Thunderbirds are GO

November 26, 2009 at 6:30 am (Uncategorized)

More tertiary education stories today. Phew, I had the most frantic morning. The editor only called them in at about 8 pm last night, and offered me the job as a sort of physical challenge. The type that seems to get people voted off islands these days.

“I need these by midday tomorrow. Can you do it?”

“Midday? Do I need to do any interviews?”

“At least one. Maybe two.”

“Before twelve o’clock?”

“You heard me. Can you do it or not?”

I took a big breath.

“Sure, of course, absolutely.”


I’m pretty sure he hung up before I could change my mind.

So this morning I sat at the desk waiting until a decent hour to call the PR person. I got to 8:30 and thought, ‘I have to talk to you now, right now, or this whole job is in jeopardy.’ Luckily she answered; she sounded a little cool and I don’t blame her, I probably interrupted her Vegemite toast (and if you ask me everyone’s got a right to eat breakfast in peace and quiet). But time was slipping away and I didn’t have a moment to lose. I think she choked on toast crumbs when I said I needed two interview subjects basically in the next five minutes, but boy, what a champion, she rallied pronto. If I had her on a stopwatch, I think we’d be looking at a new world record.

My first interview was in the can by 9:10 am (how much do I love 1300RECORD? Let me count the ways), and I was manically transcribing it when the PR Princess beat her personal best by dishing up #2 seconds later. My heart swelled with love and gratitude – maybe, just maybe, I’d make it. The interview was set for 10 am.

Between 10:10 and 11:15 am, I wrote the first 600 word article and sent it on ahead. Between 11:15 and 12:10 pm, I transcribed the second interview and wrote the second piece. I can be a pretty efficient freak when circumstances demand it, but frankly, even I was impressed. Sweating, mind whirring, fingers racing across the keyboard, I was down to the wire, but the second 600 word piece was blinking in my editor’s Inbox at ten minutes past the hour. Not bad. He then disappeared into a black hole of deadlines and I am STILL waiting for that phone call or email, you know the one, that fantasy response, the one in which an ecstatic, grateful crowd carries me to the medal dais, gently swaying to the Rocky theme song as they reach out to touch me as I pass. They’re chanting, “Midday! Midday! You got them in by midday!” and I have to quiet the crowd so we can all hear the sound of my editor falling on his knees before me. God I love that sequence. But I’ve been stalking him all afternoon, and I can’t even get him to tell me where and when the damn things are running. They just use you up and spit you out! But don’t you worry, I emailed the PR Princess straight after filing and I said, “We did it! You were awesome this morning, thank you.” I think we call that a dead heat.

In other news, I had my follow-up consultation with Varuna this afternoon just after I’d caught my breath. This was after the shortlist placing in the Publisher Fellowships; I signed up for the half hour chat as soon as the lines opened. It occurred to me I should record the conversation for my future benefit (I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…), and with C’s kind permission – she was one of three on the judging panel – that’s just what I did. Well, I can only stress how worthwhile it was. C had some excellent constructive criticisms, although at all times she was careful to emphasise that she knows it’s still very much a work in progress (I’ll say! I’ve barely started! I hardly know these people!), and that therefore everything we discussed today will change. True. Be that as it may, she pinpointed a thematic thread that immediately went tearing through my mind, ripping off dust covers, throwing open shutters, and shaking out mouldy mats. *Cough.* Yes, I thought. That’s it. Such a simple moment, but so profound. And I guess that jolt of recognition encourages me to continue, to finish what I’ve only just begun. It was such a useful conversation. Having someone else say back to you of their own accord exactly what you think your story is about – well, it was a rush. It all rushed in, jamming that mental opening until I felt my whole brain was clean off its hinges. But you know, that’s better than okay… I’ve always preferred an open door policy. And now I really feel like I am ready to go back to work. MS #2, you and I are about to get busy.



  1. Lilian Nattel said,

    What a good day! 🙂

  2. doctordi said,

    Manic, Lilian, but yeah, not bad at all!

