Hurry up and wait

So here is where my day job conflicts with my fiction writing.

My day job currently consists of writing news and features articles, and editing pieces for various companies. I’ve done the newbie-reporter gig of covering municipal meetings and county fairs, and logged a number of years as a newspaper copy editor. The copydesk edits all articles in the paper, writes the headlines, fine-tunes (or fully creates) the page layout and clears everything to go to press. What does all this have in common? It needs to be done right now. Or ten minutes ago, if you can swing it. Deadline waits for no one. Missing deadline and making the paper late invites capital punishment. Think I’m kidding? Here is the original definition of the word “deadline.”

When I started seriously writing fiction and researching the kidlit industry, imagine my surprise to discover right now is not how it works. Agents and editors don’t want you to rush. They want you to put the story down, give it time, then pick it back up with new eyes so you can revise it properly; if you send them a revision too quickly, they’re liable to decide you took too little time on it and reject it. I was at first baffled by this, then slightly tearing-my-hair-out about it. “But don’t you want it to be done? Isn’t it done now? How long should I be taking to make it done? Arrrrrrgggghhhhhhh.”

It’s taken some practice. But I’ve been getting better at allowing time for breathing room, and letting the story be done when it’s ready to be done. So, don’t make my newbie mistake. Put it down. Give it time. Breathe.

(But if you’ve got a firm deadline, please, don’t blow it.)

Don’t let newspapers die

Periodically I tweet #buyanewspaper at people, for whatever that’s worth. (Probably not much.) It’s on my mind these days, because I’ve been watching a lot of my colleagues lose jobs.

Specifically, about 130 of them in November. Another 141 of them this month.

I freelance these days. It suits me. Layoffs at the newspaper where I used to work don’t affect me personally, except for making my heart hurt, because I was there for 10 years. Putting that in perspective, these were the people who saw me through both my pregnancies, commiserated about parenting, confided in me, laughed with me. The people I gleefully analyzed episodes of “24” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” with. The people I survived working election night with. (It’s the worst. You have to wait for the polls to close and then you have to scramble to make deadline.) The people I secretly snuck up to the roof of the building with after deadline to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July.

These are good, talented people, and they did not deserve to lose their jobs.

More to the point: These are the people who helped make the newspaper an essential read for the community it covers, and with them gone, there’s less of a reason to read the paper. And that’s not just a loss for my colleagues, it’s a loss for the community.

I’ve long believed that if you want to know more about the town you’re in — what’s it like to live in, what’s important to its residents — you read the local paper, which is why I track down one whenever I travel somewhere. (My parents still bring me back newspapers from wherever they were when they travel.) I can tell a lot about a place even by how thick the paper is, what kind of ads are in it and how well written and edited it is. A newspaper with almost no staff? That says it’s a paper not properly serving its community, because it doesn’t have the resources or the will.

Or it’s a paper no one is buying anymore.

Newspapers need subscribers. They need people to care about the paper on a regular basis, not just when they’re annoyed about something and writing letters to the editor, not just when someone they know got interviewed. All the time, or else the paper slowly disappears.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to what’s left of my old paper. But I hope it survives. I hope they all survive, because they’re needed.

Book vs. movie: Coraline

I’ve been waiting for ages to introduce the kids to “Coraline.” Because it’s fun when you can share your favorite authors with your kids. (I’ve already introduced them to C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling and Kate DiCamillo, among others.) They can be a little dubious about creepy or scary things, though, so I wasn’t too sure how this was going to go, since “creepy” is basically Neil Gaiman’s signature move. Luckily, they were decidedly un-creeped out and liked the book. They especially liked how clever Coraline was in outwitting the button-eyed other mother and saving her parents. And they liked that there was a cat. We’re cat fans around here.

As usual, once we’ve read the book, we can watch the movie.

I adored the movie when it first came out in 2009, because I adore everything Laika (if you haven’t seen “Kubo and the Two Strings,” do so now) and because I felt that — even despite the changes to the plot and the tossed-in character who wasn’t in the book — the movie had done the book justice. Funnily enough, I didn’t quite feel the same this time around. A little of Wybie goes a long way. Coraline isn’t quite as matter-of-fact self-sufficient as she is in the book, and she’s a lot more irritable. And changing the ending means Coraline doesn’t exactly save the day on her own, and needs Wybie to roar in and do it for her. (But child protagonists are supposed to solve their own problems.)

Still, the stop-motion animation is incredible, the musical sequences are fantastic and the visuals achieve the right mix of gorgeous and weird. So I still adore it.

The kids picked up on the differences between book and movie pretty quickly; I like to make sure they notice these things, so they learn to think critically about what they’re reading or watching. They were fans of the book, but their verdict on the movie was mixed. My daughter, who is scared by very little, thought the movie was too scary. My son, who dislikes scary things, thought the movie was awesome. Go figure.

We’re currently experiencing Snowpocalypse 2017, so we’ll either be inside reading or outside sledding. Stay warm, fellow Northeasterners.