Link

My birding blog

I’ve been trying out different social media/blog thingies, mostly because job descriptions for editorial assistants sometimes want you to be familiar with them, and I’m getting to like Tumblr after having an empty account on it for a year.

I called it “pillowtumblr” after the fashion of Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book (not the Ewan McGregor movie, which I have not seen, but beware searching “pillow book” because you’ll get all kinds of photos of naked bodies with calligraphy on them). If you don’t know it, it’s kind of this Japanese court lady’s journal, but it’s done in mainly lists of things, such as:

“64. Surprising and Distressing Things
While one is cleaning a decorative comb, something catches in the teeth and the comb breaks.
A carriage overturns. One would have imagined that such a solid, bulky object would remain forever on its wheels. It all seems like a dream — astonishing and senseless.
A child or grown-up blurts out something that is bound to make people uncomfortable.
All night long one has been waiting for a man who one thought was sure to arrive. At dawn, just when one has forgotten about him for a moment and dozed off, a crow caws loudly. One wakes up with a start and sees that it is daytime — most astonishing.
One of the bowmen in an archery contest stands trembling for a long time before shooting; when finally he does release his arrow, it goes in the wrong direction.”

Well, if you aspire to be the social media version of a Sei Shonagon, there is no way you will write anything … for a whole year. I could make lists, but they certainly wouldn’t be anywhere nearly as entertaining or profound as hers. (And Sei Shonagon’s would-be Twitter account has been cleverly done already — “Peach trees are blooming, nice. Willows looking good omg am I done yet” — there’s a screenshot of it from one of my early pillowtumblr posts, too.)

Finally, I realized I could forget about trying to make pithy lists and simply make lists for myself of birds I see, since I’ve now become a compulsive beginning birder (a recipe for frustration if ever there was one). It’s good to write down what you see on a birdwalk. And most definitely, there are visible outcomes of birdwatching — you are bound to see something, even if it’s a park full of Canada geese, or some sparrows and pigeons.

So in the absence of a post here about looking for a job (not really happening much) or my internship, I am linking the birding blog.

Copy editor and reporter and … photographer?

I could say I have been busy with work, getting more responsibilities at the paper, which is sort of true, but since it is only part-time, there’s no real excuse for my long hiatus from writing.

There was that whole job interview thing — I finally heard back that I didn’t get the job, weeks after the second interview I mentioned previously. It was fine not getting the position, especially after worrying that I’d have to interact with that horrible professor, but I did feel like maybe they had somehow seen my blog post about them (and that I didn’t really want the job). I don’t know how they would have, but I stressed out about it anyway. That paranoia led me not to want to write about much else on this blog. And so a couple of other job interviews have come and gone without so much as a … tweet.

I still do enjoy working for the paper, and staying there is now made easier by the fact that my husband has secured a full-time job (with benefits!) in the city. The whole idea of giving the Ailes operation a hard time is extremely satisfying, which unfortunately allows me and my colleagues to put up with a lot of other stuff, like not being able to go full-time or get insurance benefits.

I remain eternally grateful for the opportunity to develop my skills there, though. I have, since my last posting, written a few more articles, one or two of which have had an impact (however small) on parts of the community.

One of my stories on the Garrison School Board meetings, for example, reportedly angered the teachers there, which was the desired effect. They were not present to hear the condescending tone of some the parents or to defend themselves, and so I felt it my duty to inform those not present of the general themes of the discussion. Unfortunately, I heard that the teachers felt the article was immensely critical of them, when in fact I had tried my best to report as “objectively” as possible.

I haven’t been writing as much for the paper as one might expect, given my “added,” somewhat editorial responsibilities at the paper. With the awesome digital SLR camera that I bought myself for my birthday in October, I have been taking much better pictures than I ever could with my old point-and-shoot, and my photos have been appearing a lot more in the paper than my writing has. My shots of the late-night flooding at high tide in lower Cold Spring (in my last post), for example, were some of the only ones that I have seen. When we need front-page photos now, the editor often asks me to get the shots.

gingerbread ornamentLiving nativity Saunders Farm

The wonders of digital photography! Now any numbnut can take a hundred photos and find a good one somewhere in the mix. I DO want to learn more about photography, though, so that I don’t have to sort through a hundred photos to find one that is merely decent. I know there are several ways to do so that are free, through the Internet, perhaps through all of my artsy photographer friends, but it just means getting up and doing it….

