5 things this cover story I wrote says about me as a worker

In Blog on February 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm
This is a still from "Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu,” a Tollywood comedy of which I understood, like, four lines of dialogue total. Still courtesy of AMC Theatres.

This is a still from “Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu,” a Tollywood comedy of which I understood, like, four lines of dialogue total. Still courtesy of AMC Theatres.

When I was 20 — not as newly minted to the age as I am right now to 22 but still pretty shiny — I laughed about freelancing.

To me, freelancing was a blanket term for unemployed-but-I’m-a-free-spirit-so-I-get-work-when-I-can-but-really-I-should-be-a-full-time-worker-and-also-I’m-not-lazy-it’s-just-this-economy — hm, the way I remember it contained far less political commentary, but the shadow of that sentiment existed.

I began my rite of passage as a freelancer in December, and the largest vegetable of my labor dropped today. It takes the form of this cover story I wrote for Folio Weekly, an alt weekly of which I’m fond and have been for, you know, years.

Anyway, I decided to break down some of my process of this piece and comment on what different skills I had to engage, to make it all work. Because, on job applications, “strong verbal and communication skills” fails to fully encompass the routine of producing written content.

In no particular order, I’ve come up with:

1. I meet deadlines really well.
Much of the joy I got from working on this story came from the two editors with whom I worked. I had a deadline set weeks in advance that allowed to form a complete story, off of which we edited, mended, reworked and further developed as time went on.

2. I’m ace at having phone calls and emails returned — mostly.
There are occasions in the story that I note I didn’t hear back from a source, but, for the most part, I have one of those hey-I’m-not-a-terrible-journalist-let’s-have-a-conversation personalities. That also really encouraged me. In features and enterprise, much of the success of a piece relies on the ability to make a connection with the folks you’re interviewing. One source I pursued for a month returned my call just as I almost hit “Send” on my final draft. Now that’s a testament to my persistence.

3. I don’t load sentences with gobbledygook, for clarity, but hold on to creativity.
One of my writing flares is extensive use of em dashes, which a classmate in Advanced Reporting sophomore year inferred may be a little too extensive. But creative use of punctuation is a great way to hold to your distinct voice in pieces in which you’re largely aiming to be disinterested. I exercised most of my bogus diction when I reviewed a musical in January, which those editors thankfully had me change. It more closely fitted an overly chatty high schooler’s newsblog writing than a more tightly knit alt weekly. (I stole “gobbledygook” as a descriptor for hyper-stylized writing from this interview with Diablo Cody, whom everyone knows I admire.)

4. I’m a level-10 AP stylist.
Speaking of gobbledygook banter. … But really! Even though each publication uses its own guide for style, I crafted this story entirely in AP style and noticed that, throughout the process, my editors shifted it into a style that matched their product. I never had a note that said, “Translate this to AP style,” which is a type of note for which I built a reputation during my three and a half years of editing.

5. I’m willing.
Lastly, I’m simply willing. I’m willing to take on a story out of my comfort range of story length. I’m willing to take on a story outside of my comfort range of source count. I’m willing to take on a story that’s going to cost $30.25 in ticket sales. I’m willing to experience something that I’ve never experienced before and did not understand at all. I’m willing to stop using repetition, at this point.


25 Songs I Listened to in 2012

In Blog on December 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm

You may have missed my post from last year. Let’s just jump on this one, so we can quickly jump out of 2012.

1. “I Want to be Well” by Sufjan Stevens Image

I played this Sufjan track loud and probably disturbed those around me. It’s a great one that sends you dancing — and somehow not crying — as, with Sufjan, I sing “I want to be well/ I want to be well/ I want to be well/ I want to be well.” And who deny the dude’s even-louder yelling of “I’m not f—– around”?! It gives the song character.

