Jul 07

Never Do Anything Out of Desperation

A service that pays for editing had me try out for a contract job using a segment of a real-life manuscript. And do this for free. Ignoring my own advice (NEVER ignore your own advice!) I did it, and mailed it back, but received no acknowledgement, reply or thanks. And they got about 4 hours of my work for free. This refreshed my memory of a lesson I had learned before, and forgotten:

Act out of desperation and you will be treated like a bar rag.

"Desperate" and "despair" have the same root, "without hope." Thus desperation is a state of mind. I'm not saying "trouble is a state of mind." There is such a thing as real trouble: illness, no money, tragedies, threats.

But how many of us have had even 10 weeks of full-time training in how to handle trouble -- the one thing we know we will have? If you're like me and not very good at it, you might, "unencumbered by the thought process," fall straight into desperation, where you are vulnerable to exploitation, like the poor soul who calls a $3.99/minute psychic hotline to ask if he'll win the lottery.

We've all had our hands or minds wrung by desperate people. It is natural to flinch from them. And it is somehow natural, if a desperate person hangs around a lot, to want to injure them further, if only to make them go away. To take what they offer (anything! everything!) and escort them out. To shut the door in their faces. Or not answer the door.


Jun 28

Screening Test: Is The Applicant a "Writer"?

Employability/Disability Assessment (Instructions to screener: Check all applicable items)

This applicant:

writes for hours without being compelled to
calls word-processing "creative writing"
ignores housework
buys books
reads Middle English
asserts that the 18th century is important
believes beauty is truth
believes publication confers validation
claims his/her condition is congenital and "fun"
thinks 12 percent is fair and 15 percent is generous
feels uncertain about the line between poetry and prose
likes closed captioning
will struggle for an hour to get the "1" off manuscript page 1
thinks it would be "great" to live alone in a lighthouse for a year

Jun 27

Nabokov's Day Job

Today I learned that Vladimir Nabokov spent six years in the 1940s organizing the butterfly collection of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. He told species apart by looking at their (microscopic) genitals and wouldn't consider any other way. He collected their genitals. His books are loaded with butterfly references and inferences. In upstate New York he discovered and named the tiny Karner Blue butterfly. Apparently it doesn't hurt one's career to obsess about something in life besides writing (if, like Nabokov, you can rely on your wife to drive you everywhere and run the household -- i.e., you have "an angel in the house"). But a 3-inch beauty from Missouri I photographed today -- although it looks blue and black to me -- is in fact called a "Red-spotted Purple" butterfly -- Limenitis arthemis astyanax, as Nabokov might say.

Jun 13

Outsource THIS!

Saw an ad for an editor who can do three things, mostly what I do:
  • Copyedit a manuscript, meaning: correct the grammar, punctuation and spelling, and establish consistency throughout. "Line editing" means the same.
  • Copyedit a manuscript and provide feedback on its contents, readability, publishability, tone, and so on.
  • Do the above, plus reorganize and possibly rewrite portions of the text.
Corporations may have outsourced their customer support, but nobody can outsource expertise in the English language, the foundation that supports the creation of American literature. That, the creation of American literature, they can't outsource either. A most cheerful thought!
Mar 21

The Fake Job Interview

The CEO, a youngish "Social Media" type, explained how if we were hired we would get to wander around the company, shadowing people and designing our own jobs, and every Friday, as part of this growing company's Business Leadership Program, business leaders would lecture and help turn us into company execs. This was a group job interview, my first. We were six: 4 young male college grads, a mature woman (me) and an old man. BUT....TO OFFSET the COST OF THIS Business Leadership Program, and the $3750 we would be paid during our 12-week internship, we had to work 8:30 to 5 and make 3,000 phone calls a month. "We don't like to call it telemarketing," said the CEO. "It's the 'call center'..."

Then we toured the building (in scenic Overland), saw the warehouse and the "call center," a huge buzzing hive of cubicles, in each a college-educated 20-something microserf making cold calls on a virtual phone. During a month with 21 working days, 148 calls must be made each day, or 18.5 calls an hour. $3750 for 12 weeks is $312 a week, divided by 40 is $7.81 cents an hour. Telemarketing at minimum wage.

This was how they set their hook for nice clean articulate college grads to interview for minimum-wage jobs as telemarketers: tell them they will be interns. That's a word they understand; very Job Market 2.0. The company's morale-boosting slogan: "Thank God It's Monday." Their Business Leadership Program had been advertised through the State of Missouri careers site, and I did think it fishy when they called me although my resume clearly says I graduated in 1978. At the group job interview I almost got up and said "This is an outrage" (it is a clever, entirely legal and blameless form of the old "bait and switch" job offer) but I decided to say nothing and make them sorry they had invited a former investigative journalist to their group interview and company tour.
Feb 15

Did You Accidentally Hire a Poet? A Checklist for Employers

Poets deliberately withhold from their resumes and job applications the fact that they are poets. You may not be aware you have poets on staff. There is absolutely nothing worse. This list of “poet behaviors” will help you root them out. A poet:

  • frequents the post office
  • reads books and magazines with no pictures in them
  • cannot tell you the current date and time
  • claims to have cremated one “Sam McGee”
  • has studied "humanities"
  • frequently finds important workplace communications to be “vague” or “hilarious”
  • brings bearded individuals to the company party
  • claims to possess talents which, however, are undetectable and unquantifiable
  • says, without context,  things such as “’twas the wily Boche that got me”
Find one? Ready, aim, fire!
Jan 05

Honesty is Such a Jobless Word

Job interview #1: I meet the exhausted bottle-blond interviewer in late afternoon. Staff had all fled their cubicles at 4:00 p.m. thanks to flextime; the place was tomb-like. "Nice office," I lied, starting an exchange of lies that lasted an hour: she pretended to interview me and I pretended to want the job.

Job interview #2: The hiring committee had a projector so candidates could present audiovisual portfolios on DVD. They asked if I had one. I saw I was sunk. Inspired, I said, "I'll be honest with you. I'm a writer.  I just published my fourth book," etc. I'm gleeful, and a lively discussion ensues. Finally they ask how I feel about coordinating public-relations functions all day and attending said functions all evening. I tell them that I would hate that.

Welcome to the SanityBubble blog, successor to the Mental Health for Writers blog. I'll be moving all of its entries over here. BookEval.com is now my online home and website, and I am my own darned employer and can be honest with you.