I’m a planner. I like to get things organized, line up everything in order, and then dive on in. What I think I’ve discovered in the last 20-odd years (some rather odd years, at that) is that planning is a good thing, but not the only thing. Sometimes you just have to get the top spinning — and watch where it goes all on its own.
When I started this five-part reminiscence, I noted that I hadn’t planned on becoming a New Yorker; New York just happened to me. Twenty years later, I am a New Yorker and it is still happening to me every day (at the risk of sounding twee). I also noted in part two that Law & Order changed my life — it inspired me to take paralegal classes, by which I ended up writing for The Hollywood Reporter, and in time was hired by THR. The top was spinning.
Then Law & Order changed my life again, or at least Law & Order: SVU did. In 2008 I paired up with writer Susan Green, who with Kevin Courrier wrote The Law & Order Unofficial Companion. I’d interviewed them, and kept in touch largely with Susan, and when SVU became a hit we began talking about doing a Companion for that show. Using her agent we found a press that would publish it, and during my (bare) free time throughout 2008, we visited the set, interviewed the cast and crew, all sanctioned by show creator Dick Wolf. In 2009, The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion got its release, and thanks to some wrangling, we finagled ourselves a book party at a restaurant called Rouge Tomate.
The classy folks did classy things for us that day: Mariska Hargitay sent roses and a note.
Stephanie March, who’d promised from day one she would be there and had always been email-responsive, had her PR rep call me the day before to say she couldn’t make it. You may draw your own conclusions.
Meanwhile, life bounced around at THR in the way all publishing jobs were doing at the time: They didn’t know what to do with the digital side, they were going through publishers at the rate of about one a year, and not a single one was interested in raising our freelance rate (my favorite “idea” for freelancers after I requested a rate rise that hadn’t occurred since the late 1990s was to “publish only the words we print, regardless of how much we contract for,” so you can see where the mindset was there). A pincer movement was going on and the layoffs began.
Mine came in early December of 2008. I came in at my usual time one day and by 12 had been let go (blessedly given time without having someone looming over me to clean out my desk). I got some severance and I was not hugely upset, just surprised: I’d never had anything other than good performance reviews. But this was not about the work, this was about budget cutting. I got it. Others had been let go or left before me.
The main fear was this: After the severance, could I make enough on my freelance to survive? And if not, what if I had to sell the apartment? Maybe I would move to Austin — my family had relocated there a few years earlier, and what I could make off of the apartment would buy me a house there (at the time, anyway). What shocked me more than being let go was how people I knew in the business stepped up: My former editor Christy referred me to her folks at the LA Times. A writer I knew largely from the premiere circuit, Roger, said, “We have to get you more work!” and referred me to Fox Entertainment. It was really moving.
And it worked out (it was not stress-free, but the work came to me through a number of outlets)! Not only did I not have to sell the apartment, the following November for a big milestone birthday, I decided to go to Australia and New Zealand, something I’d wanted to do since I was about 12. (Note: Most amazing time ever, particularly New Zealand.)
Once back, I thought, what the hell: Let’s give the internet dating another shot. (I’d done this before, and met guys doing it, but nothing that really went anywhere.) Mike from the previous post had mentioned a certain geekery crowd in the OK Cupid lineup, and I went there. One thing that was nice about reaching a milestone birthday is this: Not only did I really not give a crap any more about what people thought (that developed during my thirties) I was really finally embracing the fact that I was a giant geek. We’re all geeks for the things we love, and mine was for my writing, for L&O, and for urban fantasy.
I met Maury (the second in my life and presumably the last) about three weeks after returning from Australia; we were serious pretty fast and heading all over the place: To the annual Dance Flurry in Saratoga, to see Stephen Colbert, to hang out on snow days.
We went skating and to the 9/11 Memorial, to Occupy Wall Street. He moved in in 2010, and we were married in October 2011. He’s as geeky as I am (in different ways), he’s musical (writes funny songs and plays the bass and guitar and sings) and he doesn’t run screaming from the room when I make truly horrible puns. Plus, he’s a Good Guy, which is different than a Nice Guy. A mensch. A real man. Can you see we’re still in love?
I wasn’t someone who really thought much about what I’d want a wedding to be, but once faced with the question I knew I wanted it outdoors. Queens Botanical Garden had a special fenced-off wedding area, and we secured it; rather than a limo to escort us to the reception we went for a retro taxi. Traditional, and also not. We also got a mention in the New York Times, something I’d never thought I could aspire to (thanks, Paula!) Truly a lovely day and I can’t wait until we get to 10 years and have a goofy second fun one where we invite everybody all over again. Because why not? (Here’s a video you can watch, if you’re so moved.)
Meanwhile, the freelance had taken off. I had plenty of work from the LAT. I gave up working for Fox after a few articles — it was the only place I’d worked for where the editor suggested I have a particular angle on a story (he wanted to make fun of British actors’ teeth!). Then through a friend’s recommendation I started freelancing for the Today Show‘s website and when a four-hour per day position opened up (to mirror the hours the show was on the air), I was asked if I wanted to do it. It’s turned out to be the best possible freelance solution: I have guaranteed 20 hours a week with them, early in the morning when otherwise it’s not like I’d be working for someone else, and the rest of my day after 11 a.m. to do the rest of my freelance. Or interviews. Or fiction writing. Or whatever. And I have completely taken to working from home.
Here are some of the folks I got to pose with over the years (or, in the case of Novak, got to pose with a piece of cardboard):
I cobbled together a career, somehow, some way. I paid my mortgage. I got to go to exotic locales, and meet fabulous people. I reconnected with old friends I had lost sight of. And I started taking my writing seriously: I got some short stories published on a podcast called Well-Told Tales, and decided to re-tackle a novel I’d had a draft of sitting around for a while of.
Here’s a bunch of other things I ended up doing as well. (You can’t say New York doesn’t have things to do. You just can’t.)
It wasn’t all joyous: Ciara passed away after a short week of illness, in 2012, at what we believe was the age of 10. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done, to hold on to her while she slipped away. It felt like such a waste, to turn off a life — but it had become a life of pain for her. She was such a good, good dog.
And now I have Birdie, another rescue who is also a good, good dog.
I have wonderful people in my life these days, people who along with Maury make everything an adventure and a grand experience. I have an apartment in Brooklyn (and will soon move to a house in Brooklyn, cross fingers all the paperwork goes through as it should). I had a great time living it solo, I enjoyed working for the man. I now live as a wedded couple and I work for myself. New York has been good to me.
I hope wherever you are living is good to you.
Just keep your eyes on that spinning top, and chase it where ever it chooses to go, go, go….
Like what you’re reading? Donate here!