After my article is published on Forbes today, everyone from my grandmother to my mom’s book club will know what I do in my spare time. After today, any potential employer that Googles my name will immediately see the things that make me stand out, for better or for worse. After today, I will have no other identity. I will be the Otaku Journalist.
I’m just as surprised that I won as I was the day I found out. I had some very tough competition in this contest. Several of the runner ups focused on “hard” news stories, the stories you see in the paper. Some of them have day jobs at newspapers. Meanwhile, I write about the stuff of Style section satires, the stuff nobody takes seriously but fans.
When I entered the contest, I read the prompt at least ten times. Then I went back and read the Pink Slipped archives. I found a link to Susannah Breslin’s blog and read that, too. And then, after spending hours reading, I spent a comical four or five minutes writing my contest entry pitch to Susannah. It was raw and a little emotional. A little braver than the things I usually write. But still completely, unabashedly, me. I pressed send before I could change my mind.
Unnerved, I did my best to forget about the contest. I didn’t tell my best friend, my boyfriend, or my parents I had even entered. So when I found out I’d won, I had a lot to explain. I was elated. But I was also terrified. How could I possibly live up to what everyone was expecting?
My first draft of the article was like an Oscar speech, listing each of my accomplishments and thanking every person who has ever inspired me to pursue journalism. It was also incredibly boring. Luckily, Susannah is a fantastic editor. She encouraged me to scrap the whole draft and look at the assignment in a different way, one paragraph at a time.
“Write me one paragraph and write it fast,” she wrote. She told me to send it to her in 10 minutes. I wrote for 10 minutes and sent what I had. Then, I wrote the next part. And the next. There’s no way she could have known that’s how I wrote the contest prompt, too. But here was what she had wanted: a real story. My draft was done in one night. Finessing took a lot longer, but by that point, the message was already there.
Now it’s up and out there where anybody can read it. I wrote about my experiences and my frustrations and how my life never feels as meaningful as it does when I’m reporting. In a way, it’s still an article about the people that inspired me to be a journalist.
As I said in my article, “journalism opportunities are everywhere.” And Susannah Breslin just gave me one hell of an opportunity. Thank you, Susannah. I’ve loved every minute.