  3. Pete said,

    Well done with the manic deadlines! I was knuiping (ur that’s cringing I suppose) at the tightness of them. Makes me so glad my journalism days are behind me. As for the Varuna interview, sounds like it was worth its proverbial weight. Go MS #2!

    • doctordi said,

      Varuna has been such a creative lifeline, Pete. It’s a really significant thing, I think, for an unknown, unproven writer like myself to be able to access and benefit from that community even though I’ve not yet been able to win one of their fellowships or awards.

  4. Fugitive Pieces said,

    Oh my godfathers. I needed a lie-down after just reading this *weak high-five from a horizontal position*

    • doctordi said,

      Welcome home, Fugitive! Maybe that’s the jetlag leaving you prone!

      • Fugitive Pieces said,

        No, sadly, the jetlag excuse is past its sell-by. It’s the joy that is chronic fatigue, located well inside its own pathetic fallacy – Northumberland in November. Wait, December *oh for… * I’ll be back in Sydney in, um, January, for sunshine and decent coffee. (Assuming you haven’t entirely broken me with these adrenalized tales of deadline derring-do, making me sleep through my departure time. Yep, I plan to blame you.)

  5. davidrochester said,

    I know that feeling of being on deadline — and what an incredible rush it is when you hit the road full speed, and actually get it done.

    And how wonderful about the feedback from Varuna — you’re right; having a critical reader really “get” your work is the best motivation in the world.

    • doctordi said,

      David, it is a rush, I agree. I love it.

      Yeah, as I say to Pete above, Varuna’s willingness to reach out to writers who miss out on their programs is really one of the most amazing things about the whole set up.

  6. woo said,

    Deadlines, I love ’em.

    But the editor who didn’t even bother to thank you for your efforts? Appallingly rude and unprofessional.

    • doctordi said,

      Ditto, Woo, ditto.

      He was just snowed; really, in a sick way, he’s just showing me how much he loves me by taking me for granted. And yes, I know I sound just like Juliette Lewis’s character in Kalifornia when she says of her boyfriend (played by Brad Pitt, who does inbred cretin so well), “He only hits me when I deserve it…”

  7. Grad said,

    Go Get-um Di. I went to a very old fashioned and staid “women’s college” back in the day. There were an abundance of “profound sayings” posted everywhere, made into bookmarks, etc. I still have two that were thumb tacked to my dorm room bulletin board, “…And The Loud Laugh That Bespeaks The Vacant Mind.” (I thought that one was a hoot especially since my whole family, incluidng me, talk and laugh very loudly when we get together.) The other was “Procrastination Is Tantamount To Death.” ) Fun place, my Alma Mater.) Now my whole life is deadlines and I hate them passionately.

  8. doctordi said,

    I love that first one too, Graddikins – I have the LOUDEST laugh. People are forever twisting in their chairs to see where the sonic boom came from. Procrastination is tantamount to death? I think we best keep that one to ourselves. There’s a world of writers out there who hold it as an irrefutable truth that procrastination goes with the territory. Not your WHOLE life, surely?! I can see how that might tarnish the love.

  9. litlove said,

    Wow- those were incredibly tight deadlines. Well done on you for meeting them, but, it IS madness, and it’s no wonder that when I read book reviews in the press they are littered with faults and misreadings. I kind of get stuffy about this and (after twenty years in Cambridge where 1,000 pages of reading a week is par for the undergraduate course) have taken against the whole system in which people are not permitted a reasonable amount of time to think about what they do, digest it, and (in some cases) enjoy it more. I’m glad if you like the rush – it’s one consolation at least!

  10. doctordi said,

    I get stuffy about misprints too, LL – especially when (as I’ve ranted about before) they weren’t there when I filed my copy. It happened with one of those stories, two errors appeared in print that weren’t mine, and it makes me seethe. No other word for it.

    It’s weird, sometimes I think I actually produce a better piece for a really tight deadline. Not always, but sometimes it seems to open a different verbal door. Minds are strange.

  11. doctordi said,

    Fugitive, I thought you were back in Sydney, but I guess ‘Welcome home’ is still appropriate. Glad we’ve got you wherever you are – less glad to know you’ve got chronic fatigue… I hate the sound of that condition, it fills me with mortal terror.

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