Image2. “I Will Go Anywhere With You” by Julia Nunes

My travel song for my travel summer. I drove myself to Orlando, Gainesville and Nashville with little notice to those around me because, well, I had to get out of my hometown, folks. Sure, traveling songs are a penny a pound or whatever, but my knees weakened at “Looking down/ As fly/ Over the Rochester skyline.” Sometimes, I’d replace “Rochester” with my hometown while singing out loud and, of course, by myself.

Image3. “Pyramids” by Frank Ocean

I spent a while trying to find a Channel Orange ditty I loved more than the others, but I found it quickly this summer with “Pyramids.” Not only does this epic song’s movements make me cheerful, it simply is a chill track. I loved playing it for my friends and encouraging them to love it as much as I do. And who could not be obsessed with the live — albeit abridged — version on SNL?! John Mayer playing the guitar solo and arcade games surrounding the players? Splendid.

4. “Laments” by Hop Along

Nothing’s gonna make yah yell and feel like Hop Along. Frances reproduced this song with a more electric song to fit the rest of Get Disowned for this summer and year favorite. Besides the gorgeous descriptions and lyrics that go over your head but you know are perfect, I couldn’t help but jump up and down screaming “A song for the sad ones/ Who say they’ll marry, they guess” in 2012.

5. “Some Nights” by fun.

My absolutely favorite 2012 song. A bit annoyed when it first got radio play, I grew to accept that this meant others knew the song as well as I did and loved it, too. The Some Nights album kept me company in a way an album hasn’t in a while. And the best thing about the album and its eponymous track is that it’s empowering — even it’s sadder songs. Many sad records bring you down, but I always loved how, through all of “Some Nights”’s lyrics’ longing, I felt like a champion.  The verse after my own heart: “That is it, guys/ That is all/ Five minutes in, and I’m bored again/ 10 years of this/ I’m not sure, if anybody understands/ This one is not for the folks at home/ Sorry to leave, Mom, I had to go/ Who the f— wants to die alone/ All dried up in the desert sun?”

6. “Runaway Love” by Diamond Rings

So happy Lizzie clued me into Diamond Rings as 2012 descended into 2013. This song makes you just wanna don nail polish and makeup and not care about who’s around to look at yah. Trust me. There’s a childish feeling in this glam rock track and the album that includes it, but that youthfulness mixes into the ‘80s feel we all love, and, somehow, I feel like I always came out on top. I’m not even sure what that means. And that’s what Diamond Rings does to yah! Makes you feel ambiguous about EVERYTHING. But at least I remained unambiguous about four things: “I wanna be the light to your dark/ I wanna shine like gold/ I wanna burn my name in your heart/ I wanna lose control.”

7. “Spitting Image” by Freelance Whales

Doris gets to sing this track from the groovy band’s sophomore album. This ditty sets my flying, especially whenever she croons “We all seem to have/ Big plans.” There’s nothing truer about 2012, and I feel like two major staples of it were me listening to everyone’s big plans and my needing to have big plans. But all I really need to is to listen to Freelance Whales. Let’s be honest.

8. “Switzerland” by The Last Bison

I almost left this one off the list! A true summer favorite, I craved this folk track and looked to it for my folks fix in a year of pop, pop and more pop. The chorus gets yah, with “Oh/ Oh, Switzerland/ You’ve taken ‘way my breath now/ Once again.” I never want to be sure about whether they family’s achin’ for the country or a person, but the heart in this one beat to my one’s tune.

9. “Apartment” by Gospel Music

A very simple song that I kept singing to myself many times this year, whenever visiting a friend’s place. “In my apartment/ The drinks are cheap/ In my apartment/ I’ll be your barkeep.” I can’t help but love such twee lyrics, and it’s not fair to except any different from me!

10. “I Can Lift a Car” by Walk the Moon

Another song that perfectly explains my 2012, with an ironic twist that’s better than lime. I first heard this one when I saw the Ohio boys live, and I immediately wanted it all up in and around my ears. This was playing, whether I was cognizant of it or not, during every moment this year in which everyone wanted to hear me say “All by myself/ All by myself/ I can lift a car up/ All by myself.”

