my time at the capital – a please read

 

 

I worked at The Capital (newspaper) from 1998-2001. I worked part time in the Advertising Department as a retail ad designer and was happy in my work and incredibly fond of my co-workers. I did well in my department and designed the entire tabloid for “Midnight Madness” (an Annapolis Christmas event) in 2000—a big deal in my design portfolio. I was offered a full time position at the paper when I gave notice but refused. I have no regrets.

It was a large, open-space, work environment with each department clustered together, but with few walls, portable or permanent. The six of us in advertising could see the obituary people on the other side of the room with no obstructions. Reporters were clustered behind my department, but with considerably more privacy. An interesting note about advertising—we were the only department in the paper with a proof reader. While I don’t know the practices of other newspapers, the Capital’s position at the time was that spell check and competent reporters/editors were enough of a safeguard regarding news articles, but a proofer was needed in advertising to make sure that phone numbers, web addresses, etc. were correct. If the ad printed wrong, the paper didn’t get paid.

Phillip Merrill was the owner of the paper at the time, a George Bush Jr. buddy and closet politician. Without delving into the Merrill family history, they were a storied, Annapolis institution with both good and bad press; Phil, deservedly so, got most of the bad. He was a foul and rude man who regularly screamed in the newsroom, who had no problem humiliating, diminishing and scolding his employees in public. Fortunately, I had little contact with the man but I did happen to live on the same creek as the Merrills. The Merrill family compound was a peninsula on the Severn River, and in my mind, the most beautiful piece of property on a river filled with beauty. My house was high and at the head of the creek, my bird’s eye view allowing me to see both sides of the waterway, the river and beyond. I told this to Phil Merrill at the company picnic one summer; told him that I could see his house and his boats and if anyone were sitting at the point under the flag pole—all in a friendly, neighborly way, of course. I had introduced myself to him but he had no idea who I was and looked at me quizzically, as if he were wondering who the hell in this crowd could be living on my creek? Many years later, my ex-husband and I watched him sail out of the creek for what would be the last time. Merrill committed suicide that day, dropping to the sandy floor with an anchor on his ankle. The public story was that he was suffering from depression after heart surgery, but an intelligent friend of mine claims to this day that Dick Cheney had him axed.

I worked at The Capital on the morning of September 11, 2001. Minutes after I arrived the newsroom fell silent, people paralyzed under tv monitors. Some started to cry, most held their palms over their mouths in disbelief, Oh my God whispers hung in the air like ghosts. I am sure that we’ll all remember where we were on the morning of 9/11, and in hindsight, I believe a newsroom was a good place to witness the events. Professionalism kicked in, phones rang, machines of every variety began to hum, people went to work with tear wet faces and quivering lower lips. Activity eased the horror and the paper had a purpose fueled by unprecedented courage and the public’s need to know. It was clear who the enemy was and I watched heros go to work. I don’t remember working at all that day but fortunately for me, non-essential personnel, of which I was one, could leave early—and I had to get my kids, schools in the D.C./Annapolis corridor were shutting down like dominoes. By that afternoon, the first I had ever seen in Annapolis, Capital employees stood at red lights and sold newspapers.

I’m writing this piece on a very hot day in the Florida Keys. My air conditioning is turned down nice and low and I have to step outside every now and then to warm up—like my lizard friends and the IT guys at the Capital. IT occupied the basement floor of the facility and the temperature in their workspace read frigid. We laughed and joked with them as they crawled out of the basement to smoke cigarettes on hot rocks in the parking lot, a visual I remember still. I remember Wendi Winters. I remember my advertising pals and hope I show up in their memories now and then. I remember too many stories about tragedy and am so so sad that the Capital must now write one of their own.

 

writing sucks

 

 

Do you know how many inspirational quotes, essays and blog posts there are on the subject of writing every day, on the absolute necessity of a daily writing practice? Thousands. From famous authors, writing workshop instructors, from everyone who has ever picked up a pen it seems. Writers must write every day, writers have to write everyday, don’t wait for the muse! I sadly don’t write every day and I often go for embarrassingly long stretches where I don’t write at all. And considering this writing advice (which I do believe to be sound), freely given by intelligent people, I find it hard to call myself a writer. That, and I only made sixty some dollars on an ereader and nothing for my erotica. I liken this writing instruction to the 1950’s isometric exercise that came with its own rhyme—“We must, we must, we must increase our bust.” “We write, we write, we must stay up all night.” I rarely do, and if I am awake, I’m probably playing cards.

I have plenty of time to write, I want to be a writer and I believe I have a modicum of talent. I have ideas, insight, hell, I’ve got dreams, lots of dreams—pick a dream, any dream. I’m a new female voice waiting for the audience to arrive, I have something to say. What I don’t have is much discipline or ambition. And how many times must I summon the courage and energy to continue writing at all? Perhaps my next writing project should be a book entitled, The Reality of Writing—Non-Inspirational Ramblings from a Not-Famous Author. And please feel free to forward quotes that I might use in this work; I will, of course, acknowledge all sources. A sampling:

 

“Writing sucks.” – Pamela Naruta

“Rejection sucks.” – Pamela Naruta

“You suck.” – Pamela Naruta

This is a good one:

“There are no new ideas. Everything has been done. All the “girl” stories are used up.” – Pamela Naruta

 

But I do compose in my head every day. I write titles, opening sentences, memorize paragraphs, edit, all while on the way to work, on the way home, over coffee, over and over. I composed this piece that you’re reading in my head last night. Does that count as writing every day? I go to the cemetery looking for names, for the million stories that live underground and above. I listen to neighbors talking, fighting, I stare at tourists, I read old letters from my lover. Does that count? I think about what I’ve written and what I will write till my hair starts to hum. Will write, not yet on paper. But they’re all there, sweaty in my pocket. The tortured soul, the disillusioned, the suburbanite, the whore, the women standing at the edge of old—all of them waiting for the call, waiting for the writer to show up.

One last quote from my up-coming, non-inspirational book, this one with a more positive slant:

 

“You write stuff, right? Then you’re a writer. Whether you’re any good or not is fodder for the next book.” – Pamela Naruta

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