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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nine to Five

     Someone should make an alarm clock that plays this song. I’d so buy it because even though I don’t work, I still have to get up at an ungodly hour to face the daily grind. So what if it’s just me forcing myself to write every day. (Come to think of it, I’m kind of a jerky boss when it comes to granting time off. On my personal days I’m expected to do laundry and perform light janitorial duties.)

     Before I get down to writing, I have to cattle-prod my three kids onto the school bus and pick up the trail of disaster left in their wake—discarded pjs, breakfast bowls, pebbles from the playground that have been dumped out of shoes onto the kitchen floor. This takes some doing, so a tune like “9 to 5” would provide the kick-in-the-pants necessary to get me up and on my way, which means I should invent the aforementioned alarm clock. (Quick! Get Dolly Parton on the line.) There’s always the chance, however miniscule, that I might someday work 9 to 5 (or 6? 7?) again. After all I had a job interview last week the second in six months.
     It was a last-minute thing. A human resources rep called to schedule the meeting for the next morning, and I kind of had to scramble to get it together—but that’ll be our little secret. The night before, I sewed some buttons on the sleeves of the classic, tailored shirt I wear on interviews because the cuffs stick out at odd angles. The shirt itself has hooks and eyes down the front instead of buttons, which adds charm but is a bitch to do up. (I could wear it on an Amish farm—that is, if the community accepted someone with my language, which they don’t.) I had to steal high heels from my daughter, since I don’t do that nonsense anymore. Even more enjoyable was struggling into pair upon pair of nylons only to find they all had runs in them. By the time I was through, I felt like I’d spent forty minutes at the gym, but I was finally dressed (and two pounds thinner). Oh, corporate America, why do you put yourself through that?

     I had to straighten my already straight hair, because it’s not nearly straight enough to grace an employable woman’s head. Then I choked down three spoonfuls of yogurt so I wouldn’t pass out driving. (This while cutting back dramatically on my usual coffee intake.) I packed up my portfolio and my laptop in case the employer needed to see the web site that I made a few months ago in order to appear far techier than I am. After a nerve-racking ride, during which I kept expecting a meteor to burst through the atmosphere, because it was the day one had actually landed in Russia, I made it to the place ten minutes early. Unfortunately it took me ten minutes to traverse the parking lot, hobbled as I was by those damn shoes. (They’re not that high; I guess I'm just uncoordinated.) I got there just in time and was herded into the office of the associate creative director, whom I’d be filling in for while she takes a maternity leave if hired. (It’s a temp job, but could lead to permanent. Or not.)

     The job is lovely. Everyone there seems lovely. The collateral pieces they work on are--you guessed it--lovely. I would be thrilled and blessed to do that job, even temporarily, because it would be the perfect gig with which to get my feet wet after all these years. What’s more, I’d feel good about covering for someone so they could take a longer, worry-free maternity leave. I know how stressful it was for me to try and concentrate on a new baby while thinking about what was going on back at the office. My time off for maternity always fell during times of widespread uncertainty regarding job security, which wasn’t fun. It seemed like karma to be afforded this opportunity thanks to someone starting a family, especially since I sometimes feel as if I’ve sacrificed my career to raise my kids. It didn’t help that my last interview was going great until the interviewer said straight-out that I would have a tough time getting a job after spending so much time at home. Needless to say, I didn't get that one. 

     This interview seemed different in a good way. Things were going well, until she asked for a longer sample of my writing. Longer. I felt like saying: “Will 80,000 words do?” and pulling out the manuscript I’d entered to the ABNA, but I refrained. That’s not what she meant, of course. She wanted a happy medium between the snippets of copy I’d been trained to write over ten years in advertising and the novel-length writing style I’ve been honing for the past five years. I didn’t have it. It left me feeling like my writing is either too short or too long. Never just right. Here's praying that the Goldilocks Syndrome isn't the kiss of death for me.
      That's why I’m even more glad now to have at least made it through the pitch phase of the ABNA. Many people have objected to that stage, and I can see why. It's hard to pitch a book to a stranger, even harder to pitch an entire career! Maybe I’d feel differently if I was out, but as it stands I like knowing what’s expected. In terms of cadence, tone and word-count, I revel in the formula of writing a pitch. A luxurious three hundred words is plenty of room to be descriptive when one’s used to chiseling copy down to nubs, mostly to accentuate cool graphics. There was a time when brevity was the main directive in advertising, and I adapted my long-windedness to accommodate. If anything, I would’ve thought it would be even more of a requirement now, in the age of Twitter and Facebook.
     So, anyway, I directed the interviewer to that spanking new web site of mine, where I’m hoping she’ll find what she’s looking for within the transitory blurbs I wrote to move a reader smoothly through the work. I also sent some radio spots along. I hope she sees /hears that sense of flow, so important in copy for catalogs, as well as proof that I can write longer pieces…when given the luxury. In the meantime, I’m going to invest in a nice pair of comfy ballet flats.


  1. I think I gave up high heels after junior high.
    Being able to pitch your book is a skill I haven't mastered yet, but you are right, to catch the reader (or agent/publisher) you have to be able sell your story in those precious few words. Good luck to you in the contest!

  2. Congrats on the interview! I hope you get the job!

    Heels are overrated. I wear them sparingly. Nice shoes also come in flats, too, so why torture myself?

  3. The consensus seems to be down with heels! While I'm glad to be back in the job market, I'm also confused. I sat around for a few days before I thought to leave a follow-up message with the interviewer. I'm so used to querying, I had forgotten you CAN do that in the business world! It's not taboo, like calling agents. Thanks for stopping by, Jenny and Melissa!