In the public relations firm where I worked with years ago, we had a list of no-nos, among them:
1. Never pay to get a story published.
2. Never beg for the story’s publication.
2. Minimize the follow-up.
The third is something I rarely do, and it’s a task I detest so much. My style is usually to re-send the original article with a note asking whether it has been received. Sometimes, when the principal is badgering me, I pick up the phone and ask, gently, whether the article had been used or, if it has not been run, whether more information is needed.
I find following up in bad taste because as a journalist, I don’t want to be placed in a position wherein I have to defend why (1) I did not run the story and (2) why it is taking so long for the story to be written/published. I do not think I owe anybody an explanation.
Writing is a mental, arduous task. It is something I don’t do well when I am depressed, sick, or unhappy, and especially when I’m physically and mentally tired. I have so much respect for the publications I am with that I will not send off a sloppily written story to be run with my byline. (Admittedly, I usually do not read my articles after publication. Seeing typos is just too painful for my heart.)
There are days when the act of coming up with a 500-word story (which is just half the length of the stories I write for my day job) feels like labor (or constipation, if you will, LOL) and I am almost inclined to bash my head against the wall in desperation. I am usually irritated when that happens. I’m not a fun person to be around when that happens.
I’m usually resistant to anything popular: a new movie, a book, a band, a diet, or a fashion trend. I tend to be suspicious of people who jump on the bandwagon.
So when I was browsing Twitter (I still don’t have Twitter, by the way) and saw someone announce to the Twittering populace, “I feel like I’m a loser! Haven’t read Harry Potter yet!” I had to stifle a laugh.
This was not a teenager under peer pressure but a girl in her twenties who seems like a very grounded online personality. And it made me think, Is this how we are now? Are our preferences dictated by the choices of the rest of the population? If we’re all after being “cool,” isn’t it way cool to choose something that very few would? Isn’t it more cool to be a trailblazer?
Not to say, however, that I haven’t picked up a Harry Potter book. I read the first two leisurely. The third book I read in a professional capacity because one of the manuscripts I edited several months back is a fantasy series patterned after Harry Potter.
So it makes me wonder, especially with probably more than half of the blogging community agog over the recent Harry Potter book, Do they like Rowling because she writes well? Is it because they can relate to her characters? Or are they only compelled to read because they don’t want to feel left out?
So I clutched them in my hands–five copies of my first book, Runaway, which slept for eight months before its number got called for publishing.
I’m published! my inner self shouted as I caressed the glossy cover. I flipped through the pages, seeing words pop up–my words, these.
I lifted the book to my nose and breathed deeply. It smelled like every newly printed book should. It smelled like ink. It smelled like photocopied paper.
The light was bad in the jeepney I rode home as I riffled through the pages. Amid bumps and jolts, the editor in me saw something it was dreading. . .
A missing space between an ellipsis and a comma in a quotation.
I gulped. I wanted to be mad, but there it was, several instances of it (maybe all instances of it!), missing a space. Since when did it become the style to omit the space after the ellipsis? I remember telling the editor to correct it during the many times the PDF manuscript was flying between us. Actually, I remember asking her to correct many things that never showed up in the final copy!
So much for being finicky. So much for being anal.
So anyhow, my first book should be available in National Bookstore soon. Please disregard the typos and don’t tell me about it–unless you really want to ruin my day.
But phey, for one second there, I was quite happy.
The character Frank Navasky (played by Greg Kinnear) in the movie You’ve Got Mail (one of my all-time favorites before this whole Internet thing became so big) says this to Patricia Eden (played by Parker Posey) during a party:
You liked my piece. God, I’m flattered. You know, you write these things and you think someone’s going to mention them and then the whole week goes by and the phone doesn’t ring and you think, “Oh, God, I’m a fraud, a failure.”
I remembered this when Elisha texted me just before I left for Hong Kong that she loved the interview with Genuine Opposition spokesperson Adel Tamano. Coming from a seasoned writer and journalist (Elisha used to work with Businessworld, and you have to be good to be there), that compliment really made my day.
The article, in itself, has a back story. It was supposed to go online the day I left for Hong Kong to cover the Fashion Week. That Sunday, I thought everything was okay (a rare instance, because I usually do some final tweaking on Sundays before the interview goes online). I was even able to go out of town to see relatives (and that rarely happens with the busy schedule I keep). It was when I got home that Noah, our main tech guy, e-mailed me that the WordPress draft didn’t have the entire article.
“How could that happen?!” I wailed. I dug through my laptop files and discovered to my dismay that I had deleted the edited final transcript after copying it online. Brilliant.
I cried. I must have laughed over the stupidity. I got mad thinking I was sabotaged (but who would?). This does not happen to me before a business trip.
So I didn’t sleep the entire night (which is why at the start of Fashion Week, I was already a tired bag lady) and re-edited the transcript all over again. I must have finished it at 2 a.m., and Kiko kept me company online, listening to me wail, then hurl invectives, then laugh. I told him I had gone through a range of emotions in one sitting, a feat worthy of an Academy Award.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed writing the article (and you probably know one of the reasons). The good thing about it is I was basically starting off a clean slate. Very little has been said about Tamano outside of politics and only one other magazine has done a feature on him (Lifestyle Asia, he tells me; the one with Piolo Pascual on the cover, although I have yet to see it), so I never worried about asking him questions that had previously been asked.
On the other hand, the fact that very little has been said about him also proved difficult in that I had nothing specific to ask about (if you notice, most of the questions are quite general; I think I had about 10 general questions on my list and just followed up from there). While there was a ton of quotes to sift through concerning his political existence, nothing has been said about his personal life, his hobbies, or his growing-up years.
The fact that Tamano is quite articulate and a very organized thinker made a big difference because I didn’t have a hard time editing the transcript. I liked the fact that even while he’d segue into other offhand topics, he’d remember to go back to the original thread. Which was very helpful, especially since anybody interviewing would always be at a loss (and I need not say why). Even after I sent that final piece through, I was still kilig about it. Who wouldn’t be?
After the interview, we chatted a bit about my personal woes and seeking child support, and he offered to take on my case for “a very minimal sum.” Wow. That was really heartwarming. I told him I’d think about it (I still am thinking about it, several weeks later!), but my family is a bit concerned how the case will affect everybody involved. It’s still up in the air, but I like the idea that in case I decide to pursue it, I have a really dependable lawyer in my address book.