Budding Writer, 1979: Good news, bad news

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Afterglow over the Adirondacks follows a cloudless sunset from North Hero, Vermont, on February 8, 2023. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

After weeks of no news is … well, no news, my journal from my first year as a freelancer finally brought both kinds:

Good news and bad news today. Best news: Student Lawyer likes “Cole’s Law” and will pay me $75 for its publication in April. Worst news: [Redacted] and [Redacted] were very discouraging about the TV Guide piece (now that I’ve mailed it, assholes!). Good news: a warming trend put us to a balmy 40oF today. Bad news: We’ve probably all got colds. Worse news: except R. He has pneumonia.

All this leads me to take the good with the bad. I wasn’t all that excited with “Cole’s Law”, but it got published, so I figure that TV Guide now has the right to decide on what to do with that article, now that I’ve done my best on it. Near success is nevertheless a morale (if not moral) victory. Meanwhile, I must rest in order to be at my best for my interview tomorrow. I hope that brings good news, at least.

Howard W. Fielding
Journal, Volume II
20 February 1979

This entry requires context and a good editor. The context: “Cole’s Law” was a short story I submitted to the Legal Fictions page of Student Lawyer magazine, a publication of the American Bar Association’s student division. I started it in mid-January and mailed it barely two weeks before this acceptance letter. That was a quick turnaround. Because the average monthly magazine worked about three months in advance, they must have had an opening in the next issue. The price of $75 was typical of a mid- or small-market magazine.

The Redacted twins were actually good friends. They were right, but their timing was wrong. So was mine. I should have sought their advice before I sent out the TV Guide piece. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

I’ll have more about “Cole’s Law” as April approaches. I recently found that issue of Student Lawyer magazine and can show you at least a photo of the pages. At that time I was selling only first serial rights, so I may even be able to share the text here.

As for a good editor, I observed earlier that I had messed up the style for titles of magazines, which should not be underlined. Also, in the second paragraph, the comma after “Cole’s Law” should have been inside the quotes. I was inconsistent on that until I memorized the AP Stylebook about a decade later.

Finally, that bit about the interview: This was my first break at working for a newspaper that actually had a job opening for me. More on that tomorrow.

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