Thursday, January 08, 2009

Mad editor goes mad on Halloween



The second-last time I got fired by a magazine was by Starweek, a glossy TV and entertainment supplement in the Toronto Star.
Freelance writing is a madre-chingado way to make a living in the first place, but when you're driven half-mad by poverty...your kids are starving-- and finally something clicks-- then there is a rush that comes with unexpected and sudden success, and you seem to get even crazier as you know there will now be detailed, top-drawer work demanded from you and you can't afford the luxury of screwing up or the perceived slovenly condition of being mad. Professional writing too can get your ear cut off, either by you yourself or some jealous fellow-editor.
The jungle is no place for preppies, the mad or stupid.

I was asked to produce a story of the longest streetcar ride in Toronto, a whole fifteen miles along Queen Street and the people you met along the way-- made this story come out like a ride on the Staten Island Ferry in New York. Unbeievably cheap fare, a song, really. But this was not a ferry, though we have lots of those in Toronto. This was all on street rail, but a kind of omnibus all the same.

Story came out all right. Old streetcar driver who tried once to be Casey Jones with the CNR but blew it somehow, and was kind of demoted to his level of competence. Street car driver. "It' a living."

Fifteen miles in Toronto, going east and west along Queen. For only fifty cents at the time. And passing three ethnic neighbourhoods, including happy, singing Italians, Rastas and Bollywood dancers. Naturally, with that kind of story, you're bound to get local colour.

I made the front page of Starweek that day and was suddenly back from obscurity to even funnier things happening.
"The asshole got a job," my sister-in-law yelped.
Yep, back in the big leagues, but, as I say the jungle will not tolerate the mad or the stupid.
Seem with my midlife crisis, I was suddenly both Crazy and stupid..No time to think. You had to think on you feet. And edit your own copy, tight, so that the bigwigs at the Star proper could not get their red pencils into it.... had to produce, produce, produce. Crank it out. no time for you. And letter perfect.

Ah, fine getting to the top. ..But can you keep it up?

It was getting near Oct. 31. Witching time. And I was suddenly witched. "Go out an interview people about Halloween. What do they do? Where do they go? In a word, interview Halloween.
WTF.
So I interiviewd some celebs, pasted something together and put it in.

My sudden promotion was entired unexpected. Jeez this had to be a set upl. I had only been with Starweek for a month..
"The entire staff of Starweek is taking a Holiday during Halloween. Going to New York, as a matter of fact. Heh. Your last story. We might even be taking the Staten Island Ferry. Good Job on your last piece.
" You will now be the boss., at least temporarily.
...Put the magazine out yourself for October."

What the hell. I had had some layour experience at Ryerson University-- but to edit copy, crop pictures and make up headlines?...And no one to turn to? Ivan Prokopchuk, Proprietor, at least temporarily, of Starweek, a slick division of the Toronto Star? What were they thinking? Did they now know that I was mad, and it was only my madness that had driven me here, the madness of poverty?

"They might be be setting you up," warned my friend.
"Nonsence, I had mumbled..

"I will soldier on."

Well. The Star is heavily edited, Ivan as magazine editor or not.
They did not like my sort-of "green eggs and ham" halloween story at Number One Front Street.
Seems I was not so hot as a layout editor eigther..
But I finished the job and put the magazine to bed.
Did 'er.

Schizo or not, I am of two minds on what happened next.
I was let go either because I was not good enough.
Or too good.
Old editor came back and fired me.
What, no kiss, no foreplay?
"No foreplay. Yot an I are parting company."

Again and again, there is the newsman who will make you weep over his stories of beached pilot whaels and starving children, but will f*ck you right up if you appear to be a real challenge.

That, or I was just plain crazy and the editor spotted a weakness. Especially when I gave him three pages of copy stapled with a large safety pin.
Doesn't everybody?

##

37 comments:

Mona said...

Its a stress full cut throat out there & also a rat race. There is madness, but there is also reason in some madness...

