I quit my reporting job in New England and, slowly, moved across the country to Southern California. I figured I'd do some volunteering until I was ready to return to reporting. The newspaper industry and economy went in the tank, however. Standing job offers were no longer available as my contacts had been laid off.
I tore through my savings account, though it lasted longer than I ever could have imagined. More than $120,000 lasted more than five years, during which time I took vacations to Italy and Paris, and took several trips to Portland, Chicago and Cleveland. I mostly lived with friends or family. But I also have had my own apartment as well as lived in a run-down beach motel during a couple off-seasons. Sounds romantic? At times the journey has been. Other times I have struggled. Like everyone.
After my money ran out, I picked up some spot work for AOL, and I continue to be grateful for that.
This year has been a return of sorts. I have learned once again how important producing good journalism is to my self-esteem. I am so lucky that the best non-fiction narrative editor in the country agreed to help me with my story of the Carson Animal Shelter. Working closely with an editor is a gift, especially a great one. Any story gets better under the direction of an experienced editor. It's a painful process, as the editor inevitably makes cuts and says it's not good enough, but such moments are a test for the writer to determine whether the work itself has improved from the changes or not. My story sure has improved from the first stab at a draft. It's not a book. It's a feature story, and I'm still shopping it. If I didn't have to pay the other journalists who helped with the story, I'd probably just run it in my blog.
But everything happens for a reason, and I hope to find a home for it soon.
The deadline for my finished story was last Friday. Since then, I've been putting together photos and captions. The photo above is what it looks like: Two volunteers giving a stray dog a bath. I wanted a photo of the dog shaking and the volunteers ducking out of the way of the spray, but this simple framed photo I ended up liking best.