Friday, March 19

I'm Not that Kind of Girl

Posted by Shelly Holder

So today I got published twice.

One was a poem ("Diaspora")  that was accepted by the Mandala Journal, an online student-run multicultural journal for poets, writers, artists, and thinkers published by the Institute for African American Studies at The University of Georgia. My poem will be released in a themed journal 2009-2010 issue, "Cosmopolitanism," will launch in the new online format on April 14, 2010.

Very, very exciting news. "Diaspora" just happens to be the first poem that I ever wrote under the tutelage of the poetry professor that I consider to be my mentor, and I'm pleased by the symmetry that it is also the first poem accepted by a journal with more weighty reputation than my campus publications. To make it clear, I in no way undervalue these publications. They have gotten me published, established my resume, and provided a foundation for my career and reputation. In those terms, the magazines are invaluable. On the other hand, these are student run publications, and in some ways reflect that. It is peer-reviewed, but not colleague-reviewed, if that difference makes any sense. We are all student authors trying to get started, and not professionals as yet.

I will likely post on this topic again, but moving on for now.


The other publication for today is an article in my campus newspaper. Again, I am truly glad that I got
published. The experience is always good, of course, life values gained, etc etc etc.

And it's a good article, it's just not ...mine.

I'm very obviously a very green newbie at journalism. I've somehow been infected with the idea, and have pursued opportunities in journalism on and off for the past six months. None of them really worked out, so I was excited by the opportunity presented in writing this article. I was finally writing! I was going to get published! I was going to find my niche, move to New York, and win the Pulitzer within the next ten years!

Well, you know this story.

I genuinely like interviewing people. I like thinking of questions, and I would be willing to continue that sort of journalism. But feature stories, articles, are something different.

There are rules to articles-- at least three quotable individuals, none of which you know personally (and on a campus this size, it's inevitable that you know at least one of the parties, if not all). You have to have a specific outline- hook, summary, quote, paragraph, quote, paragraph, quote, paragraph, etc etc, concluding quote. You, the writer, cannot appear at all in the course of the articles. So humor is out. So are opinions.

All of these things are just formulas that grow easier with experience and exposure. I could *possibly* grow to like them if I had a little more guidance and extended deadlines. But journalism is of course is about providing current and breaking news, so deadlines means 48 hours or less turnover.

Writing all of this, I realize that my dislike for journalism is more about my first experience, rather than journalism itself. I probably will never catch on fire for it (too dry, though that does NOT mean I think it lacking in creativity. It's just a different creative gene that didn't present dominantly in my microscopic makeup).

See, I got edited.

Editors are there for a reason. I need them, and I needed my editors for the article-- again, I'm the newbie, and I made some rather large boo-boos (namely, the humor and opinions mentioned earlier.) My editors are wonderful people, and had only intended to help me, the newbie, out. And the resulting article is much better... in terms of journalism. I also wrote only about 15% of what got printed. Under my name.

So when potential employers look at my resume and say, "Blah, blah, blah was a good article- how did you come up with the angle you took?" I have to say

"I didn't."

When students and friends and faculty look at the newspaper today, they'll see my work and judge ME on it. Maybe they didn't like the structure of X sentence in Y paragraph. They'll think "Did she really think that was okay?"

I didn't. I didn't write that entire paragraph. Or the one following.

And the professor that I interviewed. What is she going to think about my article? There's always the risk of offending your principle subject, and I knew I was running that risk the moment I started writing. But if I run that risk, I wanted to undertake it WITH MY OWN WORDS. Then, if I get called on it later, I can defend myself. "This was my thinking, this was my motivation, this was my intention, this was the expected outcome." And then we can resolve it, or not. But it will all be under my OWN words.

Words are my business. I live by them. I eat by them. I pay bills, get new jobs, pay more bills by them. When I die, I will be known only by the words I leave behind. When someone takes away my words, what am I left with?

I can't let someone take away the only thing that makes me ME.

I'm not that kind of girl.

Right Now:
What I'm listening to: overhead speaker music at B&N
What I want most: No school Monday?