March 2021 Linkspam

So…. it was March, and that means I turned 39-plus-tax. Again. Shush, you who can do math. For Patreon subscribers: I have made it my tradition to send my loyal patrons a free bonus item in the month of March, usually something they can’t get anywhere else. Why March? Because it’s my birthday, so YOU get a present.

But grad school is still a thing, so the project has been delayed. It’s moving forward and I hope to have your bonuses in hand and into the mail within the next month. So since I am slow, if you sign up for the Patreon in April, you also get the annual bonus! (Make sure you include your snail mail address when you sign up!) It’s available to all levels, which begin at $1 a month. 

Now for the rest of what’s been going on….

Publicity/Appearances

The AWP Conference kicked off my March with five days of intensive panels and discussion among my fellow writers and MFA denizens. AWP is the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and it was my first conference that isn’t journalism or specifically geared to SFFH. I live-blogged the entire experience on Patreon, as part of my ongoing series sharing the MFA experience with my patrons, and I hope you find it interesting and helpful. I gained a great deal from it, including the terrific keynote performance by U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo, as well as discussion of some issues in the freelance writing world that will consume much of my professional life in the months to come.

Last month I warned you that my author website will be coming down shortly for a massive overhaul after *mumblety years of the same static design. Guess what STILL didn’t happen? After having created and launched about four websites on WordPress, I decided it was time to actually know what I’m doing, and so I am taking a class (in my spare time, ha ha) to teach me the finer points of WordPress. Better website ahoy!

Note that I’ve also consolidated my webstore to offer books and photography from the same site. Never fear, I’m still part of Literary Underworld! And my work is still available on Amazon, of course. But if you’ve been interested in picking up an Elizabeth Donald book or photograph, try the website first. 

Up this month: Not much, since it’s the final lap of the semester! The Society of Professional Journalists’ regional conferences are virtual this year, and will be taking place on April 10. 

Whew! Let’s see, what else has been going on?

Journalism/Essays

Highland has tornado touch down with no fatalities (Highland News-Leader)

Highland’s long-time mayor dies weeks before stepping down (Highland News-Leader)

Highland schools plan for graduation, fall (Highland News-Leader)

Unopposed candidate set to take over as Highland’s mayor (Highland News-Leader)

Three people run for two seats on Highland City Council (Highland News-Leader)

Flashback: Miracle Girl (Patreon)

Fiction

FREE short story on the Patreon as part of the current previews: Sergeant Curious (which was originally published in River Bluff Review in 2020)

Setting Suns is on sale this month only, celebrating its 15th anniversary! Get my first collection of short stories for only $12.50. This book was first published in 2006 and is still in print after all this time! 

Photography

New posters! A new line of posters incorporating my photography with famous quotes is my latest project, and they’re now on display in the photography portfolio and in the store, and on etsy. Check them out! Have any quotes you wish were on an awesome poster? Let me know!

Patreon/Blogs

Experiment: Cento Poetry (Patreon)

Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill (Patreon)

AWP: And we’re off! (Patreon)

AWP: Wednesday/Thursday (Patreon) – finding agency as a woman writer, life in academia without tenure, women writers over 50 (not there yet!), nonfiction of the apocalypse, code-switching, southern short fiction, sociopolitics in fiction, #PublishingPaidMe… whew!

AWP: Friday (Patreon) – the art of the craft essay, anthologies, building literary magazines, agents, small press publishing

AWP: Saturday (Patreon) – Finding our own paths to creativity, genre-bending fiction, ageism in publishing world, small press books

AWP: Sunday (Patreon) – digital thesis repositories

February Linkspam

So this has been a pretty nifty month here at Donald Media Tower, because I won an award. *cue confetti* I was informed this month that I am this year’s recipient of the Mimi Zanger Award for fiction writing, which is the first time in several years that I’ve snagged a fiction award.

