Friday Five

1. I have a difficult message to write to an editor. An article idea that I pitched and was accepted by the publication isn’t working out. The concept seemed great. I was able to find reputable sources and background information. I even wrote a query letter that was compelling. But as I tried to write the article, it just wasn’t gelling. I left it for a couple of days, hoping a break would help me approach it with a fresh eye. Nada. There’s just no hook. I’m unable to find an approach that makes a reader want to dive in. I mean, if I’m bored with the article and I wrote it, who else is going to want to read it? (Except my mom of course. Thanks, Mom!) I thought about just trudging through it, but I didn’t want to submit sub-par work with my name on it. Then a slightly different concept popped up like a Jack-in-the-Box. This is the article I should have pitched in the first place!  It’s much more interesting and accessible. Now I have to write the editor, take the risk that she will think of me as a flake, never wanting to work with me again and possibly burning a bridge (of which I have so few in the literary world). I’ll let you know how it goes.

2. If the down elevator button is already lit, and I’m standing there in the lobby waiting, why do people press the button again? Jamming the button five or six times isn’t going to make the elevator come quicker.  Is this a New York thing?

3. Most of the walls in my apartment have been bare for some time. I haven’t been able to find any prints or paintings I liked. Then my friend suggested I have one of the photos from our trip to Iceland turned into a canvas. (Full disclosure – it is highly likely that it is my friend’s photo and not mine given her superior photography skills.) I’d never thought about doing that before, but what a great idea. It’s something that reminds me of my trip and puts a smile on my face. Uploaded the photo to Canvas Pop and voila! Instant art.

Chef Duff

4. Minor celebrity sighting. Chef Duff from Ace of Cakes and film crew outside my office.

5. I just heard a staggering number regarding the flooding in Pakistan. Following the record-breaking monsoon rains six million are homeless. Six million! That’s the population of greater Chicago and Boston combined. And, unfortunately, it’s not over yet. Not by a long shot. As the waters continue to rush down from the mountainous north, the towns toward the Arabian Sea are still being engulfed by smaller tributaries of the Indus River. The pictures are heartbreaking -as heartbreaking as the images after the Haiti earthquake.  There’s one big difference. After the Haiti earthquake, donors from around the world responded with $560 million in aid, and stars like George Clooney and Madonna organized a telethon. In contrast only $10 million has been received for Pakistan (according to the Chronicle of Philathropy). Many people fear that somehow the money will somehow end up in the hands of the Taliban or have the perception that Pakistan is run by corrupt politicians and militants who won’t distribute the money to those who need it. There may be some truth to both of those sentiments.

But. I think about Greg Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson and his group, Central Asia Institute, has worked for more than a decade in remote areas of Pakistan building schools for children. Along with being a heartwarming story of perseverance and generosity, Mortenson’s experience shows that where there is poverty and little education (i.e. no other options), extremism can flourish. And, so if you think, well, it’s sad what’s going on over there, but I have very little connection to it. It doesn’t really affect me. With all due respect, that’s where you’re wrong.

The consequences of not giving could be disasterous. Mortenson points out that these are the situations that drive people to extremism. Disasters, natural or man-made, that lead to severe economic depression (not the kind where you can no longer afford cable tv) and result in serious poverty on a personal level – disease, hunger, homelessness – cause good people to turn to anyone who will listen, anyone who will offer some food, a roof, a way out. If those listening are extremists and radicals, so be it.

There are ways for you to feel secure in giving. Check out Charity Navigator to get the lowdown on the health of the non profit organization you’re considering. Here you can find out how your money or goods are being used. Also, many charitable organizations offer the option for you to specify how you want your donation used, such as getting necessities to people, rebuilding infrastructure, etc. Any way you slice it there is the small possibility that your donation will be used to buy the prime minister a new car, or worse, fund some activities you don’t support (but hey, we’re used to that – it’s called income tax). But as Mortenson says, not doing anything at all could be worse.



  1. I think editor’s are happy when the reporter notices that the story isn’t working out rather than filing a big pile o crap. And that you’ve noticed AND you’re offering an alternative — well, it’s the best of a bad situation.

    (Also, if you’re looking for more stuff for your walls, check out Etsy. Lots of cheap cool stuff on there.)


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