December 19, 2011

Deadline Creature

I used to have one of the greatest jobs ever: A daily newspaper reporter. Mostly I covered local news. I reported on city government, breaking news, features, the police and fire departments, some politics and an occasional document-based investigation. When my father died in 2004, I found myself not producing to the level I had come to expect of myself. My dad was a former journalist and after I went into journalism in my 20s, my father and I instantly developed a special friendship. Reporting and writing stories just wasn't the same without him. So I took a break.

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.

51 comments:

Ruhi Shah said...

I am glad good things are happening in you life Ed.

I would so love to travel around..i hope i get to do it after graduation.

Love the pic.

Claudia said...

think it's always good to be at a point where to look back and evaluate what has been - the pro's and con's - the good and the bad things.. great you were able to travel ed - and looking forward to reading that story

LOLA said...

That's a nice photo. I did the same thing -- left journalism and then it died. I think the loss of us was more than the journalistic community could handle, or we can at least pretend we were that important. Anyway, I'm glad you still have the desire to write. I was a community reporter, education reporter, and managing editor.

Love,
Lola

Little Ms. Fun said...

^^ lol @ Lola. I agree. The loss of you two might have been too much. :P

I envy that you gave yourself the opportunity to travel so much! The experiences you must have had, I could only imagine.

I like the picture. It tells a story of it's own. Good luck with everything :)

Brian Miller said...

nice recap of your journey man...there has to be a book in there somewhere you know...smiles...and i am glad you returned to writing...and it is nice to work with an editor...looking forward to your article...

Alleged Author said...

Sounds like you had quite the exciting journey. I can't imagine being able to travel like that--how lucky!

Jill said...

I agree with Brian. You have got a book (or more) waiting in you to be written. I love the love and respect you had for your father and that you continue to carry that with you today. You have had many travels and many journeys and it would make a wonderful read. Keep exploring, keep writing, keep dreaming.

EcoGrrl said...

i'm glad to see you opening up more about yourself along with your work - i lost myself for a couple of years after my father died and am just coming back to life. i think only those of us in that 'club' of losing one's parent(s) can really comprehend what that experience is like. keep bringing more of the 'ed' in your writing so we can see the whole of you :)

ps - heading to LA in late winter to visit my brother, hang onto the sunshine down there for me K?

Mary said...

Ed, everyone's life is some kind of a journey; and yours is indeed an interesting one. I do hope you find just the right market for your feature story. It sounds as if you have spent a lot of time with it. I know I, for one, would like to read it. Keep us posted, Ed.

oceangirl said...

Keep the dreams. When you put the deadline, they become a goal, and that is when action paddles momentum and you are unstoppable.

Pat Hatt said...

So you quit and it all went to Hell. It's all your fault you know, right?..hahaha

Agreed, sure there is a book in there somewhere amongst your travels. Hope the article gets picked up soon too.

Ed Pilolla said...

thanks for the support. one of the gifts of leaving journalism was discovering blogging. so it's new for me to be in a position of writing about what i have written about. but fun too.

Yvonne Osborne said...

I'm sure your feature story will get picked up. You are a very good writer. In the meantime(while we wait to be discovered), it's fun to blog, isn't it? I used to think it would be fun to work at a newspaper but I made the mistake of hiring on in the real estate advertising section, taking ads from realtors. Horrible little job. Realtors think they're movie stars. I walked out after only four months. The Editorial Dept. was my goal but I couldn't stand the wretched money-grabbing sales people another minute. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

My dad is an old newspaper man too. Would've been fun working with the likes of you and your dad and mine. Good solid writers.

ayala said...

Ed, I can relate to wanting to take a break after your father passed away. Glad that you traveled and that your journey brought you to this point. I hope all your dreams come true and that you continue to follow your passion.

Susie Clevenger said...

I agree..I can see a book in your experiences. Love the picture. Hope 2012 will bless you!!

WomanInLove said...

How I wish I could leave a job and wander around, on my savings. You are living life I guess.Kudos!

New End Studio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
New End Studio said...

I hope you sign a publishing contract as soon as tomorrow!

