Monday, November 07, 2005

More On Writing and Still Apologies to Steven King


After returning to school in September,2000 in the Freelance Writing program, this journalist wondered whether the term “writer”, the title I had so glibly used, really applied.

I had been out of school, and more importantly, writing nothing approximating journalistic pieces for over three years, when I took on the job of covering the Calgary International Film Festival as my first foray back into the world of interviewing and reporting.

The day of the interview began uneventfully enough; my daily newspaper was on time and there was a normalcy to the usual flurried chaos of my children readying themselves for their studies and heading off to three different schools.

That morning, my ritual of reading the newspaper cover to cover – yes, including the obits and various classifieds -- was interrupted by my puppy Charlie’s strange breathing and dry heaves. A minute later, the dog deposited the obviously annoying contents of his stomach beside the back door of the house. The inside of the back door, I should say, as I hadn’t got up from my chair fast enough to let him outside.

Cautiously, I approached the mustard-yellow mass he had ejected, immediately realising that the sock my youngest daughter had frantically searched for that morning had been eaten whole by my curious canine, and now lay in a steaming, drippy pile at the foot of my kitchen stairs.

I briefly considered washing the sock but quickly rejected that idea for the more rational and easily executed dump into our outdoor fire pit. The dry pile of twigs and pine needles was a suitably discouraging cover for the sock, and would later be the fodder for its immolation.

The last of my day’s disruptions over, I hoped, I descended to my basement office to collect the necessary items for an afternoon interview with the president of the film festival. I was proud of my preparations, and congratulated myself on being well organized. I hadn’t lost it, I thought, as I rifled through my limited wardrobe for the power suit.

Dressed professionally and having left myself ample time, I made a quick stop at the local drug-store to purchase a pristine cassette tape and a pair of gutsy batteries, both of which I inserted in my long neglected hand-held, reporter-babe recorder.


Poke, slap, shake.


Damn, it wasn’t the batteries after all. My trusty tape had given up the ghost. Not a problem, thought I; I am a professional, I’ll resort to taking good notes. I was still in plenty of time to scoop my daughter from school and head down town.

After dropping my eleven year old off with the instructions to not answer the phone or the door until her older sister arrived fifteen minutes later, I headed off. Happily armed with my notepad and camera, I arrived at Penny Lane mall and the festival office with 10 minutes to spare, only to be accosted again by faulty low technology. Impark’s coin op ticket dispenser ate my money but would not give up my pass. Thinking the little metal monster could take regurgitation lessons from my dog, I fed more quarters into its mouth, to no avail.

Frustrated and with time slipping by, I frantically looked around for assistance. The gods smiled upon me! There, approaching cautiously, probably due to the very large dark cloud hovering over me, came the parking lot monitor, ready to do battle. The surrender flag was raised in record time when the pitch of my now anxious voice threatened to puncture his eardrums. Desperate to escape, he hastily passed me an envelope with half an hour’s free time allowance scribbled beside the Impark address.

Excellent, I thought, as I raced back to my truck to retrieve my bag. But a final quick check revealed my notebook was nowhere to be found. Gasp! With seven minutes to spare, I raced west down 8th Avenue to a print shop, where I would beg for any type of paper. Minutes later, with a ratty pile of scraps in my hand, I arrived at the film office for my interview.

The interview itself went well and, and hour later, as I walked across the parking lot towards my truck, I congratulated myself again for handling the contingencies of the day. Suddenly, my knees buckled with the realisation that the one item I had remembered to bring, my camera, was laying at the bottom of my bag, unused. My interview subject was now in his fourth interview of the afternoon and would hardly welcome an interruption. I decided to return a day or two later for picture and headed for home.

Arriving home nearly two hours after I had left, I called for my children. To my horror I realised that I had left my youngest at home alone; her elder sister was babysitting the neighbour’s kids, I suddenly remembered. Not to worry, she said, she was fine and had Charlie the sock-eater to protect her.

Chagrined, but with the interview fresh in my mind and anxious to put it to paper, I headed to my office, broke out my brand-new copy of QuarkXpress – a free demo – and laid out my story. Two 17-inch tabloid column lengths later, I surveyed my work, making small edits here and there. A slight twitch of my hand and instantly the story was gone, at which time I remembered that Quark’s demo version was the full meal deal, with the exception of the SAVE function, which was disabled….

Cowed and frustrated by my futile writing efforts, and with my ego in tatters, I dragged myself upstairs, the site of the bleak, grey computer screen still dancing before my eyes. I am not a writer, I said to myself: I am a waitress; I am a truck driver; I am a house cleaner, but I am not a writer, I muttered with each heavy step up the stairs.

Paying no attention to where my feet were falling, and as my bare toes slid through a slimy, squishy pile at the landing, I learned the final, hard lesson of the day. Puppies are curious people and more, they will eat anything they deem delicious over and over again for as long as they can. As it had begun, my day ended with no article, no photo and an intact but semi-digested sock gracing the entrance to my kitchen.

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