Monday, October 30, 2006

One year blog-versary

Tomorrow, November 1, marks my one-year anniversary of starting this blog. I originally started it as a way of putting down my thoughts on what it was like to be a reporter -- and to write about things I learned along the way. I also wanted to use it to write a few short stories -- most of them from personal experience.

And I did do that. But I have also used it to occasionally write miscellaneous family information.

I have met many other bloggers since last November -- blogging about everything from everyday life to the more serious ones -- who use their site for political thoughts, actual writing activities, contests, and the craft of writing.

Anyway, in honor of my blogversary, and ...Just for fun, I thought I'd run my very first post again. Actually, my first three posts - all written on the same day, Nov. 1, 2005.

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MidnightWritings.blogspot / November Archives /original entry dated Nov. 1, 2005

My first newspaper assignment -- otherwise known as -- The deer-in-the-headlights look

I will always remember my first newspaper assignment. I was so excited with my new job. It was my birthday and getting the job was the best gift I had ever received. I was going to be the next Lois Lane – in my very own hometown. I was so ready.

What I was not ready for was being asked to write about anything political. I was so proud of the fact that I always voted…but what did I know about propositions and initiatives? I rarely bothered with learning all that. (That has changed and I am now totally aware of everything on the ballot)

Anyway, Henry (my immediate supervisor and mentor) sent me to cover a speech about Proposition-54 at the local community college. I went – not really knowing what I was doing. Our paper photographer met me there. “Isn’t this cool?” he asked. Um…yea…cool. NOT!

I took notes -- lots and lots of them. I didn’t really know what to do. It was my first day on the job. I had been told it was going to be a day of in-service. Doesn’t that mean watching movies and filling out forms? I had absolutely ZERO idea what to do out there alone.

After the event, I sat in my car for half an hour (my lunch break) and talked to my best friend. I was scared to go back to work. I had no idea what to do with the information I had gathered, or worse, how to write it. Dennis assured me that I would be fine. I wasn’t sure. I finally forced myself to return to the office.

Henry must have sensed it. “What’s the matter?” he asked me as I walked in. “You have that deer-in-the-headlights look.”

I just handed him my notebook -- page after page of scribbled notes. I stood there, quiet, waiting for him to call me an idiot. But he didn’t. He looked it over and being the professional that he was, found something in my notes, circled it -- and handed it back.

“This looks like a good place to start,” he said.

I took it from there. Of course, the story took me about three hours to write and rewrite. But when I left, I left with a smile. It did not matter to me that no one knew it was my birthday or that anyone even wished me a happy birthday.
All that mattered was that I had done it. I wrote a story.

The next day, I literally screamed when I saw it on the front page. Wow. I had really done it. I had written a story for an official newspaper – and if I had to say so myself, it came out pretty good. I went out and bought like 15 newspapers. (No idea why). I decided that if I could make it through that first day – that first story -- then I could do anything at the paper.

The Problem with New Writers:

The problem with new writers is that we usually feel we have to say it all – in one story. So, we don’t know when to stop.

As a student at COS a couple of years ago, I found several of my classmates with the same problem. Our first assignment (a news story) was so long – we’re talking four to five pages long – that our instructor didn’t read it. She placed a big red mark on it, returned it and asked us to turn it in no longer than two pages long. I learned a lesson. Or did I?

When I was hired by my hometown paper, the problem resurfaced and my first stories were often so long, my mentor would either shake his head or laugh. Oh sure, make fun of my writing. That was about the equivalent of laughing at one of your children.

But that is not how he meant it. And thank goodness he taught me about the 18-inch rule.

Henry also gave me some of the best advice I ever had. OK, so he was the only one giving me advice, though Bill Furth tried but he didn’t teach me anything that I didn’t already know.

This is what Henry said:

“When you get to nine inches……STOP. Just stop. Don’t go any further. Then, read your work. And you should be about half way done."

Then all I had to do was go back in and finish it up. Um…yea...right. That was easier said than done.

But it worked. I finally learned to stop writing when I was supposed to. If I was asked for a 10-inch story, I’d stop at five inches and take it from there.

I learned other tidbits of advice from Henry ... Such as “Start with the clown.”

In other words, find the most colorful, interesting thing in your story and start with that. Simple! No further explanation needed.

He also taught me that the cow jumps over the moon – and the explanation there is simple too.

“Esther, the cow jumped over the moon.”

Mental note to self: Do not write “over 100 people” – it should read “more than 100 people”
The same holds true for less than, do not use “under 50 people” unless I have dug a trench and am crawling under them.

Excuse me, do I hear ringing?

Too bad Henry never gave me advice about where not to put my cell phone.

As a reporter, I never carry a purse when I interview people. Not a problem most of the time since my slacks usually have a small pocket.

But one day I was interviewing a minister from a local church. It was a Sunday and there was church service that day. So, I wore a dress.

There was one problem -- no pockets.

My car key I had on an elastic band around my wrist. My writing pad and pen, well...that belongs in my hand. But, what would I do with my phone?

I thought I was being clever when I placed it snugly between my breasts. I mean, my phone was pretty small. No one could see it or even tell it was there. It was well hidden.

The church service ended. I waited for the right moment to approach the minister and I was writing down a quote from him when the unexpected happened. My phone started to ring. I forgot to place it on mute.

Oh boy.

I quickly excused myself by putting up my index finger, “Excuse me a minute, please" and I turned away.

I walked a few feet from him, pulled out my phone, shut it off, quickly hid it again and walked back. It was so fast, I’m not even sure he knew where the ringing came from.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Where were we?”

And without explaining a thing, I continued the interview. I think I handled it rather well. It was a lesson I never forgot. Henry would have been proud of me!

8 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your one-year milestone, Esther! I love the first post -- some stuff I can use myself in my prose writing.

    Well done, my friend!

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  2. Happy Blogiversary, and an excellent first post. Keep up the good work! :)

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  3. Happy Blogiversary!! I'm so glad you blog and that you hang out with us at AW ((hugs))

    Dawno

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  4. poet: thank you. it has been a lot of fun doing this and meeting so many other bloggers.

    thommalyn, thankyou. :)

    thank you dawno: Meeting you and the rest of the gang has been great.I think AW is the best place to hang out. I'm so glad to be a part of it.

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  5. Happy Blogiversary!!! Hahaha, the ministrel story was hilarious!!

    Joke:

    A woman is going to a wedding, and since she won't carry a purse and is sick puts three kleenex between her breasts. She used one up during the service, and another one on the reception, but then she needed the third. When she tries to retrieve it, it's not there anymore. She starts looking all over her bra, tryinig to find the kleenex, when someone asks her:
    "May I help you?" To which she replies:
    "I swear there were three of them this morning!"

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  6. hahaha...oh Dama...thank you. And so nice to see you. I've missed you, girl.

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  7. Happy Blogoversary, Esther!
    I really enjoy your blog and your writing. :)

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  8. thank you, Jeff. You already know that your blog is one of my favorites. :)

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