My head hurts. My carpal tunnels hurt. My blood is mostly coffee sludge. I've become a master of doctoring up Top Ramen. I know the shame that is ordering pizza from a place three blocks away because I can't be bothered to stand up because this sentence is connecting with that one and this with this one and oh my god I'm actually writing, there are words coming out and they make sense and I actually think I have something here and wow I'm going to win the pulitzer and.
Today brings a bloom of beginnings from a tangle of endings. Perhaps that's not surprising. I suppose beginnings and endings all occupy coterminous space. And as I write, I'm struck by how my own beginnings and my own endings weave around one another and, often, between two places — Los Angeles and Portland.
But I'm writing today to recognize one simple beginning: the redesigned, relaunched version of my website*, upon which, presumably, you're reading these words. I do so hoping to re-introduce the world to my own background as a writer and journalist and as a storyteller, and to re-pique your curiosity about Melville Jacoby, whose adventures, romance and experiences as a journalist in World War II-era China and the Philippines will be the subject of a forthcoming book.
Most of my posts about Melville Jacoby focus squarely on nonfiction. He was a journalist. I am a journalist. Though Mel worked for a time as a broadcaster and was handy with a camera, he was first and foremost a writer. So it shouldn't be terribly surprising that he dabbled in fiction a bit. I found one of those stories — "Monsieur Big-Hat" — and put it together with some photos Mel took of an air raid in Chongqing to make a short ebook that's now available online. The story describes what happens when an American correspondent meets a French diplomat as bombs fall on the Chinese wartime capital in June, 1940.
Why am I telling the world this? Why am I telling you this, you, reader, the one who has come to this site with a journalist's promise of renewed attention to this blog; why to you, the one who may very well want to assess my professionalism, who may be weighing a job offer or a recent freelance pitch I've made; why tell you, who may be evaluating the credibility of my reporting after I reached out to arrange an interview; why you, the potential new fan who's curious about the quality of my work?
Because, I've been wasting too much time trying to prove myself, trying to fit all the guidelines I'm supposed to fit to get your attention. I am here. I am who I say I am. I am what you see on this screen. I am the voice you hear in my narration. I am the eye behind my lens. I am the fingertips on this keyboard. The best way, the only way for me to go forward is to embrace my failure.
I understand – trust me I understand and kinda don't want to discuss – that the publishing world is rapidly changing. Even if it weren't, it takes time and patience to get something published. But I wonder about the rules of the game. With information spreading so rapidly how am I supposed to do this, to wait patiently on a story that is constantly evolving? Even if things go well with this story, how do we publish, how do we write or report anything? How do we set boundaries? Do we just say “that's the story” even as it continues to change? Do we just cut convenient slices of ever-lengthening timelines out?
few weeks ago I started typing on one of my dad's old typewriters. The arms of each key on the Royal Arrow moved slowly, as if moving through molasses. My words tripped over themselves, caught in the machine's throat. Dust dulled the dark gray casing of the machine. Another typewriter sat on a table across the room. A portable Corona, its curved black shell was decorated with a gold-colored paint, although the decoration was muted somewhat by the years passed since the machine was owned by the journalist Melville Jacoby, a cousin of my grandmother's who died in an accident in the Pacific as he covered World War II. Also known as Mel Jack, I hope to share his story another time -- I only invoke him now because I can't help thinking about those machines, about what it feels to squeeze words onto those pages and what it feels like at this moment to string words across this screen.