11. “212” by Azealia Banks

A hip-hop favorite from this year’s hip-hop breakthrough princess, I loved “212” for all of its raunchiness and its vices. Introducing friends to this song was as hilarious as it was during my introduction. And, like, it’s just an important 2012 track, I’d say. Nothing started a night off like “Hey/ I can be the answer.”

12. “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey

People may make fun of me for this one, but I simply cannot care because whether I first liked “Video Games” ironically does not compare to how much I enjoy it unironically. I replayed this track over and over one Sunday — probably the day after she appeared on SNL with one of my heroes, Daniel Radcliffe — because you know why?! “This is my idea of fun/ Playin’ video games.”

13. “Mary (Alternate)” by Yellow Ostrich

This is a go-to sad song and undoubtedly my favorite effort from Yellow Ostrich. Its musical simplicity at the beginning brews so wonderfully in the lyrics. And then when that horn starts goin’, I just lose it. Sometimes, you just need simple lyrics like “Everything turns around” to cheer yah up. Or, you know, at least empathize with you.

14. “Dilettante” by St. Vincent

This dirty, dirty track wonderfully rolls around in its own muck of Annie Clark’s unashamed fingers. I found this song over the summer, when Lizzie and Will covered it, and I had no idea that something could be so murky. Sure, I may now say some other St. Vincent tracks are my “favorite” over this one, but this led me down Vincent St. with the grimiest of hands. And with the suttiest of voices, I sing to you, “You’re like a party I heard through a wall/ Invite me.”

15. “Love Will Save Your Soul” by Grouplove

“Walkin’ down the streets, man/ You’re so bold” is the best lyric to depict how I wanted someone to describe in 2012. Between all the street style and menswear blogs and walking down city blocks and through campus this year brought me, I gotta throw it at Grouplove for making a pop track that enters in an alt rock fashion.

16. “Houseboat Babies” by Reptar

I’m not sure if Reptar’s stellar name or the lead singer’s I-just-don’t-have-any-of-those-to-give-yah voice keeps me so adhered to Reptar. In this song, I love the music that accompanies the chants of “Can you feel it?/ Yes, I can feel it!” Everything Reptar creates makes you feel odd, excited and crazy. And what’s the point of listening to music this year, if you don’t feel all of those things concurrently?

17. “Punching in a Dream” by The Naked and Famous the-naked-and-famous-passive-me-aggressive-you

One to which I owe much of my year, this one kept me excited from 2011 and propelled me throughout 2012 in the moments I needed it most desperately: namely, the spring semester. I mean, what privileged college student does not want to say, “Wait/ I don’t ever wanna be here”?!

18. “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers

Sure, a generic choice for 2012 and as obvious as “Some Nights,” but, like fun.’s wonderful wonder, I was a-blastin’ this long before its radio play. Much like some others on this list, I may LIKE other songs on this album MORE than “Ho Hey,” but, for a while, “Ho Hey” was all I wanted and needed in life. And its alluring “I belong with you/ You belong with me/ You’re my sweetheart” begs for replay after replay.

19. “World News” by Local Natives

A song that features lyrics about sitting in traffic and listening to NPR because everything on the radio is less appealing has to be one of my favorite tracks to listen to in 2012. And it is. I’m slowly realizing the other songs on this album merit just as much of my attention, but with all of its do do do-do-do dos, “World News” was all my world knew was all my world needed to know of Local Natives.

20. “The Socialites” by Dirty Projectors

It took me a while to get into Swing Lo Magellan because I couldn’t get over this song. I’m now obsessed with the whole song and, AS SO MANY OTHERS ON THIS LIST AT THIS POINT, may not consider this my favorite song anymore. But still, it’s ubiquity and constant replaying in my summer and fall this year always made me agree with this sentiment: “I’m glad/ They’re the ones on the other/ Side of the glass.”