Losing parents moves the axis in life, it never seems to rebalance.

suvaiba said...

what does signing you up mean??
and i love the picture - i think it's simple and crisp..! :)


i read your about me section.. and it was really inspiring.
i want to read ya books, il see if i can get them from some online bookstore. and oh my god you took so many trips and never ran out of ya savings
now this is something which makes me go GAGA..! :)

Birdie said...

i too do believe that everything happens for a reason, the circumstances in our lives, the people we meet ... you seem to listen to your heart, to your inner voice & i think that's the best guidance. the eyes of the dog from your picture are saying so much & i couldn't stop thinking about them ... wishing you Ed good luck with your story! ps: and yes, one would think that one eyed puppy would find home soon ...

Wine and Words said...

Self esteem is as important is knowing how to feed it. This was an important path you took, and I'm sure you are a better journalist for it!

Birdie said...

ps: they say we should not run away from our problems, yet my old blog was giving me way too much troubles so from now on i'm going to use this new one and i hope you may still like it there :-)

forgetmenot said...

Sounds like you have had an interesting 5 years. Good luck with your story--I do hope everything works out for you. In the mean time, have a lovely Christmas with friends and family. Mickie :)

Celestial Dreamz said...

all the best to you for your future endeavors ... and the taking break and the trips sound so human so understandable and so romantic too ... wishing your book a fast publication and success ...

Su-sieee! Mac said...

No doubt you shall find a market for your story. Always positive thinking, right? :-) Are you planning to write a book or long story about the "hippies" you live with and their dedication to feed the homeless? Just from what you've posted, I think you've got something that would interest a wide audience.

Prime Aque said...

I am so happy to meet a good journalist here at blogger, I would say a talented and creative one. Thank you for visiting and living your sincere words at one of my posts my friend. I am happy that I see another helpful and inspiring blog to visit everyday now and than... All of us struggle, but what is the best thing, we always find smart ways to live a happy life despite of difficulties and trials we face. Good luck for your story my friend, in my vacant times I can read, I am excited for it. Have a great day.

Raajii said...

I worked for a local newspaper all through college and this blog of yours was such a blast from the past. I strongly believe that we need good journalists like you. I hope you find what you are looking for. Meanwhile, I hope you keep sharing stories with us.

:-)

Geraldine said...

Wow, I'm impressed how well you used those savings and how long they lasted. And I couldn't agree more about the deadlines. Seems to be the only way I ever finish anything worthwhile. Good luck with all your ventures Ed and thanks for all the thoughtful and entertaining posts here. Keep them coming.

Happy New Year, G :<)

Zeba said...

I love this post of yours. Makes me feel good. To read about how you managed your days.. Your savings. The choices you made. Mostly because I don't think I would have the guts to do the same. I read this one a few days back but didn't comment then. And now I am back. :-)

Jyoti Mishra said...

u've come a long way... it was so good to read your story.. in a way it was inspiring, I second Zeba on thought that i wouldn't have the to do what u did :)

All good things r happening... all the good wishes 4 your story !!

Merry Christmas n happy new year :)

Vicki Rocho said...

What a journey you've had. Good luck finding a home for your story.

DWei said...

Whoa, I know I certainly could not have made 120k last that long. That is very impressive in itself.

Amish Stories said...

First Ed i want to say merry Christmas to you and your family and wishing you many opportunities for 2012. And your right the newspaper business is going through a restructuring and down sizing, i know this because i worked in the press dept (printing) for a daily newspaper in Florida and left on my own late last year to relocate to Pennsylvania. With many layoffs and job eliminations the last few years and even a bankruptcies for the paper that i worked for (a Tribune company) so i feel your pain. I think your dad would be proud of you because your a very good writer whatever the topic may be, and you write with an honesty and compassion yet trying to keep impartial and open minded. Your a writer and reporter and i think your doing what you were born to do, and i include myself as a fan of what you do even though we may not always agree on everything i respect what you do very much. Your pal from Amish country. Richard

Tracy said...

