Friday, July 01, 2005

Why publishing sucks (Magazine edition)

Last December I had to get a pacemaker, because I had been wandering around with a pulse of 25 for months. The operation was simple, except for when I woke up before they were finished and saw a woman with a laptop programming me like a robot. Afterwards, there was the inevitable question: when will I write about it? And how?

A few months later, after discovering that I now fit the official definition of "cyborg," I thought it was time to try to pitch the story. Pitching stories is the reason I rarely do any freelance work except for the small group of editors I already work with.

I contacted someone at a magazine that will not be named. We had corresponded previoiusly, but never actually worked together. I'll call this editor A. A. suggested that it would be better suited to a particular section of their publication and put me in touch with B. B., after some time, emailed me to say she liked the idea but wanted to hear more about how I would do it. (We're talking an essay of maybe 1,000 words here). So I wrote out a long "sample" of what I thought the piece would be, and waited for a response. Weeks passed. Then, just as I'd forgotten about the whole thing, I get an email from B:

"A. tells me that you tried this idea out on her a few months ago,
and that she turned it down because it didn't seem quite right for
us.  Alas, I don't think I'm going to resurrect it--not enough of an
argument.. But I liked the clips you sent and I'd be happy to hear about
other ideas. You can call me if you want..."

My response:

"Actually, the idea I tried out on her was something else entirely
(about rescuing pit bulls); I couldn't have pitched this, as I didn't
actually have a pacemaker at the time.  But I'll keep you in mind for
other ideas if I have them in the future."

Her response:

"oh dear--sorry about that! how annoying. let me think for a couple more
days about the pacemaker and in the meantime yes keep me in mind."

And that was the last time we ever spoke to each other.

Butterscotch Tempest

My new landlord is painting my new house this weekend and let me pick the colors. So, under his direction, I went to Home Depot and looked at the Glidden samples. But I found myself unable to ask for the colors I wanted, because I couldn't say "Butterscotch Tempest" out loud. Nor could I say "Wispy Peach." And certainly not "Lace Corsage."

So it'll be "Pumpkin Pie," "Spice Orange," and "May Apple" instead.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Do Male Friends "Breakup"? Elissa Schappell and Jenny Offil on the differences in friendship between men and women

Novelists Elissa Schappell and Jenny Offil have just published "The Friend Who Got Away," an anthology of essays by women about their breakups with female friends. There are some great pieces in it, but as a man I found the intensity of the emotions almost dizzying. Almost all of the relationships involved had a delirious sense of romance from the start--the expectation that this was the friendship that would change them, make them a better person, last forever, etc. The following is an excerpt from a Q & A I did with them (the feature appeared in The Journal News):

Do men have intense friendships (and breakups) too? Could there be a
male version of the book, and if so, what would it be like?

I think men do have intense friendships, but often instead of idealizing them they have a much more laissez faire attitude about maintaining them. A lot of the guys I know have had conflicts with a friend over women or work but they seem to pride themselves on not taking it too personally. An example would be two men I know who years ago had a falling out when one married the other's ex-girlfriend (and true love). A few months later they were playing basketball together, employing a sort of don't ask, don't tell rule about how the betrayal had affected their friendship. With women, the fallout in such a situation would likely last much longer. As for a male version of the book, I'd certainly be interested in doing one, but I think getting most men to delve into that emotional territory wouldn't be easy.
The guys I know who have told me about their friendship breakups almost always ended with a disclaimer along the lines of how it wasn't really such a big deal in the end. --Jenny Offil

I think men have intense friendships too, and they break up just like women do (maybe with men though, someone gets socked in the nose) but it is different. They may be hurt, they may stew, but I don’t believe they obsess over the break up the way women do. Is it in part because they aren’t as intimately invested in each other as women are? Maybe.
I don’t think that they feel that the blow-up, or loss of friendship is necessarily any indicator of character, or their worth—whereas many women do.
I can’t imagine a man hiding under a table in a restaurant or darting across moving traffic to avoid seeing their old friend like, um, someone I know has done.
The male version of the book would be: I Used To Play Poker with That Guy…--Elissa Schappell

Personally, I think the male version of the book would be a book of blank pages.--KF