Once upon a time I was a journalist. And I kicked ass at it. I led all Daily Oklahoman reporters in number of bylines month after month and was always able to produce a last minute feature story when my editor needed me. I covered the deaths of three teenage girls huffing gas, the May 1999 tornado outbreak, city council meetings, drug busts, business renovations, community festivals, pretty much everything. Plus I wrote a column called Mr. Traffic that ran three times per week answering reader questions about traffic laws, road conditions, etc. and had a huge following. But the Oklahoman gave me no respect and less money, so I left. Now I’m just a PR whore, but with a decent paycheck, so generally I don’t complain.
Today we’re having a mass communications conference on campus with hundreds of high school students from all over the state. I sat in on the first lecture, from Ken Bode, and it hit me hard how much I miss being a reporter in the field. I loved talking to people and relating their stories to the public, getting out and seeing the roller coaster a high schooler in Newcastle built in his back yard, the weapons and jewelry and American Indian in Moore made from lawn mower blades and other “trash,” with the occassional high drama thing like a scandel thrown in for fun. I never liked covering the deaths, but it was part of the territory.
Later today President Bush’s former media handler and current appointee for undersecretary of something or other to improve the country’s image in the Middle East Karen Hughes will lecture. The media will be turning out to cover that, so I’ll bow and scrape to people I used to work with or to TV people I don’t respect (they’re personalities, not journalists, in most cases) and I’ll think of how I’d write the story.
It’s funny how I loved the work I did for the Oklahoman, but my fiction output was at low ebb for those two years I worked for them. It made me realize I have to be at least moderately unhappy with my day job to properly focus on my writing. My greatest fiction output was back in my days as a machinist. I wrote a (crappy) novel per year back then, plus numerous short stories and tons of pornographic poetry to amuse my co-workers.
In other news, I’ve been asked to sit on a horror panel at the Oklahoma Centennial Book Festival. I tried early and often to get horror represented and was snubbed. And now they want a panel. So far it’s me, Craig Wolf and Brad Sinor sitting on it. I’ve sent queries to two other authors in the area to see if they’re interested, but I have to know by April 1. Yeah. Tomorrow. Freakin’ insane.