Oh, that wet dog's expression says so much! This is such a tender portrait, Ed, as is all that you share here today of your own story. There seems to be a kind of allegory between the photo and our own story. :o) The help and care of others always gets us through. How much I admire your quest for continued excellence in sharing a story. I feel so glad to have found your place here, and look forward to your stories in the next year. Wishing you all the best in 2012 for love, joy & peace!

Betsy said...

I always love to hear about the journey of a life...very interesting. You've been able to experience so many things in different places. Good luck with the article and getting back into some writing.

Love the photo...what a great effort there.

Merry Christmas!

Brian Miller said...

merry christmas man

DEZMOND said...

just popping over to wish you nice holidays, Ed! Hope next year will be better for all of us at the crossroads!

hedgewitch said...

I think nothing is as important to forming us as writers is life experience(well, and the gift itself)All of it, good, bad, indifferent and insane, all ends up grist to the mill. I love reading about your 'real-life adventures,' Ed and hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a bright New Year.

Daydreamertoo said...

I wish you everything good and great Ed. Merry Christmas to you. :)

Laurie Kolp said...

Thanks for sharing part of your life with us, Ed. I'm sure you picked up a lot of ideas for writing along the way. I can't wait to see the animal shelter article when it comes out. Blessings to you for a happy holiday and wonderful new year.

Claudia said...

just thought i'd swing by to wish you a wonderful christmas time ed

Debbie said...

what a wonderful story and photo...i enjoyed reading about your adventures. not many people have the ability to wander as you've done.

my dad passed away on december 7th after being married to my mom for 56 years. i hope to do as you have and honor his memory and try to help comfort my mom.

keep writing my friend....you have a gift and lots more stories to tell!!

Enchanted Oak said...

I left a great career in magazine editorial in LA...so much fun for 20 years. Left LA altogether & moved up north, found work in small-town newspaper journalism: What a different animal! Now everything's gone electronic, ad sales for the print medium in the toilet, bummer for print journalists of all kinds. Word counts have gone from 3500 words to maybe 800. But I believe the world will always want to read good stories, whether on paper or kindles. Good story tellers have always found a market, even back in the day of castles and stone huts. Write on.

kaykuala said...

ED,
Glad you've found your own calling now.Merry Christmas to you!

Hank

wolfsrosebud said...

when a door closes... God opens another

Erick Flores said...

Greetings Ed,
it was very interesting to get to know you through this blog post. It is interesting to see how you made ends meet. Everything does happen for a reason. I am glad to hear you had savings! That is definitely something that should be looked after. It sounds like you await great success. I wish you the best!

-Erick F.

The Empress said...

Thank you for this post, Ed.

There is so much more I just learned about you.

Such a world experience you have had: how could you not be reshaped by that.

And finding out about your father, and you in his footsteps. I think how he must've shown you the passion of his job, for you to choose the same profession.

This is a wonderful story.

Really, I am grateful for this post: I know you better know.

I'd like to know how you came to work with this wonderful editor.

And you are right, what a gift.

I'd like to try for the same thing..a relationship like that with input to my writing.

This is exciting in your life, in everybody's life.

MUCH happiness, love, support, and joy for you, Ed.

You are a very, very special one of a kind person.

♫♪♥PhilO♥♪♫ said...

Traveling around and writing :) I've always wanted to do this!

Happy New Year :)

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

It's so true that everything happens for a reason. I'm really excited to see what the future will bring to you :0)

My Inner Chick said...

ed,
i am thrilled that you are sharing your journey w/ your readers.

Brava! Bravo! Manificoooo! xx

...there is much in store for you.

Ted Schnell said...

It is good to know you are writing again, Ed. The blog is good, and I know that you will pick up at some point and start doing well again as a journalist.

Focus on new digital skills -- the blog is good, but social media as a news-gathering and engagement tool are essential for the new media journalist.

I was dealt another setback this week and am seriously considering quitting my year-long job search in journalism and finding something else, just a job. I'm tired of the heartbreak and my family needs income.

You're still young enough where you can be patient, and take advantage of that, as you have taken advantage of your time to travel.

It sure was a pleasure working with you in Elgin and I pray all of God's very best for you. Take care!