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Thanks, Mona. And hi.

They say at the Star that only marginal employees feel the way I did...But I was marginal!

BTW. Nice, informative site you have.
...123 comments at one time? Wow.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Thanks, Mona. And hi.

They say at the Star that only marginal employees feel the way I did...But I was marginal!

BTW. Nice, informative site you have.
...123 comments at one time? Wow.

Mona said...

:) not 123 but 12 or 13 yes ! ( I assume that's a typo!

Its not the quantity, but the quality of comments I care about!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Old army song:


"my eyes are dim I cannot see
I haven't brought my specs with me."

Midnight said...

Does that lead to marginal groping?

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Mr. Bush's foreign policy, I suppose.

Midnight said...

Don't worry, I've heard that there's NOTHING, that O'Bama can't do.

He IS part Irish, isn't he?

Midnight said...

Speakin' of Irish ; I believe that Chucker has gotten the politics/sex ratio just right, at his site.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

O'Bama?

The mind boggles.
Distantly related to McCain. (sic!)
That would be Scottish, I guess.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

I'll go over to Chuckercanucks blog right after the Jon Stuart show, on cable now.

Midnight said...

Damn.

Professor,

I do believe, I shoulda used a colon, instead of a semi-colon, after the word 'Irish'.

SQT said...

Oh does this bring back memories. If I hadn't worked in the industry I might suggest you had a persecution complex -- but I have and I know better. I like blogging, it's less cut-throat. But I miss the pay from TV. You have to sell your soul though.

the walking man said...

Was the copy handed in with a trifold and the scent of baby shit?

"got one hand in my pocket..."

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Walking Man (Mark):

Exactly.
And travelling with a baby in a crib in the back seat of an Austin 1100 that would quit in rain.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

SQT,

I miss the pay from the Star.
But yep, you have to be an ambulance-chaser and top-flight feature writer if you're freelance.

Story ideas are a dime a dozen...But its the execution.
Ever try to write for a living? It's impossible. :)

ivan@c reativewritinng.ca said...

Midnight:

:) Now we come to Colon Powell.

Midnight said...

Heh. Timing is everything.
Just checked your blog (7:47am) after a five hour absinthe (don't ask), and here you are. Magically apparitioning.

For some reason Powell reminds me of that other dude :

"And the girl is hot
and ya wanna sex her,
but you just stand there, like Poindexter."

-- Young M.C.
'Bust a Move'
-from the album : 'Stone Cold Rhymin'

(and I'm not even really into rap)

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Well, in the generation just gone by teenage girls would say things like " Man, this mall is a real Poindexter." ( snap of bubble gum).

Geez. all this raunch and rap, we might lose the ladies.

Midnight said...

Yeah well, I also like beautiful love songs, be they acoustic guitar-accompanied, delicate vocals (especially women), or sizzlin' rock ballads. And let's not forget, poetry:

A fallen flower

Returns to the branch.

It is a butterfly.


(Can't recall the authour - Moritake?
Will have to look it up.)

benjibopper said...

maybe they thought the safety pin was a metaphor, like you was tryna stick it to em. so they stuck it to you first. bastids.

Midnight said...

I say, by the way, that is one Cool picture, Ivan.

No wonder they didin' wanna mess with you.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Haiku most cuul.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Benjibopper,

SQT and Mona are right. It's a dangerous world out there.

Lana Gramlich said...

Who can say anymore. Today's news is yesterday's ass wipe, y'know? People are used up & spit out, some quicker than others.
BTW, did you know that the largest Italian community outside of Italy lives in Toronto? I was kind of surprised to hear that, myself. In retrospect, it's kind of funny that that area of town is virtually diametrically opposite the Greek section on the Danforth...

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Yep.

It's a Big little Italy now, on College Street, biggest outside the real place.
And yet, College and Spadina are west , while "Greek" Danforth is kind of east.
To borrow a phrase from another situation, "Never the twain shall meet"?

