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A day (of work) in the life

Friday 2/5/21

Want to know what a day looks like, before I pass out, so I can get up hours before dawn and do it again? I wrote a 4500 word story today called "Mr. Ogilvie." More on that later. I wrote a 600 word op-ed. I screwed up royally with this op-ed. Had I checked my email earlier, and sent in the op-ed when I was supposed to--before noon on Thursday--it would have ran in USA Today. But I didn't see the email until today. Too late. But I wrote the piece anyway--it was on Tom Brady and how people like to think they're old because it gives them a pass on many things in life--in hopes that it could go up online before the Super Bowl. Very disappointed in myself. Second time in the last few weeks I've cost myself an op-ed. Same thing happened at Christmastime with a piece on Beethoven and the Chicago Tribune.


Now, they hardly ever write me back at the Tribune, and this USA Today person will ignore me for eight months. But the bottom line is, this was all my fault. What's it cost me? Well, I could use the money, of course. More importantly, it was more people learning about Meatheads Say the Realest Things, with some of those people buying the book. Then there was Bloomsbury. I had handed in the Sam Cooke book, and someone asked me to change the beginning. Which I did. Then they asked me to change it again. They had a lot of problems with it. Last week, they asked me about a table of contents, acknowledgements page, bibliography. They were happy with the new beginning and told me I did a great job. We were ready to move things forward, they said. I thought that meant with the editing process. My thinking also being that a lot of this book really pushes the envelope and the stylistic envelope, and if there were issues with the start, there'd be issues later. I saw today that an email came in Tuesday, saying the book had moved on to production, and that acknowledgements, etc., had to be in. I never saw the book again, after first handing it in. I was shocked. I don't know what it looks like. Now, maybe it was loved, and there were only copy edits and silent corrections to make, but it's a book--you're shown the file, you see the Track Changes. So I've been freaking out. I also see that someone has an enemy of mine in common with me. I don't want to say more about this now, and not until if I have to.


For people who don't know how it works, I don't always see a work before it runs, but you always see a book. It's a process. The Daily Beast, for a contrasting example, doesn't show me my piece before it runs. It's a 2000 word piece. They copy edit it, clean it up, and we're usually all set. Plus, it's the web, and you can change what you need to change after the fact. It's not a book. The Wall Street Journal has a policy where they don't print the 600 word op-ed until I've signed off on their edits. So, I dedicated the book--to the person at Bloomsbury who acted as my point person--and did an acknowledgments page. I've asked to see the file, and also so I can send the file to my editors at Rolling Stone, to see if they might run an excerpt of the book in August. But this is one of the stranger things I've experienced to date.


Post Road sent me a copy-edited version of my story, "The Last Field," for me to sign off on, so it can run in their spring issue. This is the story that Harper's had accepted, before James Marcus was fired. And that The Atlantic had accepted, before they returned it to me. You want the ultimate "oh my God that is how publishing works?" story, well, I can provide that with The Atlantic, but I'm trying not to, because I don't want to close the door. I try to hang in as long as possible. But someone there returned the story to me, and I went from getting paid $4000 for the story, to getting $50. And Kenyon Review also banned me when I wouldn't let them run the story on their website and not in their print magazine, which, of course, was a huge slap in the face to me--the whole "we'll throw this up on our website" thing--with all I've done in my career, and which is why they did it. More on them soon enough.


I went through the Track Changes for Post Road, and that depressed me, because it's an amazing story--great first line, too--and it's in Cheer Pack: Stories, which has the stories published in the VQR, Glimmer Train, Harper's, Commentary, etc., which I can't give away for free, because of the blackballing. Then I walked three miles. I sent the Brady/age op-ed to The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune--pointless efforts at this eleventh hour, but had to try something else. And I pitched The New Criterion about the autobiographical writings of Arthur Machen. Also--I watched twenty-five short films today, which were scary educational/PSAs from England, and a film from 1945 called Le Vampire, by Jean Painleve.


I'll be revising books all weekend. Among other things.