A writer’s got to make a living. . . even a writer with a book coming out. So when Wondertime, a parenting magazine published by the Disney corporation, called to ask me to write for them, I was seriously gung-ho. I mean, at first I was a little hesitant, partly because my boys are at an age when they don't like to be written about, and partly because I'm not the kind of parent that should be handing out parenting advice. But then I got over those minor ethical hurdles. As it turned out, Disney was willing to pay thrice what I've been paid by other magazines. So you can imagine it wasn't too hard to drum up the enthusiasm when the big time corporate editors came a-courting.
“We’ve seen articles you’ve written for non-parenting magazines and we like your non-parenting style voice. . . You know, that off-kilter-living-in-the-moment kind of thing you do, if you know what I mean.”
I knew what they meant. And I agreed that I could do that in-the-moment kind of thing for the amount of money they were offering, and do it well, and do it regularly, and do it real every time, on whatever topic they wanted, and never get sick of it, and never miss a deadline.
Okay! So they wanted ten solid story ideas, and two of those in outline form showing how the stories would pan out. So I got to work. Dialogue was really important to them, they said. So I took out my digital recorder, and whenever the boys got to talking about “tween” stuff, I hit the record button and pointed the recorder their way (surreptitiously, of course). If I didn’t have my recorder handy, I took notes. I was always listening, always thinking of story ideas, always plotting how to get the kids to do the things kids do, always hitting the books for provocative tween issues.
For several weeks I worked constantly and in that time came up with thirteen story ideas, wrote summaries with sample dialogue for each, and passed them on to the editorial staff. They loved the ideas and asked me to flesh out the one on sleepovers. So I hit the keyboard. The magazine hadn’t contracted me yet—they only wanted an outline—but the story flew from my fingers, so I let it fly. I decided I wouldn’t just do the outline, I’d give them the entire thing polished and ready to go. When I was finished I’d tell them it was my gift to them for seeking me out.
This was in mid-December. Within a couple of days one editor wrote back and said, “Hilarious! We’ll be in touch.” It was a short email, and non-committal, but I was pleased nonetheless. It had been so easy! If only all writing was this easy. I started working on the next article I had in mind about busking. That too was proving to be a breeze. A week later the editor wrote to say several of the staff were breaking for vacation, and that she’d contact me when they’d reconvened.
So I put the magazine stuff aside and waited. With a book coming out, and the Literary Death Match to get ready for, and another book in the works I had a lot to do. No point in worrying too much about Wondertime. As far as I was concerned they were money in the bank. And so I waited.
Nearly a month went by without a word. Finally, in mid-January (a few days ago), I wrote to the editor to “check in.” I said, “I know Wondertime is a new magazine and these things take time, but it would be great to know if you’re still interested in the stories I pitched on tweens.”
Lo and behold, the editor wrote me back this email:
Unfortunately, Wondertime closed today. I loved your story and so
did my features editor but I never heard from my top editor and since we
don't have a contract you are welcome to pitch it elsewhere.
I am VERY sorry we didn't get a chance to work together, though. I really like your writing and you would have been great in the pages of our magazine."
Closed? The Disney magazine is dead? An editorial staff of thirty-nine have been fired? Fifty or so more staff, from creative directors to advertising production managers have been let go? Apparently so. And dozens of freelance writers like me have been dusted off like stray threads and cleared off by the corporate leaf blower.
You know. . . People always point to teachers as the ones who spend twice as much time working outside the classroom as in. And it’s true. They do. But as a writer who just spent two months doing work that I’ll probably never be paid for, I just want to say that I kind of wish I was a teacher right now.
Causes Veronica Chater Supports
Sierra Club; Public Library; Public Schools; Crowden Music Center; Women's Cancer Resource Center; Democratic Party