Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, February 04, 2005

Houston, we have a problem.

Some years ago, an editor wanted to know if I was psychic. Her curiosity stemmed from my having pitched the very same article she was looking for AND figuring out when she wanted another stream of articles I later sent her way. And while I laughed and commented that no, I’m not psychic, sometimes I really wish I was, like when I’m looking for an agent for my novels or trying to figure out what story to pitch to a magazine.

Or when it comes to working on a steady basis with an editor! One thing is definitely for certain: Being psychic would definitely help the at-home writer working as a freelance journalist!

For the more than one year I’ve been writing articles for SIGNews, my editor, Katie, and I would often wrestle with the timeliness of certain matters, like contracts, news pieces and deadlines. Deadlines have ultimately been the biggest challenge of them all, because even though this newspaper is a monthly, stories get tossed around more than lettuce in a salad. At one point, a story will go into the April issue. Then something happens in the Production department and there’ll be no room for it so it gets bumped to the May issue. As far as meeting deadlines on my end goes, there’s been problems since I’m stuck here at home and without transportation or a telephone call to help out (though at some points I’ve been able to “save the day” through last-minute telephone interviews through the relay service and was surprised at how accommodating my sources were no matter how early/late I called them). For the most part, calling in an interview isn’t always possible because A LOT of people have qualms in taking relay calls. This is when it compromises my deadlines. Still, a lot of sources have just been too busy to take time to answer E-mail interview questions (I guess all that experience I had trying to interview high school students for my local paper in the length of 5 minutes was for nothing!).

And when problems arise during the time I’m spending trying to meet my deadlines throughout all of these roadblocks, that’s when I have to send a heads-up to Katie or ask her input on something. She usually responds to my E-mails in a timely manner (time enough for me to get the job done, anyway), but there are times this just doesn’t happen. For one problem, for example, I didn’t hear from Katie until a week later, when she told me their computer had been infected by a virus and she lost all of her E-mails. Then there was the time her basement got flooded and I didn’t hear from her for 2 weeks.

If I was working at the office, these kinds of things wouldn’t happen. But I’m not (and I don’t think I’m ready to move to South Dakota, anyway), so I’m stuck in this roadblock limbo wondering just what the heck to do. I’m sure this is a problem lots of writers working from home face and I can’t help but wonder how they deal with it.

One of my sisters recently introduced me to a pager which you can use to send E-mail. (I can only assume this E-mail can also go to another pager?) I’m all too familiar with the Blackberry Sidekick pagers that the deaf community raves about (and also which SIGNews regularly advertises) and I even wrote in a recent article how one deaf teen stays connected with her family when she goes out thanks to her Sidekick. Still, the technology was way too unfamiliar to me and as my sister recently demonstrated how it’s used (and as I sat there mumbling over how it took too much typing just to get one word), I’m starting to think maybe they’re not so bad at all. It definitely might be worth considering since I can’t pick up the phone and call my editor anytime a problem arises (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried calling there without getting an answer). It’s something to discuss with my editor, at least.

And it definitely beats checking my E-mail every 5 minutes to see if she’s replied yet.


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