Sunday, January 31, 2016

Days of Wine and Chocolate

Alfred HItchcock Mystery Magazine, sparkling wine, and chocolate

The summer after my senior year of college, I spent eight weeks in a copy editing internship for Newsday on Long Island, New York. At the end of the summer, my colleagues asked what kind of going away party I’d like to have. They offered suggestions from the ridiculous (the managing editor in a tutu singing my alma mater’s fight song) to the ridiculously indulgent (chocolate and champagne). I chose the second, and oh my, that party was the most lavish, rich, and decadent of my life: Bottles of champagne and chocolate everything: Chocolate-covered potato chips, a solid foot-long chocolate ruler, chocolate-covered fruit, chocolate cups filled with chocolate liqueur.

Maybe it’s the champagne talking, but I loved the news business with a passion that day, and I still love it, though my career took a sharp, voluntary turn away from the newsroom many years ago.

That celebration, though, and the way it made me feel—valued, part of something big and important, tipsy—stuck with me.

So it was bittersweet this week to raise a glass of bubbly to toast the publication of a short story that has roots in my journalism past.

In recent years, almost everyone I know in the journalism world has been laid off or threatened with layoffs. Newsroom staffs dwindled to nothing. Newspapers began outsourcing everything, including copy editing, my old job. Two years ago, our local paper outsourced printing to another nearby, larger newspaper, and all of my friends who worked with the presses and in the mailroom lost their jobs.

That’s when I began writing “Abundance of Patience,” a short story loosely inspired by layoffs in the news industry and published in the March 2016 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Bowl of corks
Since I started writing and publishing fiction, I’ve kept a “celebrations bowl” on my counter. Every time I publish a new piece, I pop the cork on a bottle of sparkling wine, then write the name of the publication and date on the cork and drop it in the bowl. My bowl, like my aspirations, is large. After my first publication, the single cork looked a little silly, but I left it on the counter as a reminder and an inspiration.

The bowl’s nowhere close to full yet, but I added cork number four this week and, in a toned-down echo of that party in New York, celebrated my new publication and my longstanding admiration for newspapers and news people.

Sweet chocolate tempered with the bite of champagne.


  1. I love two things about your celebrations bowl. First, that it makes you remember to slow down and celebrate your successes. Secondly, it is in a public space where anyone who spends time at you house can see it and your success and your aspirations for more. Too many of us forget to celebrate and instead hide our aspirations away from public eye.

    ~ Jim

  2. Congratulations! You earned your celebration and AHMM is a top venue. On a sadder note, it is a shame that there are so few opportunities for journalists. As a democracy, we need a free press to report the truth and counter efforts to protect interest groups and monied individuals. I do not like the direction journalism is headed.

  3. Warren - Thank you! I worry about the future of journalism and what it means for society if we lose those who ask the hard questions and keep an eye on our public officials for us. But I know many good people who are still out there every day and reporting back to us, and that gives me hope.

    Jim - The celebrations bowl is a terrific reminder to me, especially when I get to the point in writing where I think every word is drivel. And that happens with every story, every manuscript. Then I look at my corks and think, "Well, at least those four times, the words weren't complete drivel." :)

  4. What a wonderful tradition! I've had a series of unfortunate release dates. The worst was my second book, Fostering Death, being released on the day of my mother's funeral. And I'm afraid I've lost track of some of the short stories. Celebrating their publication perhaps would have made more of an impact.

    I grew up reading Newsday and the Long Island Daily Press. My brothers delivered both (heaven forbid a girl be permitted to earn money, delivering newspapers or any other way. We were needed at home before & after school to help with the babies, the laundry, the cooking, etc. Girls didn't need money, anyhow.)

  5. congratulations! like the corks. I have my first publication cover framed on the kitchen wall, above the garbage can.

  6. Congratulations on your big publication, Julie! AHMM is a major spot to publish in the mystery field. I predict that your bowl will soon fill and you will have to buy a bigger bowl.

  7. Congratulations, Julie, on getting your story in a magazine that is big time for mystery story writers. The cork idea is a cute idea.

    I've never worked for a publisher, but I'm a big news follower. I listen to NPR morning and evening, I read a daily paper and I get TIME magazine, and my Washington state sister often sends me links to a New York Times article. I'll admit as far as newsI'm getting darned tired of hearing about D.T. so much.

  8. Julie - What a great idea about the celebration bowl. It is truly a great way to publicly mark your victories for everyone to see and to have visual stimulation to inspire you forward, So many of us just celebrate internally and quietly, maybe listing the victories to a speed sheet. You idea inspired me to do something similar and I am sure it inspired others to do so, also.

    Your comments on journalism are poignant and true, too. I free lanced for a wide range of magazines over 20 years and slowly watched the markets and formats disappear or morph into something that was no longer real writing or reporting.

  9. Thank you all for your comments.

    Jerome - I'm glad you're inspired! I think it's so important to celebrate and to let others celebrate with you.

    Gloria - I love NPR and occasionally listen to some of the podcasts like RadioLab that get into a single topic in depth. It's addicting!

    Linda - Thank you! If I have to buy a bigger bowl, I"m OK with that. :)

    Margaret - That is so funny. Is the spot you chose to hang it symbolic?

    Oh, KM - I'm sorry your release dates are associated with such mixed feelings. I really enjoyed my summer on Long Island - so very different from the southwest Kansas farm I grew up on.