Posted at 1:21 pm
Can you read and ride a bike?
In March I began reviewing nonfiction science and nature books here on Wild Muse. There were a couple of reasons this came about. First, after experimenting with blogging for several years, I’d grown a little bored with the model of writing a post about a published science paper. Second, my life shifted in ways that precluded being able to do even that when, within the span of a few months, I finished my first book and became a new mother. Suddenly, my time was too limited and too fractured to write regularly in a meaningful way. It was not just my blog suffering from neglect, it was my professional writing too.
Slowly I learned to be okay with the fact that I’m a Writer who is not currently writing. At first, it felt like my identity had been stripped away. If I wasn’t writing, then who was I? What was I doing with my time? Could I still say I was a writer? In addition to being a full-time mom to a rambunctious toddler, I continued to help my husband get his business off the ground; I found new depths of meaning in each of these roles. But a part of me still groped blindly in the dark for something to hold onto from my writerly life: I keened for time and mental space to write again and was repeatedly frustrated when this absurd venture turned into something akin to Waiting for Godot. I’ve been a cyclist for long enough to know I was simply spinning my wheels, doing nought but going through the motions. And so I settled down, and I listened to the Reader Yin of my Writer Yang, the part of me who yearned to be a Reader again. I became comfortable with putting my writing away for the time being; I imagine this scene as a wild bird released from a rattan cage that I watch as it careens out of my window . . . and I must trust it will come home to roost again. Someday. I then learned to curl up with a book whenever the opportunity arose. Continue reading
Posted at 9:15 am
Last week, I tweeted that I felt like roadkill on the freelancing highway. Not words I would use lightly. I’m still cooling off over what happened, and my blood pressure rises when I think about how these events played out. (You’ve probably never seen me upset here before because, frankly, it rarely happens.) Basically, I pitched a national magazine about a conservation story for an eastern bird population. The editor responded that he liked the idea and wanted me to write it, but that the magazine did not sign contracts with writers until the whole story was accepted. Nor did they pay until the story was published. (Should have been my first warning signs to walk.)
That was in April of 2009. He gave me a due date of July 2010. I talked to the main sources and opted to do the interviewing work in late May and early June 2010, so that we could capture the spring 2010 seasonal data. Despite the main source’s mother dying right when I was trying to interview him, and despite being in a horrific car accident myself right around the deadline, I wrote it and turned it in. The initial response was “Nice work,” with a note that they’d send more detailed comments in a few weeks. On Wednesday, I received the detailed comments tearing the piece apart and questioning basic elements that were included in the initial pitch. (Which, you know, ought to have been dealt with a year ago when the pitch was reviewed. Just sayin’.) But the worst part was that instead of asking for it to be re-worked, the editor wrote that it could not be published “as is,” that they had removed it from the scheduled issue, and that I had the option to re-submit it but that there were no guarantees they would publish it and no kill fees. But that despite all that, they still really wanted a story on this bird species. What? How is it that they can so evade the industry’s professional standards? Continue reading