My first article

I feel a little unreasonably proud at the moment. I really wasn’t expecting to, because this is simply not a story I think I would click on and bother to read even though I’m the one who wrote it:

wired story 1

I was assigned to write this story.

When stories like this pop up, I just think: I know all the ice is melting, the details are not necessary in order to be miserable about it. Had I clicked on it, I suspect I would have stopped reading after, I don’t know, the second line, maybe?

I think with stories like this, it works better as a photo essay. So you write a short paragraph, and then there’s either a pretty drawing or a picture that keeps you engaged. Otherwise, my mind just glazes over, unless the writing is like Harry Potter, or like Charlotte Bronte.

But when my editor was editing it, she told me the sentences were beautiful. I thought: oh! There’d only been a single sentence whose symmetry and rhythm I’d been especially pleased with.

I had tried to brace myself for quick, brusque editing: that maybe my editor is busy, and maybe the standard newsroom etiquette is to allot time only for negative feedback, and not waste time on anything positive. When my editor told me about “beautiful sentences,” it was a really nice compliment.

WIRED articles very often begin sentence after sentence with the word ‘and’. It’s some kind of style that’s just not me. My editor added some of those ‘ands’ into my story, but then I took most of them out, and she didn’t say anything. That made me really happy, too – that hopefully, the voice in my stories will sound as much as possible as the voice of the person who wrote Daily Tar Heel opinion pieces!

She also put in the word ‘blockbuster’, which I didn’t like, and I removed it without push-back, too. But she made other changes that I did like. She kind of drew the strings so that the story was tighter. In the opening paragraph, I had included the image of “a watery grave”, and my editor added “walking the plank” to that. The back-and-forth was a good partnership.

I finished the article early this morning, before we all got to the office; the work-day passed in a blur of edits, calling some of my sources back to get clarifications, having to re-write the whole introduction – painstakingly, piecing together ideas from my editor and reviewing my interview notes – and then getting everything fact-checked.

At last, the article went live.

Because I had stayed up really late last night, and then gotten up at dawn this morning to finish the article in time, I got to leave early. So I walked out of the dim playground that is the WIRED main offices on the third floor of a restored warehouse, and into the bustle of downtown San Francisco, where everything around me seemed to want to tickle my fancy. A museum of some sort appeared before me;  I wandered into the spacious gift shop, full of books and pictures to examine. Further along the street, there appeared a Ghirardelli chocolate shop, and I thought it was time for a celebration. The brownie I got wasn’t really that good, though I don’t think that will stop me from going back for a sundae some day.

I went home on a quiet, empty train, before the rush of 5 pm.

Walking from my exit stop to my place where I live, the wind was waving against my face with the touch that reminds me of the last two times I went to Sweden in the summer. Along the road, spilling out of the front yards of all the houses, flowers lifted their pretty faces. In all colors – snowdrifts of white petals; roses flushed with pink or cream; buds wrapped against themselves, slightly yellow, whose scent was like the southern magnolias back in North Carolina. Riots of orange and lemony stems, and whole fences shrugged over with a shawl of bright violet. In the distance, the solemn green hills.

I had thought I was really going to hate it here.


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