January 24th, 2007

At Least I Can Probably Manage the Looking Snooty Part

It is quite bad enough looking like an ignorant fool to the people I’m supposed to be interviewing. This is a common occurrence: after all, can I realistically be expected to have a working knowledge of surfboard history, mountain climbing, my hometown’s municipal codes, and dog-training? (And that’s only a short list of this week’s top assignments.)


But, as detailed in previous posts, I am quite accustomed to embarrassing myself. I have taken to heart the adage, “There are no dumb questions.” I don’t agree with the sentiment, and am confident that many, many of my questions are very, very dumb—but I gotta ask them, or else I’d never be able to write the story.


While I have advanced quite a way since starting out as a novice freelancer—especially in my willingness to ask the dumb questions—I remain uncomfortable spotlighting my foolishness for colleagues. Heck, it even took me a long time to feel comfortable going out on assignment with a photographer. (I was convinced the photogs. were always comparing my interview methods with other reporters they’d accompanied. To my detriment, of course. That all ended when I had to travel to Tijuana with a big ol’ idiot photographer who decided it was important for him to conduct the interview on my behalf. After that, they held no terror for me.)


And I never liked going out on stories big enough for other reporters to be in attendance. It is my own bad luck that very, very early on I got called out on a Super Cute Feature Story that attracted reporters from both daily newspapers, as well as at least one radio station and a couple of TV stations, in addition to the weekly newspaper I wrote for. I did not, however, have much of a chance to ask dumb questions in front of the veteran reporters, as they were so deft at shoving me out of the way that I didn’t even get to interview anyone till the vets had departed. (My photographer didn’t fare so well—a TV camera wielder elbowed her out of the way and she knocked a floral display off its stand. At the altar. In the middle of a wedding ceremony.)


Given my reluctance to work before an audience, I am a little perplexed at my agreement to address a group of writers next month. (A scant week after I’ll be addressing a bunch of sorority sisters on the subject of historical schoolhouses and my writing thereon. Maybe I’m putting too much milk in my espresso. Maybe I’m not drinking enough espresso. Surely the problem must be espresso-related.)


I didn’t exactly try to wriggle out of the gig. But I was very, very, extremely upfront about the many, many reasons why I might not be a good fit for this panel of travel, food, and health writers/ editors—especially the fact that Fibromyalgia AWARE is a comparatively small (in printed numbers) magazine; that it is released just three times a year; and that the pay scale is correspondingly small.


“That’s okay,” the requester assured me. “You can just explain that you accept pitches, but that they may not be accepted.”




On the one hand, I will probably be relatively safe: after all, I’m speaking to these writers as an editor. So I can likely expect much fawning. (Right? There will be fawning?)


On the other hand, it does feel rather fraudulent on my part. Sure, I edit this magazine—but at heart, I feel like a little, independent freelance writer. It reminds me of when I was promoted from a little suburban elementary school to a junior high in a Very Wealthy Area—I felt just like Laura Ingalls going to town for the first time, all barefoot and gingham-ribboned. I guess time will tell how my audience feels about Little House on the Prairie. Until then, maybe I’ll practice looking snooty and tossing my furs onto my assistant’s desk, like Meryl Streep’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada.” (Note to self: Buy fur. Hire assistant.)  

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