Aug/Sept Bylines

            A couple of my articles in the August/September 2010 issue have been posted on the Santa Barbara Magazine website! Check out “Jaunt to Jaipur,” which also has a spot in the current header on the website homepage.
This article was a thrilling last-minute assignment. At first, I grew frustrated because I didn’t know a lot about polo, or its history in India. I was really hoping to get a quotation from some of the people in India, either someone on the team or a member of the royal family, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to. Working several months in advance can be tricky. At the time I was writing, the team hadn’t even been assembled yet!
And as for “Sweet Summer Scoop”… I have always loved ice cream. After interviewing Rori Trovato, I had to try her organic take on the classic dessert. I went to Jeannine’s on Figueroa with my dad and the bf. We had the NY Strawberry Cheesecake (which comes with homemade graham cracker crust, mmm), Salted Caramel (super sweet – reminded me of the caramel popcorn that comes in Christmas tins), and Malted Milk Ball (my favorite by far). If you’re in SB, trying this out is a must. 

Search/Pitch

It is not that they won’t “let” me write. One of the senior editors at C Magazine agreed to review my clips. When we met last week, she told me, “You’re a great writer.” I thrilled at this. But then she said, “It’s not about the writing. It’s about the information.” It is about what I can bring to the magazine. In other words, pitch.
Where does this information come from? That is something I’ve been wondering over the past few weeks, as I ponder pitching. Where do the ideas come from? In fact, where does any of the content come from? How do editors find their stories, their angles, their interviewees?
I came to the conclusion that I was very spoiled at Santa Barbara Magazine, where my editors handed me articles and contacts. In a small town, when there is one especially glossy magazine catered to the affluent, everyone wants to be in it. As an intern, I waded through scads of emails from people telling us about their new product, store, event, career, etc. This also comes from being a known publication. Even at CASA, we had flooded inboxes. When you are a leading source of publicity, everybody wants in. So magazines, and their editors, are solicited. Information comes to you. As a starter, however, I have to go find it.
Let the search begin.

Giving Back: SBMag Aug/Sept 2010

When I was asked to write the “Giving Back” section for the August/September issue of Santa Barbara Magazine back in May, I was ecstatic. My editor approached me with a question, asking if it was something I would like to do. As if I’d say no! It was, at that point, the longest assignment I had been given (500 words). The subject, Kathleen Rafiq, had built a hospital in Afghanistan – and was still living there. I went through the entire process communicating with her solely via e-mail. It was a challenging way to write an article.
Flashback to CASA, where I learned to do phone interviews. A little about me: despite being an introvert through much of my youth, I now prefer conversing with people in person. Especially during interviews, it is easier to get across that you are interested in what they’re saying and would like to hear more (in my process, excess information is always preferable to not enough). It is easier to build rapport. I was daunted at first, when my editor at CASA told me to conduct interviews only over the phone. She preferred phone interviews because they were succinct (necessary in that publication’s weekly pace). I learned how to make people feel comfortable over the phone, which turned out to be a very useful skill when I went to SBMag and was asked to do the same thing, more often than not. E-mail is completely different.
I am part of the generation that texts rather than calls and, in the face of e-mail, has forgotten that USPS even exists. I am familiar with the usual dilemmas, including how to sound the way you want to sound when you have nothing but letters to convey it. And emoticons – but I opted out of sending a happy face to Afghanistan. I asked if we might try Skype, but her Internet connection was poor.
Kathleen, it turns out, was very easy to e-mail. She was gregarious and sent me tons of pictures and information. I had a terrifying moment just before the issue went to press: my editor asked me to request caption info for photos from Kathleen, but Kathleen didn’t like the pictures. When she emailed me back, asking that the article not be printed with the given photos, I almost died of worry. The art department and my editors chose the photos, I had no say in the matter, and the thing was going to press in the morning. Luckily that was just a momentary scare and now, at well over 600 words, the article has been published. Catch Giving Back in the SBMag Aug/Sept 2010 issue, on page 68, which hits stands next week.