Which brings me to the confessional part of my blog: Am I in a rut? Am I, as I type this entry while noon approaches, in bed, in my bathrobe, shirking my duties as the spouse who works part-time, avoiding the laundry, the dishes, the cleaning, the grocery shopping, the cooking, and contemplating what I’ll watch next on Netflix instant? Am I avoiding a job search that will land us in the city so that my husband doesn’t have to commute an hour and a half each way and so that I can continue working at this paper and take on village reporting duties? Am I also making no progress whatsoever on journaling or writing fiction/creative nonfiction/my first novel? Am I, perhaps, rather depressed? I’m afraid the answer is yes. But therapy will resume as soon as my health insurance kicks in next month.

A Visit From Hurricane Sandy

All photos taken at or before high tides around noon and midnight on Monday.

The Pipe Dream of a Husband-Wife Sports-Writing Team

Shane and I went to the local high school (American) football game Saturday to report for the paper, which sorely lacks sports coverage. Every so often a regular reporter writes a big story, like the Little League tournament or when the high school baseball team went to the state championships. But my editor had asked a long time ago if I’d wanted to do some sports stories, and I finally got up the nerve to try it, as long as I had Shane, an avid sports follower, to help me.

The last time I had gone to a football game was probably when I was a freshman in high school myself. I didn’t then and still don’t understand the details of the game, possibly intentionally, as I find it one of the most repulsive sports today. All it seems to be good for is traumatic brain injury (not only to the players) and training in loud, macho yelling. I was planning to just take some photos and write a few short lines like “So-and-so made a touchdown in the first quarter” and “They lost to the Broncos [insert score].”

As soon as we got to the field, I noticed the concession stand and hot dogs, while Shane whipped out his notebook and started jotting down notes. Turns out my husband was pretty good at writing his first article, with my lame smartphone photos that cut out the QB and RB and, most times, even the football. The only photo that really turned out well … you can see for yourself that it didn’t really have anything to do with football:

(I just loved that kid’s fashion sense.)

When the article was published online, I got super excited that Shane and I could become the sports-writing duo that expands the paper’s sports section into a force to be reckoned with. We would not only cover important varsity games but perhaps even junior varsity games! Shane could get paid for doing something extra that he enjoys – watching sports! I would take amazing action photos with a new digital SLR camera (that I bought yesterday)!

Then the editor told me what I knew to be true all along: the paper did not have the budget or the space to expand the sports coverage in the way I was hoping. It could accommodate maybe one story per week, if that, and there is already one reporter, possibly two, working on occasional sports coverage. Wuah – wuah, goes the game-over trombone.

In happier news, we don’t have to go to tons of sports games.

We are also looking into health insurance options through the Freelancers’ Union, and I am seriously thinking about getting business cards and a website to promote myself as a freelance copy editor. Got a gig through work doing some academic copy editing, and I applied for a freelance copy-editing position with a cool website today, so keep fingers crossed, everyone!

Above the Fold

It’s the new term of the week. Had never heard it till I got a front-page article “above the fold.” I actually had two by-lines on the front page in this edition, and it feels awesome. Even though it’s only because a senior reporter is out of town for three weeks, and I have to cover her usual Village Board meetings, and because the meeting covered so much material, including a big bike race, that I had to write two separate articles.

I am really, really excited about this job. I am having a ball writing for this amazing publication, getting information out to the people in the community, even though the subject matter is not always riveting. I am so excited, in fact, that I suggested going to the local high school football game today to cover it, since our paper needs more sports coverage. My husband, of course, will help me, but I am glad I did go to my own high school football games as a teenager with friends on the flag team….

To help with this great job, I am looking into buying a better digital camera, to get better photos for the paper (and for myself). Does anyone out there have suggestions for a good but not too expensive entry-level digital SLR camera?

If I were offered a full-time job in the city, I think I would have a hard time leaving this paper, and I can’t think of many full-time jobs I’ve applied to that would make me want to leave.