21. “The Wilhelm Scream” by James Blake 

My sitting-in-Lizzie’s-car-as-we-drive-to-and-from-Orlando track is almost impossible to listen to during the day. And, somehow, I’m writing about its influence this year during the daytime and not struggling TOO much. While its lyrics are fine enough, nothing catches me in this song’s net as much as its music — music for which I can’t even turn into onomatopoeia.

220px-GrizzlyBearShields22. “A Simple Answer” by Grizzly Bear

Why didn’t I love Grizzly Bear before 2012? Because “Two Weeks” only lightly covered my taste buds for the full flavor of Shields.  I feel like I unknowingly waited so long for this album, and this is my favorite track. And I like that others like “Yet Again,” which is, yes, INCREDIBLE, but it seems my theme is year is longer length. And, for length, and piano goodness, and how Dan and Ed sing, this is my A+ Grizzly Bear track. “And it calls you back to mind/ At once/ At last.”

23. “Eyes Wide Open” by Gotye

Largely tucked away for the larger part of 2012, I absolutely adored this Gotye track. It was my running song, and it propelled me through an awkward time more than any other song I discovered this year — and up until that point in time, I guess. A line of the second verse that I always mouthed through gasps while running: “And the saddest thing/ Is all of this could’ve been avoided.” Of course, sung in the way that only Gotye can.

24. “Fairytale of Hogwarts” by The Caradoc Dearborns

I RECENTLY, as in IN THIS MONTH, as in AS A RESULT FROM NOT CLOSELY READING THE LINER NOTES, learned that this one from my pal The Caradoc Dearborns is a parody of the carol, “Fairytale of New York.” But that, folks, fails to subtract from its utter greatness. I’ve written about this one on this blog before, so I shan’t repeat the repeatable, “And the toads of Alfonso’s random choir/ Were croaking Christmas jams/ And HP was being Jesus/ Like a bamf.”

25. “Your Eyes” by Bombay Bicycle Club

Ah, at last, a song that caught me and held me there and then let me go and then was all, naw, kid, I need you back. Is there a lyric in this track that isn’t perfect? Well, let’s tie this whole year up in its messy, busy, hilarious, rewarding and somehow still very unfulfilling bow: “I would promise all I could/ And think about it afterward.”

NEED TO MENTIONS: I can’t leave without expressing my whole-hearted love for the following songs and their musicians, among others I’ve most certainly forgotten to include: “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran, “Airbag” by Radiohead, “Everything Has Changed” by Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, “Thought of You” by Justin Bieber, “Rooftop” by Personnes, “1996” by The Wombats, “Madness” by Muse, “Swim” by Surfer Blood, “Kind of Love” by Ardie Collins and “I’m Not Your Girlfriend” by Lizzie Russo.

GUILT-FREE, TOP 40 THREE: “One More Night” by Maroon 5, “Give Your Heart a Break” by Demi Lovato and “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars

1. “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep” by Bombay Bicycle Club (From the Orlando show in October. So much dancing.)
2. “I Can Lift a Car” by Walk the Moon (I mentioned it earlier! So good. Nick with those drumsticks, yo.)
3. “Lesson in Love” by Neon Trees (Frontman Tyler Glenn was hunched over the entire time while singing this song. Mad passion. Mad props.)
4. “Miranda” by Surfer Blood
5. “Automobile” by Gospel Music
6. “Evanna” by The Caradoc Dearborns (Heard it live in Nashville, y’all.)
7. “Radar Detector” by Darwin Deez (Definitely too early in the set list but a show favorite nonetheless.)
8. “Backbend” by Antique Animals (An ol’ Great Working favorite repurposed for Joe Shuck’s latest outfit.)

