place where everything else in the universe vanishes except the words and the story. It flowed. I made some adjustments then sent it to the editor with the photo I took.

Now I'm waiting for a callback from the editor. I called to see if he got the story (important even in this age of email) and he said he was looking it over. Now I've got this terror that it is horrible and he's going to try to let me down gently.

I need some way to turn off my brain... ooooo, Doctor Who on Twitch...
The editor did not tell me it sucked, but he did edit it down a LOT from what I wrote, which was fine but a little surprising, until he informed me that *he* was having trouble keeping to deadlines because I was turning in work a little too late. At that point, I realized I needed to get my work in the night before the deadline he originally gave me. So for Wednesday's paper, I need to turn in my story by Monday night. For Friday's paper, it must be in on Wednesday night. And the worst of all, for Monday's paper I need to get it in on Thursday night.

Going back to City Hall was a delight!

I'm going to have some work to do to get ahead of the curve.

So on Wednesday, July 11th, I needed a story. So I hit the pavement. I visited a bunch of places that had been suggested, and a few I remembered. I hit the library and asked to interview the local storyteller, and she suggested I come in on Thursday. She suggested I go to the Museum, so I headed over there and chatted with the hostesses. I thought I might be able to convince one of them to do an interview when a man came in:
Yesterday I had a fantastic interview at the museum with a guy I don't believe I'd ever met before, but was totally willing to share the history of his family with me. I'm not sure how long the interview was, but I came out of it elated, as I do from great interviews (talking with fascinating people is wonderful).

After reporting in to the editor, I headed home to write the story and realized I was completely "out of spoons". I mean, I was beat. I could barely get myself writing. Fortunately, once I was writing, the words came - if not easily, at least they came.

When I was done, I had nothing left. Eric took me downstairs and fed me dinner, and I fell asleep while we watched Iron Chef off the DVR. He somehow got me upstairs and into bed at about 7 pm and I slept until a massive headache woke me at 3 am.

I took some painkiller and got on my computer while I waited for it to kick in, but Inkwell decided to curl up on my lap, so I sipped water and petted the cat while the painkiller finally started to work. Then I went back to bed.

I didn't get up until about 8 this morning. After sitting down at my computer again, Inkwell insisted on more lap time. Now I've had my shower, eaten, and even had a short chat with my editor. I have an appointment at 11 am to take some photos and meet some potential interview subjects. But I'd better take it a little easier today, considering how wiped I was yesterday!
The story turned out well, I thought, and I went to the library the next day at 11 am and got my "Monday" story with the storyteller. This time I had to take a nap before I could even write it. But I got through it, and have interviews scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday for my Wednesday and Friday stories.

Today's paper has my story on the front page, above the fold