Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Purple prose: memoir 24

In 1982, a Telegram-Tribune editor gave it to me straight.
     I had covered a San Luis Obispo city meeting that dragged until 10 pm. Friday. I had squirmed trying to pay attention, but the speakers were dry as cactus. Time to jazz things up, I thought. I returned to the newsroom and typed like mad for the Saturday morning edition. With just thirty minutes until deadline, I felt someone stand behind me. A hand reached over my shoulder and yanked out the paper.
     "Kristi!" John Marrs shouted loud enough to stop the hybrid tapping of computer keys and typewriters. "You should be writing fiction!"
     A bit of courage raised my voice. "What do you mean?" I asked.
     "Your lead is too flowery. No one cares about the color of wallpaper or the potted plants. It's a business story! Do it over."
     Oops, more Purple Prose.
     That bit of yelled advice from the managing editor, a man I greatly respected, tore cobwebs off my brain. Fiction. Of course. Made-up stories had been my passion since a little girl.
     My days at the T-T waned. Budget cuts meant lay offs and I was one of them. Still renting a room for $50 a month, I dug in with writing and submitting to magazines only to collect rejections. Art Seidenbaum phoned one afternoon and asked if I'd be interested in being a columnist for a Beverly Hills weekly.
     "Lots of movie gossip," he said. It sounded like fun, but I didn't want to return to freeways and smog. He understood and continued to send books to review for The Times. Those few hundred dollars a month helped with my Spartan living.
     In the spring that year, the new city editor called and invited me back to the T-T. I had loved working there. Writing stories then seeing them in print the next day was such a high. I missed my colleagues and the wild pace of breaking news, but turned down the offer.
     A happy event had changed my life.

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