Goodbye SBMag

God no, I didn’t want to leave. I love it there. I love the city of Santa Barbara, and the office, and the internship, and the people, and the writing, and I’ve said it a million times but I’ll say it again, if I could stay I would.
I have concerns about C. What if they never let me write? This terrifies me the most. Sure, I’ve only been there four weeks. But I am definitely starting from the bottom again. I try not to think about how long it took me to work my way up to writing at SBMag. There are brand new office politics to navigate. What if I mess it up? That fear is rarely latent. What if I never love it the way I love SBMag?
I am devastated. I will miss everybody terribly. But it’s simple: I have gone as far there as I can go. It is the harder choice, but it is the right one.

Doing Too Much

It is amazing how being sick makes all obligations fall away. With my feverish head in a toilet, when I’m puking nothing but stomach acid because everything else has already come up, there is only one thing I want: to feel better.
I spent last Wednesday trembling and queasy; Thursday I subsisted on graham crackers and water because I couldn’t keep anything else down. I called in sick to my internship, I canceled on my writers’ group, on a coffee date, on a friend who was to visit me in Santa Barbara, on Vegas, and on Palm Springs. The emotional breakdowns were clearly not enough, but this physical one I could not ignore. I am doing too much. This was a wake-up call from my body. This was my body taking charge and telling me to STOP. Trying to maintain two internships in separate cities, multiple odd jobs, and a social life (not to mention keeping that fiction thing goin) is not working.

            This has happened to me before. A couple of years ago I worked five days a week, unpaid, at the LA Equestrian Center (it’s in Burbank, which meant about a 3-hour commute each day, and my book-on-tape of choice, The Virgin Suicides, probably didn’t help) until, when I finally got a chance to rest during Christmas, my body revolted with a flu. Shaking, fever – I was so weakened, I would be breathing hard at the top of a flight of five stairs. In middle school, when I slept only five hours a night to complete the superfluous homework assignments at my private, preparatory school (to be fair, I was an overachiever), after a certain amount of sleep deprivation, I would just get sick. Completely incapacitated. If you just can’t get out of bed (or off the bathroom floor), you just can’t. There is not a chance of even thinking about all the things I have to do, let alone actually doing them.
            So when I was doubled over on the linoleum beside my toilet last Wednesday afternoon, I knew I had to do something about the way I was living my life. It is time to make a choice. The bottom line is, I cannot keep this up. I cannot keep going back and forth every few days. I physically cannot take the stress. And so –

I am leaving Santa Barbara Magazine.

Naming My Passion

I hesitate to call it “discovering” my passion, since I have always loved to write. When my sister and I used to have sleepovers at my aunt’s house, she gave us a marker and pencil set and two notebooks. Blank pages – those lacking lines – are usually used for drawing, and I had a pretty good collection of pictures. But in amongst the images was a story about a caterpillar that I had written in kindergarten. I have been writing stories since I knew how to write.
My mom used to force me to write journals, particularly when we traveled. I have a fantastic pocket-sized book full of ranting about my sister when we were in China. Opening the book today, the scent of the pages brings back my feelings of vexation. At fourteen, I finally started journaling for myself, using the technique of “freewriting,” which I hated when it was introduced to me in a middle school English class. English classes, of course, were always my strength, and I eventually became an English major. There was nothing else I wanted to spend that much time on, and nothing else I was as good at. Going through my closet the other day, I discovered several issues of my high school newspaper, and more articles than I realized I’d written. My sophomore semester on the editing team of the literary magazine was one of the best I can remember – and my introduction to creative writing workshops.
Often through my life, I’ve wished I’d known what I wanted to be when I grew up. I envied my father, who got an undergraduate degree in architecture, a graduate degree in architecture, and then became, yes, an architect. I think about all the things I might have done, had I known. Yet I can look back and see that I have always been a writer.
So, rather than saying I’ve “discovered” my passion, I will call it “naming” my passion. There is, however, a lot to be said for naming one’s passion. It gave me a path to follow, steps to take. I connected with a former English teacher of my sister’s who became my writing mentor. I took creative writing courses, and developed writing groups out of them. I decided to apply for graduate school, for a Creative Writing MFA, and I then applied, to 11 schools – writing the personal statement is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I got not one but two internships, at CASA Magazine and Santa Barbara Magazine . I began reading short stories in The New Yorker , I read novels on writing (John Gardner, Stephen King), I became addicted to the “Visual Bookshelf” app on Facebook. And – I wrote.