You can take the woman out of journalism, but…. no, you can’t. As soon as I heard, I started researching Mimi Zanger and found that her husband was one of the early English professors at my university and both of them were influential in developing the artistic and literary culture that thrives in my town. (She was a puppeteer, among other things!) It turns out that they lived not far from our house in the historic neighborhood of Leclaire, which has its own cool history I will narrate someday. It also turns out that their relatives still live here in town, one of their sons operates a cool restaurant near the library, and one of their nieces is a friend of mine! Small town, small world. 

At any rate, I was honored and briefly speechless to receive this award, and very grateful to my professors and mentors at the university for their support as I develop my craft.

For Patreon subscribers: It’s March! You know what that means…. okay, maybe you don’t. I have made it my tradition to send my loyal patrons a free bonus item in the month of March, usually something they can’t get anywhere else. Why March? Because it’s my birthday, so YOU get a present. And if you sign up for the Patreon before my birthday, you also get the annual bonus! (Make sure you include your snail mail address when you sign up!) I think you’ll like this year’s offering…

(BTW, you could get all this plus a bonus photo per month if you subscribed to my newsletter.)

Now for the rest of what’s been going on….

Publicity/Appearances

I was delighted to “attend” the virtual edition of Conflation this weekend, and it was an absolute blast. I’ve been to a few virtual conventions since the pandemic began, and while they were all very educational and interesting, none have managed to recreate the socialization aspect of a con as well as Conflation did! It helped that they got us all into Second Life, which I can easily see will suck all my spare time out of my eyeballs… on the other hand, if I just reduced the amount of time I waste on Facebook and waste it there instead, I think my blood pressure might mellow out.

Next up for me is the AWP conference, which begins this week and runs for five days. In the alternate universe where the pandemic was quickly routed and none of us had to go into our caves for a year, AWP would have meant five days eating barbecue in Kansas City instead of tied to my tower desk with a ham sandwich, and I’m. not. bitter. at. all. AWP is the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and my first conference that isn’t journalism or specifically geared to SFFH, so it should be a neat learning experience. I will be blogging about it, so watch Donaldmedia.com for updates.

Last month I warned you that my author website will be coming down shortly for a massive overhaul after *mumblety years of the same static design. Guess what didn’t happen? I really shouldn’t schedule major projects like that mid-semester. At any rate, I hope it will happen this month. 

Note that I’ve also consolidated my webstore to offer books and photography from the same site. Never fear, I’m still part of Literary Underworld! And my work is still available on Amazon, of course. But if you’ve been interested in picking up an Elizabeth Donald book or photograph, try the website first. 

Whew! Let’s see, what else has been going on?

Journalism

• End of an era as mayor plans to step down (Highland News-Leader)

• Highland High plans in-person graduation (Highland News-Leader)

• Refinancing allows Highland to plan construction (Highland News-Leader)

Fiction

• FREE short story on the Patreon (see below): Sergeant Curious (which was originally published in River Bluff Review in 2020)

Also, Yanaguana is still available. Hint hint. 

Photography

New posters! Last month I promised you a new line of posters incorporating my photography with famous quotes, and they’re now on display in the photography portfolio and in the store, and soon on etsy. Check them out!

Also, a selection of my work was on display in the art show at Conflation – which meant it was also on display in a gallery in Second Life! That’s a nifty new venue I had never considered. 

Unfortunately, I am sorry to report that due to the pandemic, Highland Arts is moving to a new space that is roughly one-third the size of their old studio, and will no longer be able to offer most of my artwork in their shop. They will continue to carry my Highland collage poster, but the rest of my work has been picked up. I wish them the best of luck in their new space and am happy to be associated with them. 

Patreon/Blogs

As part of our Conflation promotion, I added a few free offerings to the Patreon this month along with a free ebook to any new subscribers. I will extend that promotion until my birthday on March 17, so if you were just sitting at home pondering, “Whatever can I give Elizabeth for her birthday?” consider subscribing to the Patreon! Subscriptions start at $1 a month, and you get weekly content out of the bargain!

