Once Upon a Raindrop, Part II
(So I had to leave for my softball game before I could write any more…didn’t seem right to finish it outside the press. Or maybe that is the end. Who knows?)
Wired Beyond Her Years
When I first contacted Maren Jinnett via e-mail, she confessed, “When I saw the subject line, I assumed it was an interview request for Chris (a normal occurrence!)….” Chris Anderson might be the king of free, but Maren, at only 23, maintains his kingdom. Maren moved to California in October of 2008. After five months of interning at Wired, she was promoted from gadgets intern to her current position as Anderson’s assistant. The following excerpts were taken from a phone interview on March 16, 2010.
Alexa: So, what is your typical day like as Assistant to the Editor in Chief?
Maren: It’s sort of a complicated answer because my typical day can really vary. Chris travels a ton. And depending on any given month, he may be in the office a minimum of six business days all the way up to a maximum of maybe 15. There’s almost no month that goes by that he’s in the office every single business day and sometimes he’s barely here at all.
A: What is it like when he’s in the office?
M: The bottom line with the job is that I have to split my brain into however many pieces are required of me on any given day, and one of those pieces is always where’s Chris and where should Chris be. So definitely, while I’m doing everything else, I have to keep an eye on conference calls that he needs to be on, or meetings that he needs to go to, or anyone who’s in front of me who’s asking to see him in that given moment…A lot of what I do is being sort of his gatekeeper. I make sure that he gets [to] places on time. I make sure that he’s—it sounds crazy, but I make sure he’s doing his homework. Like, I make sure he’s reading the parts of the magazine he’s supposed to read, that he’s handing off presentations that are due for speeches he’s about to give…I book all of his travel; so given that he does travel a lot, I usually have to make sure that I’m managing buying his tickets, creating itineraries for him so he knows what to do.
I think people are often really surprised when they realize that Chris literally has no idea what he’s doing from one minute to the next. He outsources that part of his brain to me. He’ll just come right up to me and say, “so what do I do next?” I literally manage every step that he takes. It frees him up to come up with all sorts of other things like ideas for the magazine.
A: And when he’s not around?
M: God, what else do I do? I handle freelance travel, I run pitch meetings—mostly logistics. I do research for Chris. So, research for story ideas, research for book ideas. But it’s very much the kind of job that as long as you can multitask and manage a ton of tiny details at once and be open to kind of going with the flow [with] whatever gets thrown at you, then no two days really do look the same.
A: What is it like being such a young assistant?
M: You know, it’s hard for me because I got picked from the intern pool to be his assistant. People had previously seen me as the intern they mostly ignored. It took me a while to kind of feel like people did respect me. And the person at my job before me was about ten years older than I was. And I knew that I was probably one of the youngest assistants [Chris] has ever had.
A: Then is age ever an issue with Chris?
M: It’s not from Chris. Chris himself is someone who is mostly in awe of people who are fairly young and seem to know what they want. In his early twenties he was, you know, in a rock band and he was a delivery boy on a bike. I mean, he just kind of did his thing and was not the person who was super ambitious and had all the internships and, you know, crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s. That was not his background. So I think because he had that experience when he was younger, when he meets someone who’s in their early twenties who is achieving at a young age I think he’s mostly in awe of them. And it’s never a question of “oh, you’re immature, I don’t respect you”; it’s “wow, good for you for having your life together at a young age. That’s impressive.” No, I don’t feel ageism from him. But it’s in the air, it’s in the environment, especially in journalism.
A: I know Wired is all about technology. How do you feel about the subject matter?
M: It’s so funny. I was super interested in tech before I moved [to San Francisco]. Here it’s technology. It’s like every single person you talk to wants to tell you about the start up they’re working on. All the guys work at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and I work at Wired and so there are times , actually, when I feel very suffocated by all tech, all the time. It was a little more fun when it was just sort of a passion and a hobby and now that I’m living in it, it’s kind of—there are moments when it’s a little too much. But it can be exciting, too.
A: How well do you think Wired has dealt with changes in the magazine market?
M: I was here in September when Condè Nast went through a big shake up, cut a ton of magazines, cut a ton of staff members. I was here through all of that. I technically have the safest position at Wired, so it was a very interesting place to be while watching everything look so shaky for everyone else. It was hard to be that close to it. A couple of editors were good friends of mine and they got laid off. It was rough for a while. But I think that Wired is perfectly positioned to sort of reinvent itself now that people are really excited about new ways of consuming media, particularly graphic-heavy media like magazines…I think magazines still have a place. And I think our magazine in particular is extremely interactive, extremely visually laden…So Wired, I think is going to be fine.
