Budding Writer, 1979: I could do OK!

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Tulips greet visitors to a home in Southbury, Connecticut, on April 23, 2023.

My journal from my first year as a freelancer takes me to this breakthrough on this date in 1979. But as a newbie in the business, I had not learned that all that glitters is not gold:

Springtime laziness on this beautiful day, a typical late night at the paper, and plain old procrastination forced this to be a retrospective. And what a retrospective it is!

The early part of the day was negligible: cleaning up, unpacking, and so forth. But once I headed up to Fairlee, wow!

I covered the Planning Commission story from minutes and went to the JO to write it up. There, Robert took me aside to talk about putting me on a regular 16-hour part-time schedule. At first I thought this might be to fill in for Nanci’s leaving. Wrong-o! This was to help bridge the gap of Tom’s finding a new job, or at least looking. GAD! The two people I’ve been getting along with best are both leaving.

GADDER! Robert was so interested in keeping me that he actually offered to help track down an additional part-time makeup/layout job, if anything is available, at Upper Valley Press. This, and the 16-hrs, and the articles (looks like I could start building reviews, etc., too), could keep me going, and he seems even to want to woo me from the college job(s) if any.

A final interesting point of the night: in taking a look at Robert’s Editor + Publisher, I found a New England arts digest looking for stringers/advertising salesmen. This would be right up my alley! and If I landed all 3 part-time jobs, plus freelancing, I could do OK!

Journal, Volume II
23 April 1979

First, what I didn’t know — and to be fair, maybe Robert didn’t either — was that, at least today, labor laws don’t permit an employee to be paid both hourly and per assignment. You can’t freelance for your employer.

Properly, the 16 hours should have included my reporting duties, which means I would have been paid less in the long run. I honestly don’t remember if I got paid both by the hour and by the story, but it wasn’t as good as it sounded.

Second, his offer to help track down a part-time makeup/layout job at the press shop that printed the newspaper also sounded better than it was. He probably knew there was no job, and if there was one, it would conflict with the hours I was working for him.

Third, the ad in Editor & Publisher (correct name) was looking for stringers/advertising salesmen. That model probably expected the freelancer to sell ads as well, which I never did. That probably explains why my tenure as a freelancer for New England Entertainment Digest, or NEED, was so short.

I did work for the editor-publisher, Paul Reale, on and off for about a year, covering summer stock and events at Dartmouth. Mostly, though, he was looking for advances — and advertising, while I was writing reviews. It was fun while it lasted.

Eventually we parted ways. I thought it was because the business wasn’t doing well, but apparently he did sell it. It morphed into a regional entertainment website. Today all that’s left appears to be a Facebook group.

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