• FREE Travelogue: The St. Louis Art Museum (Patreon)

• FREE short story: Sergeant Curious (Patreon)

• Me am poet. You poem too? (Patreon)

• And the winner is… (Donald Media and Patreon)

• My own half-blood prince (Patreon and Medium)

• MFA experiment: The Artist (Patreon)

And the winner is….

Me!

I’m pleased (almost) beyond words to announce I have been honored with the Mimi Zanger Award for fiction writing. This is an award granted by the English Department at Southern Illinois University, where I have begun my coursework for an MFA in creative writing (in case you’ve missed all the other references to my MFA here and on my Patreon …. somehow).

The story I submitted for the contest’s consideration was written in workshop last semester. My first inclination was to share it, of course. However, it is currently under submission to a literary magazine, and thus it would be inappropriate to publish. I sincerely hope I will be able to share it with you soon.

Near as I can tell, the award is named after the wife of Dr. Jules Zanger, a professor at SIUE before it even became the university we know it today. Dr. Zanger grew up in Brooklyn and fought in World War II, as did many of his generation. After the war, he earned his degrees and met Mary Proctor – known as Mimi – while finishing his PhD at Washington University in St. Louis. Like many academics, the Zangers bounced around from Ohio to Chicago and so on before moving to Alton, Ill. and settling at SIUE. Dr. Zanger taught at SIUE for 35 years, retiring as professor emeritus after receiving Fulbright grants to study in Brazil, France and Czechoslovakia.

Mimi died in 1991. Dr. Zanger continued with his research and extensive travels, eventually remarrying and relocating to Frankfurt, Germany, where he died in 2014. His obituary states that he was “a great lover of good books, good food, good wine, good music, and good conversation. He loved fine restaurants, but was also a skilled home chef, preparing many memorable meals for friends and family. He loved and frequently attended the opera, never understanding why everyone didn’t.”

When Dr. Zanger died, his survivors indicated that memorials should be made to the Mimi Zanger Award endowment, so that it could continue to support students like me who seek to explore the joys of the written word.

It sounds like the Zangers would have been terrific people to know.

As I write this, I am playing Don Giovanni, in honor of the opera lovers, and hope that I can be worthy of their legacy. I am humbled and grateful for the honor and support of my mentors in the writing program, and look forward to all I have to learn from them.

February linkspam!

One month of 2021 down, 11 to go, and hasn’t it been entertaining so far? I don’t know about you, but I could use a little less excitement in my news… and also a little more sunshine, because this has been the longest, grayest January I can remember.

This is Women in Horror Month, and just in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a horror writer and a woman. I’d like to recommend this essay by Mary SanGiovanni, who is a terrific writer and very smart human, as she discusses some of the challenges facing us as women horror authors. It spurred me to do a rare Twitter rant on this issue, and I hope you’ll consider Mary’s call to do more than scan the ubiquitous lists of women writers: read them, discuss them, share their work. 

But now let’s talk about what’s been going on! For one thing, I’ve slightly altered the Patreon. In addition to the new MFA Adventures posts, I’m adding book reviews (and maybe movies if we EVER get to go see them again) at the $3 level. This is in part because I’m doing so much reading and finding such neat stuff as I work through the MFA, and in part because my pandemic-induced isolation means I have very few photo shoots and no travelogues. I’ve got plenty of backlog, mind you! But until I can move around again, y’all deserve fresh content. 

Meanwhile, the semester has begun at Ye Olde University. I am teaching English composition again, and studying fiction and poetry writing. This should lead to some interesting posts in the Patreon! 

Publicity/Appearances

I’m sorry to say it looks like all the conventions for the first half of the year have been canceled. We’re still waiting to hear on the July-Dec. cons and conferences, and assuming I can get a jab in the arm, I’m looking forward to seeing folks again! However, I plan to attend Conflation in its virtual format later this month, and we’ll see what other shenanigans I can manage from my Rapunzel tower!

Not quite publicity but important: Be aware that my author website will be coming down shortly for a massive overhaul after *mumblety years of the same static design. I am not a programmer and I really suck at site design, yet I manage something like five sites. *shrug* We’re a work in progress.

