I’ve been confused about what to put in this blog, then I realized that I usually put up stories about milestones in my life mainly to serve as a reminder later in my older life. And so this time I’m going to put up a memory about my very first published article. I’m gonna talk more about the process and the aftermath rather than the article itself. Read the article here: When One Name is Just Not Enough. Basically the article consists of my anecdotes surrounding my one-word name – the ones that made me decide to change my name.
Since I started writing short stories when I was 6 or 7 (this is according to my mom – citation needed), I have always wanted to publish my writing. I wrote countless poems and short stories during my school days, mostly when I’m bored at classes. Unfortunately the problem was the follow up – many of the stories were unfinished, or even lost. Goodbye published stories.
So when my friend Putu kept telling me to write a human-interest story about my name-change, I was skeptical about myself. Because 1. As I said before, I have had problems with my attention span and follow up when writing longer pieces and 2. I have never written a human-interest piece tailored for newspapers/magazines. Sure I have written some pieces on this blog, but of course the style is much more relaxed and carefree – not really of publishing standard. I actually planned to blog about the name change already, but he convinced me to just write an article about it.
The process of writing that article took about 6 months, including slacking and forgetting about it. I started with conversation bits because that’s how I like it. Call that my style or something. That was the shape of the article for months, until the time when I just moved in to a new room. Since it was a new room, I had not configured the internet connection. Staring at my computer without internet connection, I then decided to open the almost blank document and started writing… Before I knew it it was nearing 1000 words. (I sent the early draft to Putu after I configured the internet connection, the subject line: “What I did when I didn’t have internet”)
I initially wanted to talk about the process of the name change, but the funny/annoying stories about my one-name took up too much space. If I’m not wrong I ended up with almost 1500 words for only the anecdotes. So I decided to scrape the name change process story.
“Remember that papers usually ask for 1000 words”, he said. Ugh. “Help me edit it then,” I said. Score!
The final draft was +/- 1025 words. He helped me to cut it until about 990. I then sent it to The Jakarta Post and The Jakarta Globe. That was December 22 – I remember because it was “ondeh-ondeh” day, my auntie made some delicious rice balls in ginger soup. Unfortunately The Jakarta Globe’s mailbox was full and I had to resend several times until December 25 (Christmas!).
On December 30, Globe emailed me back saying that they would like to publish my story. The only catch – I would have to shorten the piece into 750-800 words as per the column requirement. Damn! From 1500, 1025, 990, now 750-800? I could hear my pretty words crying. And yet I said ok.
Then I tried, miserably, to shorten it. I couldn’t bear it. My words were all crafted carefully. My kids, my darlings!
“You gotta help me. I give up.”
And so through Google Docs on flaky internet connection (we were both in Jakarta at that time) he managed to cut it into 805 words. “I leave the last 5 to you”, he said. I finally cut it down to 790 words and sent it by January 1. Signed, sealed, delivered.
Days came and went, I took my own sweet time waiting for a response. Well, they would tell me when it was about to be published, wouldn’t they? Then I could prepare to buy a copy of the paper, and cut the part and frame it. (I was serious)
On January 4th, another friend of mine Joe posted a link to an article on my wall. It first seemed foreign. But they kept my conversation bits at the beginning, and then I knew. This is my stuff! After editing and changing some stuff, of course. But they published it!
Excited and confused, I emailed the news editor again, asking about payment and whatnots. I wondered whether they can transfer the payment to my sister’s account (I don’t have an Indonesian bank account anymore), or if they’re not comfortable with it, they can wire it to my Singapore account. Translation – please save me trouble and send it to my Singapore account. Then I also asked whether they can tell me how I can get a copy of past issues. Translation – give me a copy please.
I learned not to use the hinting language too much. The money finally got transferred to my sister’s account (actually I haven’t confirmed this) and I didn’t get a copy of that particular issue. Speaking of which – anyone got one? You can scan and send it to me! It was January 4 2011 edition.
My takeaway? I can only say – I feel lucky. This was my very first attempt and somehow the universe or the guy up there decided to give me a lovely chance. Did my ego some good, seriously.
All in all, an interesting experience. I think I like it. May I experience it more. Let’s write!
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