Career Experience: A Four-Part Series


Part Two: The Big League

Easing into the editor’s chair – adjustable plastic arms, swivel-claw base and cracked leatherette, I surveyed my new domain: three-drawered metal desk decorated in leaning stacks of clippings and papers, aforementioned chair, half a cup of cold coffee, wastepaper basket with assorted crumpled sheets, orange peelings and a blackening banana peel.

“Not bad,” I thought, swivelling left, then right. Forget the AP stories, this was the big league! “Deanna, bring me that copy! And where the hell’s Jimmy with my deli?!” I hollered with my inside voice, the imagined one that had already dropped an octave. I smiled. Right about now those suckers in school (my friends) were dragging their asses into homeroom, trying to figure out what Mrs. M had going for lunch in the cafeteria. It was always mini pizzas, but you never knew. Mrs. M might mix it up. (She never did.)

Going through the black-and-white photos morphed from an initial feeling of disarray to one of poring through lost treasure – a dusty container from the top shelf of a dead relative’s closet. The photo bin was the size of two shoe boxes. Every snapshot was different dimensions, from headshots to team photos – familiar faces and people I’d never known, living and dead, developed and sewn into a pre-internet collective by newsworthy threads before haphazardly pooled into shallow cardboard. Like opening a box of preowned trading cards – a blend of anticipation and disappointment, mining for rookie gold in a green wedge of Trivial Pursuit.

“…the fact was I’d been hammering away at a typewriter since I was six. When not cracking cases with Frank and Joe Hardy, … I fancied myself a dauntless reporter.”

There were the Super Bowl XVII champion Washington Redskins, a commemorative picture of Bear Bryant, a handful of Julius Erving pics – on the court and hoisting an NBA trophy. There was Dempsey, Durán, and Hagler, Torvill and Dean, Ballesteros and Watson, a fistful of Gretzkys, Evert, Navratilova, Connors, McEnroe, Carl Lewis, wreathed horses and Frenchmen on bikes. Along with all this were proud photos of the Lumby Senior Men’s Baseball squad on their way to postseason play, Bantam and Junior hockey teams, skiers, gymnasts and rodeo stars from the Falkland Stampede – world history in glossy mismatched monochrome.

I went to work, imposing order onto chaos – organizing by sport, region, a rough timeline – my own plodding Ken Burns documentary. And like the photos slowly forming somewhat organized piles on Freddie’s (my!) desk, time passed in a clipped tempo. I glanced up to see my new boss standing, coffee cup freshly refilled, in front of our desk, watching me “on assignment,” likely resembling the world’s worst blackjack dealer.

If I could read his expression, which I couldn’t, I’d say he was surprised to see something resembling productivity in this initial make-work task.

“Say, not bad,” Freddie said with a nod. “So, are you new to journalism?”

“Oh, no,” I said, “I’ve been keeping a journal since puberty.” Dear diary: So many new feelings, so much to explore …

“I see,” he said. Which I don’t think he did. “And, can you use a typewriter?”

I spared Freddie the details, but the fact was I’d been hammering away at a typewriter since I was six. When not cracking cases with Frank and Joe Hardy, working on knots to tie up bad guys or taking plaster casts of tire tracks (or tyre tracks, as the Hardys insisted on calling them) I fancied myself a dauntless reporter, perpetually sniffing out the next big scoop – government wiretapping or PTA cover-ups around the shocking dilution of orange drink at school concerts.

“Yes,” I said, never at a loss for words.

“Good,” Freddie replied, also surprisingly laconic for a writer, and strode away with purpose.

(To be continued …)

In case you missed Part One, you can find it hereabouts.

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West Coast Editor/Poetry Reviewer at The Miramichi Reader | Website

Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the national bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga (WIBA Book Awards Finalist and ABF International Book Awards Finalist). His work is published in literary journals and anthologies in Canada, the US, UK, Europe, Asia and Australia and his column Bill Arnott’s Beat is a feature at New Reader Magazine, Canadian Authors Association, The Miramichi Reader, Federation of BC Writers, and League of Canadian Poets. Bill’s been awarded for prose, poetry, songwriting and performed at hundreds of events internationally. He’s a Director on numerous Boards, Writer-in-Residence, creator of Bill’s Artist Showcase, and for his eight-year Gone Viking trek has been awarded a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society. @billarnott_aps |

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