In the meantime, take note  my photography portfolio at elizabethdonaldphotography.com. I’ve also consolidated my webstore to offer books and photography from the same site. Never fear, I’m still part of Literary Underworld! (Which has two nifty new titles this month, you should check it out.) And my work is still available on Amazon, of course. 

And I have a Patreon. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in the last two paragraphs….
 

Journalism

• Highland schools move forward with building projects (Highland News-Leader)

• COVID-19 still plagues city, schools (Highland News-Leader)

• High levels of lead found in Highland water (Highland News-Leader)
 

Fiction

• MFA Experiment: The Artist (Patreon)

Also, Yanaguana is still available. Hint hint. 
 

Photography

We have some new posters in development! Right now there’s just the one new poster available on the photography portfolio in addition to the older poster designs, but there are several others in the works that will be available in the store and on etsy. Stay tuned!
 

Patreon/Blogs

• Review: Pat Conroy (Patreon)

• Review: The Writing Life by Jeff Strand (Patreon)

• Essay: Hidden Joy (Patreon)

Also: Big news coming that I can’t share yet, but I can’t help but add it here because vaguebooking is fun. See you soon…

November-December Linkspam

Whoops. Somehow November’s Linkspam never posted, and I never noticed and none of you yelled at me. That’s a sobering lesson!

Suffice to say the end of the year is now upon us, and good riddance. There’s been plenty of work for us writerfolk, but a lot of others have been suffering. It’s hard for me to complain about having to hole up in my little attic office all the time when my son the college student will have to take on a third job because his restaurant job has cut his hours and his setbuilding job is on hiatus and tuition bills are looming.

Here’s the links for the last two months of the year, and thank you for sticking with me, folks. Here’s to better things in 2021 – they’d almost have to be, wouldn’t they?

Publicity/Appearances

Review for Foul Womb of Night, which includes my novella Yanaguana.

Journalism/Essays

The richest man in town (reprint; updated for 2020 in Medium)

Highland city leaders survey effects of COVID-19 on businesses (Highland News-Leader)

Highland Arts Council developing mural project (Highland News-Leader)

More parents request to move kids back into the classroom (Highland News-Leader)

Council approves proposed coffee shop with gaming room (Highland News-Leader)

Scouting for Food teams with Edwardsville Lions for food pantry (Belleville News-Democrat)

Latzer Library to renovate (Highland News-Leader)

Council not sold on proposed coffee shop (Highland News-Leader)

COVID forces shutdown of after-school program (Highland News-Leader)

Highland cautions residents to take rising COVID numbers seriously (Highland News-Leader)

Gentlewriters: Start your engines (Medium)

Fiction

Not much to report other than the ongoing MFA work, which has been keeping me very busy. I’ve been narrating my thoughts about the MFA in the Patreon, so if you’re really interested in that material, you might subscribe. (Was that subtle?) This semester I wrote three short stories and began two others still in production. Whee!

Excerpt: Banshee’s Run (Patreon)

Also, Yanaguana is still available. Hint hint.

Photography

The final Door Poetry collection (Patreon)

(I also did a nifty couples shoot with my son and his terrific girlfriend.)

Patreon/Blogs

Writer’s Resolutions (Patreon)

Happy Holidays! (Patreon)

Finish line! (Donald Media)

Giving thanks (Patreon)

Elizabeth’s Rules* For Nanowrimo (Patreon)


October Linkspam

If you’re a horror writer, October is always your busiest month of the year. If you’re not working in October, you’re not working.

That said, October is super-mega-special busy for me – in a normal year. In October 2015, I visited eleven cities in two time zones, flew on four airplanes through three airports, drove 2,017 miles, hugged and shook hands with approximately four zillion people, stayed in five hotels, rode public transportation without number, attended at least a dozen public events, visited the Magic Kingdom twice and averaged five hours’ sleep. All while working my full-time job at the newspaper (plus or minus a few vacation days).