Note: This interview was cut down from approximately 44 minutes of tape.
Stay classy, San Francisco.
So my friend Amanda and I have started attending these inspirational lunches. When I say attend, what I mean is that we bring our lunches out to the Common and read to each other. We bring old poetry and new. I sing to her. Another friend tells us the story of an aggressive duck through interpretive dance. We laugh. I smile. We come up with “assignments.”
Ideas for inspirational lunch members or lunchers, as I will call them for now:
- Make up a line of poetry for a luncher; they then have to use it as the first line in their poem
- Write a response poem or song to an original piece from a fellow luncher.
- Pick a form or type of poetry and bring in a new piece the following week in that form.
- Make a list of subjects you’ve never written about, but wanted to; then write a poem using the top three topics.
- Pick a favorite poem (original or famous) and rewrite it.
- Pick a poem from childhood and rewrite it.
- Write a poem about a dream.
- Pick a color and try to express that color in a poem without using the color itself.
- Write a slam poem.
- Write a haiku, then create a longer poem from that same haiku.
- Use a photograph for inspiration.
- Open a dictionary and flip through it, choosing ten words at random. Use those ten words in a poem.
- Give a luncher a controversial topic to write about.
- Pick a news story and write a poem inspired by the headline (or use the headline as a first line).
There are hundreds, nay, thousands of ideas out there. Probably infinite, though in calculus I usually ended up approaching zero (no matter how hard I tried for the alternative). But the ideas for ideas are not really the point of these lunches. These lunches are meant to keep us writing, to snap us out of the creative funk we’re facing in the wake of finals and futures. If Amanda is anything like me, she needs to write to stay grounded. I outsource my stresses to my song lyrics. They keep me sane. And when the lyrics stop flowing, when the creative well has dried up, all that’s left is a publishing student with an empty journal and an empty heart. Just recently, I was able to transfer files from an old laptop onto my new one. What I realized in this transfer is that I was a firecracker with words when I was 11, but now? I lack opinion. I lack stance. These inspirational lunches are my way back to finding my voice, to finding me
- Choose a competitor. Pick a person in your class whose quality of work surpasses your own and then consistently try to outshine him. It can be a friend or an enemy; this doesn’t matter. It just makes you competitive, and keeps you attentive.
- Create a rewards system. For example, if I get straight A’s this semester I can buy myself the new phone I want.
- Set aside homework time. If you are watching a television show, use the commercials to do part of your assignment.
- Mix homework with chores. If you’re already doing the dirty work, just balance it out. While you’re waiting for a load to finish, do the homework. Folding clothes ends up being a pretty amazing break from studying.
- Invent time goals. Give yourself a time to finish your assignment by, sort of like a due date, but on your terms. If you don’t finish it when you said you would, you don’t go do the next thing on your list (like going to a movie).
- Write your goal on a mirror. If you have a dry erase marker, they work just as well on bathroom mirrors. Put your to-do list or goals on the side of it. Basically, every time you go to brush your teeth or fix your hair you’ll be reminded of what you have to do to succeed.
- Study with a friend who is motivated. Find a person you know can focus, and follow their lead.
“The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sleepless in Boston
I turn the heat on; vents hum to life. I wrap my legs around my covers, thrust my head into my pillow. I toss, turn; lie on my back, then my side. I glance at the clock: 6 a.m. Shit, not again. Tears. Lyrics. Sunshine peers through the slits of the blinds. I close my eyes, rest my head back to the pillow and finally, my eyelids stumble, drunk from lack of sleep.
Saturday morning, April 10: I could not sleep the night before. Bad news at bedtime; stress before sleep. Nothing new, nothing unexpected. I wrote part of a song. Inspired by a friend’s poem, inspired by life. I walk to the station. A windy day, wind so cold it makes my face hurt.
Sunday morning: It is 2 or 3 a.m. and something is happening somewhere else that breaks my heart. It is 4 or 5 a.m. A phone call. Another night I cannot sleep.
Sunday night: I think about my weekend, the good parts: the French, a clumsy Wolverine, a night with friends and artists, secret codes in Chinatown, rum cake, earrings, signatures, costumes, kind words, pictures, Montreal and beer. I smile. I fall asleep before midnight.