FULL ALBUMS: Never Trust a Happy Song by Grouplove, Shields by Grizzly Bear, A Caradoc Dearborns Christmas by The Caradoc Dearborns, Body Faucet by Repar, Free Dimensional by Diamond Rings, Diluvia by Freelance Whales, Channel Orange by Frank Ocean, Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens, Settle Down by Julia Nunes, How to Get to Heaven from Jacksonville, FL by Gospel Music, Walk the Moon by Walk the Moon, The Lumineers by The Lumineers, James Blake by James Blake, Every Kingdom by Ben Howard, A Different Kind of Fix by Bombay Bicycle Club, Swing Lo Magellan by Dirty Projectors, Some Nights by fun., Get Disowned by Hop Along, Believe by Justin Bieber, Red by Taylor Swift and Tigers Jaw by Tigers Jaw

Remember: This list is of the stream-of-conscious variety, and ordering these by level of enjoyment and sentiment would be difficult and boring. And, of course, not all of the ditties and records in this blog post dropped in 2012.


A casual purchase

In Blog on September 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm

In my dream, I was meeting Harry Potter cast members who didn’t actually exist, popping Skittle after Skittle into my intangible throat and quenching my nonexistent thirst with Sprite.

I turned over in my bed, opened my eyes and said: “I should probably tweet about that dream.”

As a restless person does, I kept rolling around and found that, without the context, a 140-character summation of my dream and linking it to the importance of today would not be beneficial for any involved parties.

So I treated life like a normal Thursday.

That is until I hopped in my car earlier than I normally would on a Thursday, given the schedule I’ve kept since the semester started in late August.

I clicked on some music and told myself: “It really hasn’t hit me, yet.”

Then I’m in sort-of traffic, and The Caradoc Dearborns is crooning through my car’s speakers.

Tom has these brilliant songs on the recently released “A Caradoc Dearborns Christmas” album, and I particularly am in love with “Fairytale of Hogwarts.”

It’s, of course, probably too early to listen to Christmas songs, even of the wizard rock variety, but, to me, that gives me even more reason to sing and celebrate.

Anyway, by the time I’m in traffic, I realize it’s all too much, and the tears well up in my eyes.

To further torture myself, I flipped to a song that I first heard when he played it for Laura, Jake and me, when I visited them in Nashville in early August.

And then I started thinking of all the friends I’ve made and experiences I’ve enjoyed because a woman once ended the first sentence of her first novel with “thank you very much.”

By this point, I’ve resolved to singing some of the wizard rock classics without the accompanying music.

Nearing the bookstore, I know exactly what I’m going to tweet.

I look at my face in the rear-view mirror and witness salt deposits trailing down my cheek from the corner of my left eye.

Now outside of the bookstore, I resolve to reading tweets — and sending some out, too.

I imagine what the display will look like. Will there be a huge sign? Will there even be a display? What will my reaction be?

As I push through the first set of doors, I see the red cover and, as theatrically as you could expect from someone like me, gasp in excitement.

I snag a copy and race to the check-out line. With whom was I competing?

I wasn’t competing with anyone, of course.

I was living an experience that I knew I’d remember and that I wanted to be decidedly memorable.

No, no one reached for the same copy as I did. No, there was no line of Rowling fans waiting to celebrate the release with me.

I was alone, with just enough cash to afford the book at a discounted price, and no one was making mark of who I was or what I was doing or that we had a common interest.

And I thought I could control myself with the reading.

I thought I would prioritize my life and use the novel as a treat. After all, I won’t obtain any true reading time until Saturday afternoon. So there truly wasn’t any hurry — especially if I planned on avoiding social media until the book’s completion.

But I did it. I read. And I’m loving it.

I also love the connection that even seeing a book cover can evoke in people. I had four great reactions today, and I hope for things like that, whenever I purchase a book one minute after it goes on sale.

I won’t detail how far I’ve gotten in the novel, but I assure you, it’s not too far.

I’d just like to avoid any wow-you-read-incredibly-slowly or how-could-you-ever-put-it-down comments.

But now that I’ve made it through a busy day and indulged in a little Internet, I think it’s time to return to Pagford.

I just wanted you all to know that, in coming days and weeks, I hope to return here and other Internet spaces more often, as well.

Especially once I’ve finished reading J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy.”