So this was the strangest October I can remember since my first book was published, because I went nowhere. I mean, I left the house a few times. We successfully moved my stuff out of my university office, and then we moved the Literary Underworld and all its trimmings to a storage facility. Yes! LitUnd now has a warehouse! (Kinda.) It was taking over my house, which has more than enough piles of detritus that it doesn’t need the competition.

I also left the house to go to a pumpkin patch and get this year’s carveable gourds. Look, I will put up with a lot to stay safe from COVID, but some things are sacred.

If it were not for COVID, I would have flown to Washington D.C. for the SPJ conference and to Atlanta for the College Media Association conference. I would have attended Archon in Collinsville, Ill. and I’d be raring up for ContraKC in Kansas City next week and I would have been running the Leclaire Parkfest book sale for the American Cancer Society and somewhere in there I’d probably have had a stark raving mad nervous breakdown but that’s standard for October too.

Instead, I was home, teaching my class and attending what I could via Zoom, and happily celebrating the release of Yanaguana from Crone Girls Press!

Have I mentioned it enough yet?

So even though I stayed home and didn’t “see” anyone, I still feel like it was one of my busiest Octobers ever, and I can’t remember how I did my usual Octobers without losing my mind. I have no doubt, however, that I will sign right back up next year for the usual Fall Deathmarch, because really… I miss y’all.


Publicity/Appearances

Have I mentioned yet that Yanaguana came out last month? Okay, okay, ya heard it. Seriously, though, I had so much fun playing with the Blackfire crew again, and I’m so grateful to my fantastic editor Rachel Brune for including my little novella in Foul Womb of Night, the first in Crone Girls Press’ Midnight Bites series.

Here’s an interview I gave about Yanaguana, my writing life, the trip to San Antonio that inspired it, and other ramblings.

Journalism/Essays

Highland schools face deficit budget (Highland News-Leader)

Highland approves interim police chief (Highland News-Leader)

GoFundMe set up for coach in need of kidney due to COVID (Highland News-Leader)

Highland police adopt 10 shared principles of civil rights and racial justice (Highland News-Leader)

COVID forces shutdown of after-school program (Highland News-Leader)

Highland leaders report more than 100 new cases in two weeks (Highland News-Leader)

How to survive a horror movie: 2020 edition (Medium)

Fiction

Wait wait don’t tell me…. Yanaguana came out. Just so you know, your purchase of Foul Womb of Night gets you more than just me. There are two other novels of military-themed horror by Adam Stemple and Gustav Bondoni included in the collection, and all for $2.99 (or free if you’re on Kindle Unlimited).

Photography

No photo trips again this month (I am going out before the leaves turn, COVID or no COVID) so here’s a flashback shot for you.

This image is “Fields of Pennsylvania,” a picture that nearly killed me. I was on the Furlough Tour in 2013 and trying to make my way across the toll roads of Pennsylvania for an early dinner in York before heading up to New York City. I think. That whole tour is something of a blur.

I was annoyed at the tolls, but the view made it worth every penny. The scenery was simply astounding, and when I saw this field with the farm at the treeline, I swerved my little rental car over to the side of the road and got out on the highway to get this shot. I didn’t have my good camera yet, so I had to be content with the resolution of my small point-and-click. It’s one of my favorite images from the tour, and still doesn’t do half justice to the beauty of Pennsylvania in the fall.

Patreon/Blogs

Dark and stormy night (Patreon)

Blackfire crew rides again! (Donald Media and Patreon)

Book birthday! And thank you. (Donald Media)

How to survive a horror movie: 2020 edition with pictures! (Patreon bonus)

Happy Halloween! (Donald Media)


Please consider subscribing to my Patreon! You get new and exclusive content, extra stuff no one else can get, and you are helping me pay the rent while I wend my way through grad school. Thank you for your support!

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Book Birthday: Yanaguana!

I’m happy to announce that my new Blackfire novella, Yanaguana, is now unleashed on the world courtesy of Crone Girls Press.