Donnetta Lee said...

Journalism-a mighty tough business. And dog eat dog as I understand it. When I worked at the publishing house in Florida, there appeared to be no love lost amongst the writers there. And, don't open your mouth or someone will run with your idea and story. Was good experience but not for me in the long run! Run! D

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

So right, Donnetta,

The president of the local college came to me one day, after I'd run a series of successful articles and columns, declaring, "Journalists are a dime a dozen. You should be a teacher. I'll recommend you"
And so I'd gotten a masters degree and became a prof.

Jesu Cristo:
Thought the knives were out in journalism!.. .These guys carried swords this long!
I put in a semester and on one cold January,I hot-footed it for Lantana, Florida, where I soon got a job with the National Enquirer as psychic researcher.
Would you believe it? %400 before I even put pen to paper. And no one on your back.
Maybe I had found myself.

....Sell your soul for rock'n'roll!

Portrait of the artist as a young whore?
But vampires were hard to find.
Even harder to interview.
And I myself was getting long in the tooth.
Journalism is a young man's game, no?

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Sometiems I leave here and do not know what to say. Today is the anniversary of my fathers death. Being that he was not a very nice man, I should be okay with that. But given my heart and that fact that I found him, I am not still not prepared after this 30 year anniversary to let go... why and why I am saying this to you here I am not sure, but here I am.

Soft love,
T

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Oddly, nutty as one is, one seems to often remind some women that he is a lot like their father.
Here I thought it was roguish sex appeal. :)
On losing your father, I certainly sympathize and empathisze as I lost my own beautiful father on a white Christmas eighteen years ago.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

beautiful is not a word I would use describe my father but I am happy to hear you can.


Soft love,
T

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Yeah.
I sort of understand.
Too bad.

Family skeletons.

Who doesn't have them.

But my father had what my mother had said were golden hands. Whatever he put his hands to yielded profit and gold.
With me, it seemed more like familiar substance.

But then Hey, eric1313 says, "Hey Ivan. I'll take your crown of shit any day!" :) I guess being published and winning a contest here and there helps.

http://www.creativewriting.ca said...

OK all.

Enough of this Sunday suffering.

I just realized that I haven't had brunch.

You're supposed to feed a cold and starve a fever.
And not a drink for hours?
No wonder one is like a bull in a china shop all day. Tripping on rug, spilling sugar, avoiding being Onan, another kind of bird that spills.
...Either a god or animal can live alone.

Well, my ex-wife said I definitely belonged in fauna.
No flower.
Lost my flower.
Lost my mind.

He whom the gods will destroy they first make...clazy?

"Nuff of this bourgeois b.s.

Time for a drink.

Going awol

Midnight said...

Ivan,

You clazy fuck.

Do you realize, that you spout
Cuul Haiku, every fourth sentence?

When I grow up

I wanna be.

Just like you.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Who says I am grown up?

As a devout reader of the late Al Capp, I too am Tiny Yokum," a character only '15 1/2 yars old.'" *

............


* Tiny Yokum: "Tiny" was a misnomer; Li'l Abner's kid brother remained perpetually innocent and 15 1/2 "yars" old - despite the fact that he was an imposing, 7-foot tall behemoth. Tiny was unknown to the strip until September 1954, when a relative who had been raising him reminded Mammy that she'd given birth to a second "chile" while visiting her 15 years earlier. (She explained that she would have dropped him off sooner, but waited until she happened to be in the neighborhood.)

...I don't konow WTF that means, but it sounds scholarly.

Midnight said...

Hey, if it impresses Women,
then who gives a fuck?

And for the uninitiated, ChuckerCanuck has you listed on his blogroll, under the category :

Defy Categorization

Along with Sheena, of course.

ivan@creaetivewriting.ca said...

Midnight:

I haven't visited Chuckercanuck for a while...Will have to have a look...He is one smart dude, but every schoolboy knows that.