Unemployed in GREENLAND

I think I got fired.

In my most recent work incarnation, I was the Editor of Austin Family Magazine, a regional parenting publication. I loved it and I would still be working there if I hadn't started doing things like, oh, forgetting to fill out some paperwork that affected the whole course of my daughter Jane's end of school last year and the beginning of this one.


So, I resigned and the June issue was the last one with my name on it as Editor. I kept my regular humor column, though, even though I wondered if that was such a good idea. I mean, I wanted to stay involved with the publication--the Publisher and I have become good friends and I adore her --but I'm not sure that doesn't make for an awkwardness for the new Editor to have the former Editor hanging around keeping a watchful eye on things, doncha know.

Even though I wasn't actually doing that (who has time with all that painting to do?), I'm sure it didn't feel so good to the new Editor. But I didn't want to give up my humor column because it made me happy to be a "brand," of sorts. The humor column is always the back page in Austin Family and when I would hang out at the local Randall's and watch people pick up the magazine (What? Oh, like you wouldn't do that if a magazine had your name on it and all... Um, wouldn't you?), they always turned to the back page first. Which just thrilled my narcissistic little soul to pieces.

Recently, though, the new Editor and I had a disagreement about word count for the column. When I was Editor I wrote about 500 word columns. When the new Editor took over, I cut back to 400 word columns and now the magazine wants to be able to fit more graphics in so the new Editor cut me back to 300 word columns.

I couldn't be funny in 300 words. I tried. I really did but I just couldn't do it.

Some would probably say that I wasn't that funny in LONGER columns but even *I* knew I wasn't funny in 300 words. I think it's because I'm too conversational in my normal writing style so when I try to cut all that out, it sounds like the ARMY writing a humor column.

"A pedestrian walks into a drinking establishment at oh-eight hundred hours. He was wearing a water fowl on his head. The proprietor questioned him in accordance with Army Code 47-345 B. The water fowl requested assistance in removing the pedestrian from his gluteus maximus. The Pedestrian was detained for questioning."

50 words, right there.


I sort of suggested that if they were going to keep the column at 300 words, they should probably find someone who could be, um, funny in 300 words. Being as how it's a humor column and all.

So they did. They decided to start taking submissions each month for the column and pick the funniest one.

My friend Kaye, the Publisher, called me today to tell me and DAMN if she didn't manage to fire me, back-up her Editor (which is what good publishers do), and still make me laugh and keep our friendship completely intact. That's a gift, my friends. I have always said that there is a way to skin a cat so that the cat doesn't know it's being skinned and Kaye just proved it. She urged me to still submit columns but at 300 words, I don't think it's going to work out for me.

I'm bummed, though, because I will have lost my lone writing gig and because now I have to, gulp, start submitting to other places. Yikes! My friend Tiffany has been telling me I needed to start submitting to other publications for years, but it's just so much more comfortable here in Denial/Psychotically Shy Land.

The good news is that a door rarely closes without another one opening up (especially in MY house) and just this week, a friend/reader sent me a note telling me about how our local paper now has a parenting column that is accepting submissions so maybe I'll stop feeling all sorry for myself and submit something there.

(For some reason, that bit of dialogue from The Princess Bride keeps going through my head:

Fezzik: You never said anything about killing anyone.
Vizzini: I've hired you to help me start a war. It's an prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition.
Fezzik: I just don't think it's right, killing an innocent girl.
Vizzini: Am I going MAD, or did the word "think" escape your lips? You were not hired for your brains, you hippopotamic land mass.
Inigo Montoya: I agree with Fezzik.
Vizzini: Oh, the sot has spoken. What happens to her is not truly your concern. I will kill her. And remember this, never forget this: when I found you, you were so slobbering drunk, you couldn't buy Brandy!
[turning to Fezzik]
Vizzini: And you: friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed in Greenland!)

This blog entry is 877 words.


Tiffany said…
Maybe you could do a SERIAL humor column. You know...BUILD UP to the punch line over a few issues...
hokgardner said…
It's so hard to send your stuff out into the world. I sent a column to a local online mothers' weekly e-mail newsletter kind of thing and received a snippy response that my writing wasn't what they were looking for. I felt like someone had told me my baby was ugly. It took me ages to work up the courage to submit something somewhere else. I still got rejected, but the editor was MUCH nicer about it.

I consoled myself about the first place by deciding that I'd been blackballed by their editor because I'd sent an e-mail to her correcting her punctuation. She didn't react well to the correction.
ckh said…
I think that your former magazine is seriously mistaken if they think that graphics are more important than good writing.

(I like to refer to freelance submissions as sending away for rejection letters. I haven't broken the code yet.)

Anonymous said…
Hey lovey - have you seen this?
Anonymous said…
I think it can be really bad to get comfortable when it comes to some things. Probably this will push you to the next level. I just love your description of your publisher skinning a cat without it knowing it's been skinned...it's been done to me before, and I'd love to have that skill.
Lynn said…
And I bet that two or three more people read the local newspaper than the parenting magazine.

Writing well is the best revenge!
I had a boss who fired me, kinda sorta, sure, I didn't actually leave for three months and we've had lunch every month in the three years since I left her, but wow, what a nice way to go. That is indeed a rare talent.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. You got a mention from one of the other bloggers on my blogroll.
I think it's a blessing in disguise - you deserve to work for someone who is able to understand that 300 words is not a column.

I always seem to hit 500-600 words on my first go-round, and my editor (I write for Home Education Magazine) always tells me they need to be 800-1000 words. And the pieces are usually improved by expanding a bit - I guess I tend to overedit myself.