Tuesday, February 17, 2004

My Big Break(down)

Note: The partner I refer to in this selection is no longer my partner. So fyi, now I really am a starving writer.

I am not quite a starving writer thanks to a partner who slips me a twenty every now and then and a loving mother who believes in my work if not actually in me.
Her belief in my work was strengthened when I was offered a position as a columnist new Spanish language weekly broadsheet to be published by a major New York City newspaper. I will not name the newspaper even though I am angry enough to really want to and throw all semblance of professionalism out the window. My partner works at that paper and while he didn't get me the job he did get me the opportunity to get the job. So I also will not be naming the paper out of respect for him.

This was to be my big break. I had written articles here in there in small indy publications. I've had a few of my poems published but nothing major. As much as I criticize the mass media for its promotion of fucked up values the idea of writing a regular weekly column aimed at Latinos and getting a check just as regularly excited me. Yes I was naive to think that everything would run smoothly. I was like a deer in the headlights except I was blinded by the flash bulb of a photographer taking my picture which would appear next to my column.

I quickly cashed my check (after filling out the appropriate tax forms) for a prototype article. My partner snagged a copy of the prototype to show me. My picture made my head look too big and I didn't like the way my name looked with my middle initial. Plus I thought the editing done on my article used Spanish language words that were not universal enough for the diverse Spanish speaking community in New York City. I anxiously emailed my editor (he liked emails, not phone calls I quickly realized) to set up a meeting. We had spoken on the phone but had never actually met and I was anxious to sit with him and discuss the prototype as well as to pitch ideas for future columns. That's when I got a shot of reality.

Suddenly I stopped hearing from my editor. He wasn't returning phone calls or emails. My partner found out that the name that had been chosen for the new weekly was copyrighted already. The go-live date of the paper would be pushed back while the huge NYC tabloid's legal department searched for another name. In an email I confronted my editor with the news of the name problem. He would neither deny nor confirm anything with me, telling me only that yes the papers publication had been delayed but for me not to lose faith. My partner quickly reminded me, when I related the editors response, how the big NYC paper had once before published an all Spanish language newspaper and filed miserably. From his insider's point of view this was because of lack of real support from the bigwigs at the paper. Surprise that their commitment to Latinos in NY was so limited. Why should they even attempt to show an ounce of professionalism towards a single freelancing Nuyorican mom like me? Then my partner let me in on another inside secret, that the editor, who was brought in based on his alleged stunning work on other Spanish language newspapers across the country, had failed to bring in the national advertising dollars he had promised. In big mass market media no sponsors means no paper.

It is now 2004. The paper should have had its first run. In my head I had the paycheck I was supposed to get spent on paying off debt and surviving. I found out today that the reason the editor has not returned any of my emails since before the Christmas holidays is because he resigned his position as editor to work at another paper in Washington DC. My partner found out and told me. No one from the paper has contacted me.

Last I heard interviews were being held for a new editor.

So much for my big break.

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