Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Process Versus the Product.

Hope y'all's 2016 is off to a good start! Been a while.

I've had the joy of working with a couple of my favorites in the under-18 set since the new year started. First, Rachel came to work with me for a couple of days over her holiday break, helping me with everything from our (downright woeful before her assistance) Pinterest account, to photo shoots, to interviewing the owner of a fabulous breakfast joint.

Then yesterday my girl Julia visited me for Charleston County's official job shadowing day and brought her friend Emily. We had a great time putting the last page of the magazine together (a "meet your neighbors" feature) and editing a couple of things around the office.

Hanging with my younger friends always make me feel good because they're amazed by what I do. I suppose it sounds fancy to be a magazine editor (I always preen a bit when I tell people my profession) but it isn't all glory for sure. In fact, if I don't stay organized, on top of my game and open to doing the grunt-work parts of the job, everything falls apart faster than you can say Mount Pleasant Magazine. That's why when I bring my proteges to the office, I try to present a pleasant mixture of hard stuff (coming up with the reasons why a sentence just doesn't sound right) and fun stuff (photo shoots). I mean, yesterday when we were out roaming around to meet people for the last page, one guy we interviewed raved about the magazine. He talked about what a good job I do, and it was nice to hear it. Of course, Julia and her friend were impressed.

"You're FAMOUS," they heartily declared. It's an overstatement, of course, but I still think it's important to recognize that when it comes to being a magazine editor, the process (sometimes tedious, boring, frustrating, etc) is just as important as the product.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Reflections on Nostalgia and Progress: A December Special

I was perusing Facebook this morning in between editing articles, and I saw a "Throwback Thursday" that my old alma mater, Coastal Carolina University, posted: a photo of the oldest building on campus -- the Singleton Building, as it stood in the 1960s. I saw the Singleton building myself just about a month ago during a fairly routine visit to campus, and I was shocked to find the building had been totally gutted. The shiny, completely renovated Singleton building will reopen in 2016. It made me a little sad. Thus, I posted this on the Throwback Thursday photograph:

This is a cool photo. I was sad to see it completely gutted when I visited Coastal a month or so ago. Yes, the Singleton building smelled weird and needed to be updated, but I clearly remember walking through it between 1998-2002 and loving it just as it was. Progress and nostalgia are always at odds, I suppose.

Today is my mom's birthday (Happy birthday, mom!), and if you don't know my mom, she's one of the finest examples of poetic nostalgia I've ever known. Part of it comes from her outstanding memory, and part of it is her sincere fascination with how things became the way they are. I spent my childhood relishing tales of her childhood, from the people to the buildings around Florence. Even if they had long since disappeared, my mom could still point out where they were.

That said, I suppose it's fitting that today I would find myself reflecting on progress and nostalgia. After all, this is the time of year when people get caught in between longing for the past and anticipating the future. I know I'm one of them -- I find myself feeling excited about what might happen in 2016 (New freelancing opportunities! Road trips!) but also missing people I haven't seen in decades -- wanting to trade stories and hold on as much as possible.

I doubt very many people, if any at all, would agree with me that the Singleton Building was fine the way it was. People complained about how dingy it was, how funny it smelled, how dark the hallways were, and everything else. But to me, it was just another part of the campus, and the campus has felt like home since my college days. Luckily, it still does, despite the renovations. I think that's the secret, when it comes to balancing progress and nostalgia: making sure you still feel at home, despite change.

When I go home next week for the holidays, things in Florence will be different, as they usually are, and people will be shifting. They'll be getting married, having children, growing older, selling their old sofas, downsizing their homes, retiring, shopping for new cars and whatever else they do to keep up the progress in their lives and move forward. But I'll still feel at home there thanks to nostalgia, which my mom passed down to me.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, y'all!

Me, my mom and my sister Marie, circa 2008 or so. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Be Thankful or Else."

I know it's hard to believe, but every now and then, I complain about my career.

Sometimes I whine that my writing voice is apparently only good for catchy ad copy and not heart-wrenching literature. Sometimes I complain that editors don't reply to my (brilliant) pitches. And sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get my big break, whatever that might be.

But this is a week about being thankful, so let me take a moment to reprimand myself for not being thankful constantly for my ever-interesting, ever-evolving career as a writer. A career that not many people get to have. A career that takes me to cozy bed-and-breakfasts where I get a free night's stay to learn more about a southern town. A career that introduces me to fascinating and talented people and pushes my limits. Sure, it's not 100% perfect and it's not always the exact thing I had in mind, but I make my living off of what I love doing most -- manipulating language.

Lately, the Great Universe is showing me that other opportunities are on the horizon. For example, I have a couple of articles coming out in regional magazines early next year, and an essay that I'm rather proud of is slated to appear on a website I admire. Plus, old and new contacts have been reaching out. My networking skills are being sharpened. And the crap that I don't need to deal with - the stuff that's wasting my time, dragging my spirits down and not helping me excel - is disappearing, whether I like it or not.

On November 1st, I flipped the page of our sales tally at the Mount Pleasant Magazine office - the sheet where we keep track of that month's advertising triumphs. I usually like to draw a little picture that represents the time of year: a tree for April, a pumpkin for October, that sort of thing. This time, I drew a turkey. And this cartoon turkey is saying "Be Thankful or Else!" which I considered funny at the time (it was a jab at to how hard it can be to make ends meet in an artistic field) but now, I'm realizing it's a useful lesson.

The more grateful, secure and happy I feel with my progress as a writer, the more good things I encounter to help me on the journey. So, starting this week, I'm going to just take a deep breath and realize that in the grand literary scheme of things, I'm still quite young. And I have a lot of stories left inside me.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

The original artwork. Hey, I'm a writer, not an illustrator.