Thursday, April 2, 2009

Taking a break ...

Whooftah! Just have to take a break from filling in (what has turned out to be) an extensive application to be a free-lance blogger for the "Examiner", an online news source that launched in April of last year.

I got to the point (almost at the very end) where the application read, "To demonstrate your subject matter expertise, in 200-300 words, please write a brief article within your niche using a local angle," and I thought, "Ye Gods! Now they want me to submit another article, when I have already written* going on 500!!" I - literally - could not continue. I could not bring myself to write another word for that application. I'll come back to it, of course, but it will be later ... much later!

*I'm referring to "Goldenrod's thoughts" here. The 'going on 500' were not all on the subject of bridge, of course, the area of expertise in which I am applying. Most specifically, I would like to submit articles on duplicate bridge in Houston and the surrounding areas. Only 16 of the 485 that I have previously published were labeled "Bridge".

Why am I feeling so frustrated? Well, 1) even tho their ad read that a Bachelor's degree was 'desired', it was not until I reached #4 (see below) that I was asked to state my education credentials. 2) I was asked how long I had lived in Houston and then - to prove how long it had been, I guess! - to provide an 'insider's tidbit of knowledge' about the city. After thinking and thinking and thinking yet some more, I finally wrote, My goodness! You'd think that, especially as a taxicab driver for almost 18 of those years, I could think of something!! Hang on a sec, OK? All right, let's go with this. Houston might be the largest city in the US that has no zoning ... all governed by deed restrictions. Is that lame or what? I mean, I ask you! Lame, right? :(

3) I was asked, "What would you like to write about? Why will readers will be interested and care about what you write? How will you enrich their lives?" My answer? Ever since Warren Buffett and Bill Gates announced their 'love affair' with duplicate bridge and teamed up as partners, the whole world - but most particularly those of us here in the US - has sat up and taken notice. The game of bridge has no age or physical constraints, other than that of mental acuity. Through my own (almost life-long) passion for the game, I can offer hope and encouragement for the timid, insights into the world of duplicate bridge, profiles of the many studios as well as individual teachers here in the Houston area and even post Q&A-type columns once a week if there's a demand. Bridge is a wonderful way to meet people and stretch your mind's capabilities.

4) The next section of the application went on to read, "Examiners (I would be listed as an 'examiner') are credible experts in their chosen topics. They are passionate, dedicated and possess a deep background in the topics they write about. What experience, degree (only mention of a degree!) or background makes you qualified to write about your topic?" I answered, I have been playing bridge for almost 68 years ... ever since I was tall enough to see over the top of a card table while standing! Although I am not playing nearly as often as I once did, I am a Life Master and would rank my game as "A+" on defense, "A" on declarer play and "B+" on bidding. I have taught bridge for many many years. Have one private beginning class going at the present time, and am enjoying 'mentoring' at a bridge studio near my home once or twice each month.

5) Next, the application read, "What insight, perspective or approach can you offer readers that will make what you write more compelling than what they can find elsewhere? What makes you different?" At this point I have to tell ya, guys, that I was waning. Still, however, I made an attempt to answer the question. I wrote, I'm not sure if anything would make me 'different', per se, other than my - or so I've been told by others - unique writing style.

6) I was asked to create three unique headlines I could/would write for my topic. Really searching here, I came up with a) Bridge?? Why me? Why now? b) Join the club! and c) Teaching an old dog new tricks!

I was stopped deader than a doornail by their request for a 200-300 word 'brief article within my niche using a local angle'. I'm telling you, deader than the proverbial doornail! Ugh! Absolutely had to take a break! (Manana es otro dia, right? Right.)

You know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of when - 40+ years ago - my ex-husband, who was teaching at Ohio State University at the time, was asked to fill out an application for a government grant to fund a research project for his department.

He brought it home with him because there were so many pages and so many blanks that had to be filled out. He hadn't wanted to take the time out of his teaching day to do it. Didn't think it was fair to his students, and of course it wasn't!

