You probably won’t believe it, but my first story for the Community beat is finally published. And it’s a centerpiece. Well, at least it was for several hours.
Man, it took a long time to do this. A lot longer than I expected, to be honest. I started working on it in the end of August, receiving a tip about Jeffrey Moore (the story, if you don’t care to read it, is basically a profile of a local artist who managed to recover from bankruptcy and start a new life in Columbia) from my editor Jeanne Abbott. The first draft was ready in the middle of September. Than I had to rewrite it. And again. And — well, partly — again. The fact that at some point Jeffrey was so busy that he couldn’t respond my calls or e-mails for days didn’t help (of course, I don’t blame him — I was bugging him, not the other way around). At some point I almost thought that the story wasn’t going to be finished ever.
You should know that the Community beat is different — we get to write these long stories about interesting people, and these stories can be fairly loosely connected to the current news events. Of course, for me as someone who used to work in a magazine and write these big pieces that took weeks of reporting, it seems that articles like these deserve to be called “stories” much more that this stuff I write when I’m on GA.
It was my first story for my beat, and I learned a lot. In terms of style — initially the story was completely inappropriate for a newspaper, since it consisted of endlessly long paragraphs (again, I’m used to them, because I’ve been writing for magazines for the last 10 years). I had to totally change its rhythm and make it more, as they call it in the newsroom, muscular.
There were also some structural problems I had to overcome. Obviously, Jeffrey Moore has had a long life full of different events, and initially I tried to put all of them into the story. That wasn’t a good idea, since the story ended up being “all over the place”, as Jeanne put it. So I had to take a lot of stuff out to make it more coherent and focused.
Anyway, it was an enriching experience — and not only from the professional point of view, but also psychologically. I mean, Jeffrey is a great guy, and for me his story was a telling one. Ten years ago he lost pretty much everything he had, and he was already in his 40s. But he managed to build a new life for himself in another city, and he seems to be enjoying it. Of course, phrases like “never give up on yourself and your dreams” are totally cliche. But you actually meet someone who followed these principles in his life and — at least to some extent — succeeded, it’s a different story. And an inspiring one.