Monday, December 27, 2010

Annoying Tales of Freelance Writing: The Christmas Miracle

Aside from reading books and watching movies, sometimes our intrepid blogsmith moves away from his comfort zone and attempts to drum up work as a freelance writer. The following is the latest in a series of posts detailing the perils of his job.

The e-mail came on Friday, December 17, about 10 a.m. Gelf Magazine asked me to do an interview with Chad Millman, the author of "The Ones Who Hit the Hardest." I agreed to do the piece. My editor promised that the book's publicist would send a copy to my abode.

On Monday, there was no book. Nothing came on Tuesday and Wednesday. I began to get concerned. By Thursday, December 23, the book still hadn't arrived, and I was apoplectic. Why? Let's review.

--The Q&A was due December 31.

--The interview had to be done regardless of whether I had read the book or not. The latter option made me physically ill, because it meant going the morning DJ route: "So, those Steelers were a wacky bunch?! Awoogah! (Cue farting noises and work whistle.)"

I should note that I feel a little nervous when I interview people after proper preparation. Going blind was not an option. Especailly with the friggin' Senior Deputy Editor at ESPN The Magazine.

--The book wasn't available at any library branch in my county. (All four copies were gone, which is weird because this is Eagles territory.)

--My parents' library (smack dab in Giants territory) didn't have it.

--Neither did my in-laws' library system.

--The book's publicist was on vacation through New Year's, so another copy couldn't be mailed.

--Friday was December 24, Christmas Eve. If the book didn't arrive by Friday, before my fiancee and I left for a three-day holiday merriment tour, I wouldn't be able to read it until Monday, December 27.

--Millman's only two days of availability: Friday (an impossibility, since we were leaving in the late morning) and Monday, December 27. After that, he was on vacation.

So, yeah, I was a bit stressed.

On Thursday afternoon, I called my post office to inquire about picking up any package that came in on Friday. The nice man who answered said I should call by 11:20a.m the next day to check.

I called at 11:15 a.m. the next day, Christmas Eve. My postman had already left. He'd be in our neighborhood in about 15 minutes. So, I waited. The postman arrived early, a good sign. The postman dropped off letters in the slot, another good sign. I rummaged through the mail to find a package from...BookPage.

The day before a package had been dropped off at the front door from...Publishers Weekly. I was beginning to feel like I was in the lamest story O'Henry never published. "The pudgy freelancer got books, but never the one he wanted the most. And then he died of polio."

We had to go sans book. I spent Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day at my parents', then drove down the New Jersey Turnpike to my in-laws. The fiancee and I arrived at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday and opened gifts.

About fifteen minutes into the tearing and thank-yous, I opened a box with a book inside. I felt like bursting into tears.

A couple of weeks ago, my fiancee had fired off gift suggestions to her mom. I had looked at for ideas, and came across "The Ones Who Hit the Hardest." It had garnered good reviews (Yahoo!'s peerless Dan Wetzel loved it), and I liked Millman's work on "The Odds." I really thought nothing of it. I just figured that it would be a fine selection to my library.

Indeed it was. I devoured the book on Christmas Night and the evening afterwards. I came up with questions this morning, and I wrapped up a very pleasant 25-minute interview with Millman at about 5:30 p.m. today.

And that's how one assignment almost took three months off my life.

NOTES: The only other option was to buy the book. Snowmageddon or Snow Job or whatever the local news stations were calling the weekend blizzard made purchasing the book an impossibility...By Monday, it had still not arrived...My fiancee had also given her mom several choices, including Howard Bryant's acclaimed biography of Hank Aaron.

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