It walks along the San Antonio river, and it carries all your fears in its grasp.

Paul Vaughn and the Blackfire team have been summoned after several mysterious deaths, because that’s what they do. They face the things that lurk in shadows, and they save unknowing civilians from their grasp. 

But this one will challenge Blackfire more than any they have yet faced, as they must fight not only the demon that lurks along the Riverwalk… but the things they fear the most.

A standalone novella preceding the events of The Cold Ones, Yanaguana adds another chapter to the Blackfire series and will hopefully introduce new readers to this world of ghouls and beasties. Paired with two other novellas under the Crone Girls Press collection Foul Womb of NightYanaguana is now available for $2.99 from Amazon or FREE for Kindle Unlimited readers. 

While I’ve got you… I have a few people to thank. Because nobody writes a book alone, as much as we like to pretend.

Many thanks to David Szucs, officer and gentleman, who provided a sanity check for military parlance; to David Tyler, who answers my rambling messages at two in the morning; to Ian Smith, who helped me devise what’s going on with new characters Juliet and Tommy; and to my husband Jim Gillentine, who always cheerleads.

As usual, many thanks to the real Parish Roberts, Jim Bell, and the late Vic Milan, who let me steal their names for characters more than a decade ago.

Thanks to the good people of the Alamo Trust, who kindly gave me permission for a photo shoot and visit to the historic site, and the staff there who answered my many questions. San Antonio is a wonderful city, and I always show my love to the places I visit by infesting them with monsters.

Special thanks to Rachel Brune, editor extraordinaire who is blessed (or burdened) with indomitable patience and grace.

Finally, thanks to the real Sara Harvey, who couldn’t be more different than her fictional counterpart, except that they both kick ass.

September linkspam

Note to my English 101 students: Please do not read the above cartoon. It bears no resemblance to actual expectations. No, really. Do as I say, not as I do.

I’m in mid-semester here at sunny SIUE, inflicting rhetorical analysis on my students and writing fiction on deadline, which should mean more fun for you in the near future! I also was proud to serve as delegate to the Society of Professional Journalists’ national conference, which was online instead of Washington D.C. Stupid virus. I’ve returned to the student newspaper The Alestle as a copy editor as well.

There wasn’t much else to report for September, because I came down with a nasty bout of something bronchitis-like right after Labor Day and stayed sick for the entire month. Four weeks of fever is no one’s friend. (Yes, I was tested for the Voldevirus and thankfully was negative.) Working entirely from home meant I could keep working without infecting anybody. On the downside, I could keep working. Many thanks to the professors who were so understanding about my croaky ass remaining on mute during classes so as to not inflict my coughing on the Zoom call.

In better news, I’m happy to report that this month I finished a Blackfire novella that will be coming out from Crone Girls Press later this fall. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you’ll enjoy it. I was startled to find that only a little bit into my MFA, I have already compiled enough short stories to fill about half of a new collection. If you’re interested in the Ongoing MFA Adventure, I’m detailing it several times a month on my Patreon.

Anyway, here’s this month’s links!

Publicity/Appearances

Happy to be part of the Edwardsville Public Library’s Book Festival, which had to be held online for staggeringly obvious reasons. I had to miss the first of these festivals last year because I was on the road, and that is so not a problem this year. All conventions and signings for October have been canceled, along with just about every such appearance since February. Thanks to the Edwardsville Library for helping boost the signal for the starving authors!

Journalism

Mayor implores governor to rethink pandemic restrictions (Highland News-Leader)

Illinois governor has not replied to mayor’s letter (Highland News-Leader)

Full steam ahead for public safety building (Highland News-Leader)

How to have a safe Halloween during COVID (Highland News-Leader)

Photography

Sadly, no photo trips again this month, as I spent all of September inside my house recovering from illness. So instead I give you this one from the archives:

The pumpkin patch at Eckert Farms in Belleville, Ill. A trip to Eckert’s has become part of our family tradition. They have the most amazing fried chicken…

Patreon/Blogs

Yanaguana and the Five Senses (Patreon)

Elizabeth vs. the Voldevirus Patreon

Fiction

Grow Old With Me (Patreon)

Zippo (Patreon)


As usual, I would remind you of my delightful Patreon. I’m adding a new feature, as I begin a three-year MFA program in creative writing: I’m going to share what I learn with you, in the hopes that those of you interested in writing or the MFA experience will find it useful. So if you were thinking of joining the Patreon, now’s a great time!