On about the 35th or 36th page - hope you understand that I'm exaggerating here, but not one whole heck of a lot! - and tired of the same question being asked for the gazillionth time, he finally started making up answers. "Who was your father?" "Santa Claus." "Your mother's maiden name?" "Mary Mary quite contrary." Stuff like that. I kid you not! He had had it up to his eyeballs with the government's bureaucracy, unnecessary forms and paperwork.

The head of his department had to okay the application and really didn't want to send it in. He said, "I can understand how you might feel like this, but really!" My husband insisted, "Send it in just as it is. I'm not spending another second on this worthless piece of ****!"

Do you want to know what became of that application? It was approved!

Now, I certainly have not spent the time on this application that my husband did on his, but I'm going to call it a day. Will tackle it again tomorrow when I have a fresher perspective. Two more essay-type questions to reply to, the second of which is a bio. That one will be easy!


Craig Peihopa said...

Whew Goldenrod,
If you were here, I would suggest I take you out to a lovely restaurant and share a wonderful meal with you, then you could feel refreshed, go home, catch a fine nights sleep and face the day anew.

I loved that the grant was approved! What does that say about those who approved it! perhaps they could see through the psychobabble and maybe even it was planned that way! to put off would be applicants!

Polimom said...

Wasn't there a recent bridge tournament in Houston? I don't know whether there was anything of interest in that event, but it would be a local twist on the subject area (maybe?).

Also -- if somebody wanted to learn to play bridge in the Houston area, but wasn't particularly interested in big "clubs", how could one go about that?

Just thinking out loud...

Funny story about that grant. I'm utterly unsurprised that it was approved.


Goldenrod said...

One of these years, Craig, we'll get a chance to go out to a lovely restaurant together. I firmly believe that!

I'm feeling a whole lot better today (knew I would!), but the time is rapidly slipping by. It's going on 5pm already. Had to get up early to pick up two of my long-timey customers that I see about once a year, sometimes twice, wait while they conducted their business and then take them back to Hobby Airport. I am far and away at my best, writing-wise, in the mornings - sometimes even in the wee hours, so today was a total writeoff as far as creative productivity is concerned. Won't be tackling that application again until possibly as late as Monday. I'll be doing a post later on, altho it might not get published until tomorrow afternoon - we'll see, that'll tell about my day and talk a little bit about the coming weekend.

I'm not going to say another word about the government, grants or psychobabble (good word).

Polimom, I've thought some more (quite a bit more, actually) about that application ... my computer 'ate it', by the way! Our electricity went on and off 3 or 4 times in an hour yesterday afternoon. (However, sneaky me had already copied the part I had completed, so no creative energy was wasted. It'll be an easy matter to bring up a new one and fill in the blanks, changing a word or two here and adding a few thoughts there.)

Yes, there was a very large tournament here in Houston last month which attracted bridge players from all over the world, but that's old news and you know what they say about old news (= no news).

If I'm hired to do this, and it would be very much on a free-lance or contract basis, my first article would be one of self- introduction, the world of duplicate bridge as it exists in Houston, the many opportunities to both play and learn and a little bit about the ACBL. I would probably make a couple of links to online bridge sites. I would probably mention the recently-held national bridge tournament and how rare that is. Houston hosts one regional and three sectional tournaments each year, but we won't be hosting a national again any time soon.

I would go on to list what I envision my blog would be like in the coming weeks and months. I'd want to include features on the many bridge studios (one at a time), the individual bridge teachers and where they teach, blurbs about upcoming tournaments and special events, interesting bridge players in Houston (world famous, very young, very old, travels), cruises, maybe a joke or two or a funny story and invite questions of a general as well as specific nature. I might even think of some more stuff between now and when it comes time to tackle that application again.

It'll definitely be duplicate-oriented, but I won't neglect mentioning the literally hundreds of places in Houston where one can take beginning lessons or just get together to play socially.

They will expect three or four articles a week and there's a lot to talk about.

If there's anyone else reading this post or these comments who has an idea or two about what else such a blog might include, your suggestions would be more than welcome.

Tammy said...

You are very determined and qualified...I hope you are able to finish the mile-long "paperwork" in applying for this job and that you will be hired.

On the grant story, like Polimom said, I too am "utterly unsurprised that it was approved." Still chuckling over the whole story...