On the subject of dreams…
Having been unintentionally sleep deprived this weekend, I realize that I didn’t dream. So in honor of the cheesy romance associated with dreaming, I am including lyrics below that I had written in my last year of undergraduate. Quick warning: I was feeling romantic when I wrote this. The bed in this song is associated with my dorm beds; I used to jump from the top because they were lifted about four feet off the ground to create storage space.
lyrics by Alexa L., 2008
She sits upon the bed and stares straight down at you
She stares straight down and through you, babe
and cries her eyes out while she tries to speak
And teary-eyed, she blinks a bit of sympathy
but don’t be fooled, you know that she
was trying hard to say:
“Help me be the girl of your dreams
I’m making it easy, so please be good to me
I know, perfection’s in theory
But I’m making it easy, just tell me what you need.”
You stop her for a moment and gaze up at her
You gaze right up and into her
You tell her that she’s beautiful even when she sits there cryin’
You watch her as she rises from her bed,
should be within your arms instead
But she listens as you tell her, tell her, tell her
“Sweet love, you’re the girl of my dreams
You’re not making it easy
to ever let you leave
I know, perfection is hard for me
but you make it look easy
You’re everything I need”
So they moved a little closer and he stretched his hand to her
He stretched his hand to help her down
like Rapunzel and her hair
And she knew that he’d always stretch his hand to her
Be everything and all to her
He wasn’t going anywhere.
Sweet love, I’m the girl of your dreams
You’re not making it easy
to ever want to leave
I know, perfection’s in theory
but I love you completely
You’re everything I need.
I feel a little lost, a little little, like a plastic army man or a bee. I whisper “shit” under my breath, grip my umbrella like a life preserver and dive, head first, into wet. It is then my umbrella snaps backward, shifting violently with the wind. I just want to catch the damn bus; I think this while I snatch the edge of my umbrella with my open hand and tug. The wind whips at my cheeks. Cars honk. I cross. The bus zooms into nowhere. For a moment, just a moment, I am absolutely pissed at the world. Ten minutes pass. I find sanctuary in a bus seat caked with gum.
Rainy days in Boston are unusually gloomy. Here, if it’s raining, it’s probably cold. And if it’s not cold, well, it’s definitely not sunny. Today, it is cold and it is raining. And if you look out your window and see gray, my advice: check the weather forecast. Boston weather is fickle. Gray skies may imply a chill, but it is not always so; it can be gray and it can be hot.
No rain boots today. The wind is bearable. I walk out the door in jeans, a tee, a sweater, and my temperamental black umbrella that I fixed a few days prior. I pray the rain and wind stay light.
On rainy days like this, I feel 12. The world is a scary place, unpredictable and often sad. I recollect the books I read when I was young, the poetry that weathered hurricanes, family deaths, and a move that spanned almost 1500 miles. The poem below is one my grandmother, Elayne, often read to me before bed.
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Words of the Week (to be attempted at least once today in conversation)
Here’s the rub: I have this accent. Granted, I’m not Scottish, nor does it really sound like a Scottish accent, really. But I have it, and it’s mine, and it has been evolving since its first use about ten years ago at Universal Studios. Basically, I spent an entire day with my mom as her Irish daughter and got away with it. Then in the last few years, I noticed the accent crossed countries and molded into this Scottish thing.
So with my new-found Scottish appeal, I joined my mother and her friend at SeaWorld about a year ago and she asked me to put on the voice for the day. After several awkward phone calls, a whale, a fake Scottish father, and 50,376 fish; my mother’s friend, let’s call her Maureen, believed the whole ridiculous story.
This potential believability is why I still enjoy having days where I can pretend to be from somewhere else besides Florida. Problem is, some people think it’s awfully strange; I just think it’s a little risky, a wee bit fun, and a way to live another life if just a moment.
And for those of you who are willing to attempt this feat in a more acceptable setting…
Accents (or voices) to use while intoxicated:
British (and Cockney)*
California surfer-speak (it’s rad, dude)**
Whale (“You know, I speak whale”)*
Jamaican (also known as the Ms. Cleo)*
*attempted, slightly successfully
**tried, but failed
This, of course, is a limited list. Please feel free to share your own.
Warning/prayer: please avoid being offensive. Imitate with taste.