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August Linkspam

And we’re off to the races!

(Ouch, cliche.)

(Fine, I technically was still a student since the masters is pending…. shush with your facts.)

As I write this, the semester is one week old and I’m already behind. How does this happen? I’m developing my lesson plans as I go for my English composition and rhetoric class, so please pass the bourbon. So far my students haven’t dropped en masse and no one is driving me from the campus with pitchforks and torches shouting “heretic!” so we’ll call it a win for the first week.

I’ve had round one of the classes in advanced literary editing, where we will be focusing on producing the annual issue of Sou’wester; and my fiction workshop, where I will continue to develop short pieces (and you Patreon folk will get to see them, muahahaha.) My tutoring gig starts next week, and I will be returning to assist the good folks at the Alestle student newspaper.

I’m still mostly housebound, which has been nice and all but I would really like the virus to go away now, okay? The next two conventions for me are/were ContraKC in November and Conflation in February, and it’s still up in the air whether those events are taking place. If they do, then I need to decide if I can attend. I miss seeing you characters!

(Even you. And you. Maybe not you.)

Anyway, here’s this month’s links!

Essays

• Pay for it. That’s how people live. (Patreon and Medium)

Journalism

• Highland parents overwhelmingly choose in-person learning this fall (Highland News-Leader)

• Highland mayor implores community, businesses to take COVID more seriously (Highland News-Leader)

• Highland street art festival will still take place despite COVID (Highland News-Leader)

• Highland schools forge ahead with mixed schedule (Highland News-Leader)

• Two charged with home invasion in Madison County (Highland News-Leader)

Photography

Sadly, no photo trips this month. So instead I give you this one from the archives:

This is the Baltimore memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, located at the Inner Harbor. What appears to be a metal sculpture is actually a twisted remnant of the girders inside the World Trade Center, and there is an inscription of the names of the Baltimore residents who died that day.

Patreon/Blogs

• And heeeeere weeee go. (Patreon)

• Historical artifacts (Patreon)

• Stringbook (Patreon)


As usual, I would remind you of my delightful Patreon. Yes, I know, you hear about it every month. But I’m starting a new feature, as I begin a three-year MFA program in creative writing: I’m going to share what I learn with you, in the hopes that those of you interested in writing or the MFA experience will find it useful. So if you were thinking of joining the Patreon, now’s a great time!

Freedom Day

Monday was an anniversary of sorts. On that day, two years ago, I worked my last shift as a full-time newspaper reporter.

Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know what a big decision that was. I had worked for that particular newspaper for 18 years and in newspapers in general for 22 years, which was pretty much my entire adult life. I spent a long time thinking about the choice to go freelance and try to make a living with my words while I went through what I thought would be two years of grad school. Whee.

Last year I wrote that this decision was like jumping off the high dive with my family handcuffed to me, but without knowing if the pool was full of water. I spent the first few weeks of grad school sure I had made an awful mistake: I was too old, I didn’t fit in, I was a bad fit for academic style and the philosophical approach to the field. I didn’t exactly hit the ground running, but I adapted, and as of this writing I have finished all the coursework for the masters degree in media studies.

Several factors have delayed completion of Ye Olde Thesis, not the least of which has been COVID-brain – no, I haven’t had The Plague, but the situation we’ve all been in since March seems to have made my concentration very difficult. Wurdz r hard.

But I have never regretted my choice. It’s not an easy life, being a freelancer. I spend a lot of time hustling work and filing invoices. But I also choose what I write about, and I am my own boss. That has definitely been worth what I gave up in security and a regular paycheck.

