Being a literary agent is fun. But it's also, when you get paid on commission and haven't sold any books yet, financially taxing, so about two weeks ago I decided I would start looking for full-time work. I'm not putting the agenting career away, mind you; I just can't keep living without a paycheck.
The newspaper seeking a reporter was located about fifty miles south of Mountain Town, and for that reason it was among the first I applied to. I sent them my resumé, not expecting to hear much back, but about two days later writing and editing tests were sitting in my in-box.
"You'll have two hours from the time you begin, but most people don't need that long," the editor informed me in his accompanying message. "Good luck."
I hastily composed what I hoped was a coherent news story from the incomplete sample notes I'd been provided, agonizing all the while that I was omitting something important or mangling what should have been a straightforward sentence.
I can't do this, I thought in one wild moment. I can't do this job.What if--oh, God--what if I've forgotten how to be a reporter?
That gem was laughable a second after it popped into my head; I am, as it would happen, already a reporter with another newspaper.
So I slapped together the important parts of the story, fixed the disastrous grammar and AP as well as I could, and made a tentative click of the send button.
I just hope I didn't fuck that up too hardcore.
Less than three hours later I had a reply.
"Mr. Our Family, well done," the editor said. "A few errors, but better than the vast majority of applicants. We'd like to invite you to come in on Thursday for an interview."
And so I did.
From the beginning the thing went well. The editor and I struck up a friendly rapport that remained undimmed the three or so hours we were together, and about thirty minutes in he asked, "By the way, do you know Blouse Girl? She thought she recognized your name."
Blouse Girl, previously known on the blog as Chief, was the editor-in-chief on my university newspaper and even managed to put in an appearance at my lively twenty-second birthday party.
"Yeah! You know, she told me about a year ago that she was working at a paper down this way and when I applied I wondered if this was it."
"Well, let's go say hi."
Our reunion hug was accompanied by laughter which, to my dismay, continued as the editor reviewed the current-events-and-basic-knowledge test I'd just finished.
"Please tell me you're not laughing at what I wrote down," I put forward with a nervous giggle.
"No, it's not that," he said. "You just wouldn't believe how many people come in here and know nothing about the country they live in. Ah! I think you're the first person under thirty who knew what 'ICBM' meant. And you can spell! What a pleasant surprise. I'm pretty sure all of the spelling ones are right. By the way, the capital of New Mexico is Santa Fe, not Albuquerque."
The editor then took me out for a late lunch in University City, where our casual chatter over burgers and fries soon turned to politics. This might seem like a no-no, but I count it as a bonus because the editor not only got to hear me speak coherently on complex policy issues but also, by the time the grease was cleared off our plates, felt comfortable enough to curse in my presence (the Republicans' tax philosophy is, evidently, "bullshit").
"You know, I got to interview President Clinton in '97," he confided. "In Martha's Vineyard, of all places."
My eyes widened.
"That must have been wild. What was he like?"
"Very charming, as you can imagine," he said. "But a little too charming after a while. You could start to see the snake-oil salesman come out. And you know, it was funny, the first thing I noticed about him. I went to shake his hand--"
"Stop. I already know what you're going to say."
"You couldn't believe how soft his hands were."
Now it was his eyes that went big.
"How did you know that?"
"Okay, this is the weirdest thing ever. I've accidentally bumped into President Obama twice, both times on staircases. Random. But when I shook his hand, I was like, 'What moisturizer does this guy use?'"
"I know!" he exclaimed. "That has to be it! They must use moisturizer!"
So all in all it went well. The editor was clearly impressed with me, but there are three people, hopefully all imbeciles and incompetents, who have yet to be interviewed. I should have my answer by some time next week.
Fingers crossed, people. Fingers crossed.