And I’m still reporting. I do magazine articles on a fairly regular basis, and I also do some local reporting for a subsidiary of my former employer. I like to keep a foot in the game, since I hope to be teaching newswriting again in the future and I feel you really need to keep up with the profession in order to teach it, beyond reading in the trades about the general state of the news industry.

I truly love teaching. I didn’t know how I would take to it, but it surprised me by being the best part of the last two years. One of my few disappointments this year was that we could not figure out a way for me to keep teaching newswriting while I’m teaching English comp this fall, as I would happily teach both classes as long as they’d let me. All of us got hit with unexpected challenges – a baby-bird new teacher suddenly switching to all-online instruction in mid-semester required multiple adjustments of the syllabus and assignments, but fortunately my poor students were patient with me, and I’m looking forward to continuing my teaching in the English department this fall.

Oddly, my fiction work has flourished even during the grind of grad school, in ways it hasn’t in years. This year in particular, I’ve seen several stories picked up for speculative fiction anthologies and also a literary magazine, an avenue where I haven’t had much success in years past. I am hoping to see far more of that, as I begin my new MFA program next month.

Meanwhile, nothing dulls my passion and advocacy for news reporting, even as it becomes more and more tiresome to wade through the hate spewed toward us online (and sometimes more than hate, as evidenced by the treatment of journalists on the protest lines in so many places this year.)

So while I tend to think of the anniversary of my departure as Freedom Day, it should not be interpreted as freedom from my old job or the news or journalism. It was more an internal freedom, the freedom to remake my life and my work to better suit all the facets of who I am as a writer. It’s freedom from the expectations of others and the restrictions I placed on myself, not freedom from any particular employer.

Below is the speech I gave at my farewell party at the newspaper. I meant every word of it, and still do. (Yes, I wrote it down. If I don’t write down what I’m gonna say, I’ll talk forever and it’ll be full of “um,” as my students can attest.)

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I remember the first time I walked in here as an employee. It was June 2000, and we won’t talk about how old some of you were on that day, Josh

I was 25 years old and less than three years out of school. I filled out my papers and they sent me up to the bureau so I could introduce myself to the crew working up there: Doug Criss, Teri Maddox, Steve Nagy, Marilyn Vise, Jayne Matthews.

I thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t know shit.

But I learned, because of the people I worked with here. I had editors, and colleagues, and mentors, and friends. We are a strange and often dysfunctional little family, but we are a family nonetheless. 

And that doesn’t change when you walk out the door, as I’ve discovered from the number of people I’ve heard from in the last few weeks and even the last few days. They remember, and we are connected. We are a family, because we all came here for one purpose, one calling that rides above an ordinary profession.

We are here because we believe in journalism, and its importance to the community in ways that they will never understand or appreciate. No matter how awful or exhausting or difficult it gets, no matter how jaded we think we’ve become, we still show up and shovel coal into the furnace and do the work and inform people who will never appreciate it.

To me, that makes every one of you heroes.

I am proud to have worked with every one of you. I am proud of being part of the News-Democrat. I always have, and I always will be. I have been here so long that “News-Democrat” is part of my name – when I introduce myself to people out in the world, I have to stop myself from saying, “Elizabeth Donald News-Democrat.” 

It’s going to be a hard habit to shake. But that’s okay, because it’s part of me, part of who I am.

I know there’s a lot of uncertainty right now – it’s weird, and there are difficult times ahead, more difficult for some than others. But I know that wherever our various paths go from here, each of us can and will stay the course with our true mission – and I don’t mean the checklist or a spreadsheet or a hit count goal. But the true mission of any newspaper: to serve and inform our community.

Each of you has been a shining example of that mission. And I don’t just mean the mentors who taught me so much of what I needed to know all these years. I mean you young ones who will carry the torch forward for us, and have taught me things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. 

Your dedication, your skill, your passion and commitment have restored my faith in our profession’s future. I will always be proud to have worked with each of you.

And you’re required to stay in touch. That’s why God invented the internet.