Date:      Tuesday, May 18, 1999 (11:07 a.m. EST)
To:          Awraris
From:     Sofanit
Subject: "What am I doing here?"

Ye kebere selamta, Awararis:

That subject line is not meant to tease you about upcoming existentialist homilies. Really. What I meant to say is, "What am I doing here on 'Life Diaries'?" I specifically remember respectfully declining this opportunity, but somehow, SELEDA bullies have gotten the better of me, so here I am. I assume you were the recipient of their plea-cum-psychological-blackmail message, too?

I guess we should start off with polite introductions. Ahem. Greetings from New England, where I am on a self-imposed exile from the corporate rat race. Like every pimply-faced, Liberal Arts major right out of school, I headed to the Big City ready to conquer the publishing world. (Chick schools do that to you. But, we best leave matters of prissy, all-girl educational institutions to after we've known each other a little better.)

Until about six months ago I lived in New York City, working at one of those mammoth-and-impersonal publishing firms as an editor. Mainly, I worked in what was the non-fiction "development shop", where ideas for books are sorted out/screened, and then pushed on for further analysis (or "autopsy" as we call it). I spent about four years in non-fiction overlooking the travel and entertainment department before accepting a position in the more high-profile fiction side of the world. Ironically, that's when things started to unravel. (I'll spare you the sordid details.)

Anyway, a total of seven years and change was all I could muster of working in a Big Shop. In January, I upped and quit. My friends think it's a mid-life crisis come early and gone seriously haywire… (and that is one of their more charitable theories…), but the low down is a little more complicated (I hope): maybe it was a combination of realizing how banal an existence I was living; acute disgust with how the publishing world operates; and disillusionment with the very flimsy moral center of the corporate world, (piety comes my way easy)… I bailed.

No matter. The end result being me running back to the relative safety of familiar New England. I'm working on opening my own little shop, which will focus on publishing short stories by women (especially African) writers.

Work is out of my not-quite-renovated attic, so my commute is exactly how long it takes my lazy butt to amble on upstairs balancing a bowl of coffee, the New York Times and whatever left-over has not molded in my fridge.

I spend a bulk of my time on the Internet and in musty library stacks researching 'third world' women writers, talking to agents and reading endless scripts. I either work 18-hour days, or, when the spirit does not move me, exactly zero hours. (On beautiful days like today, I am at the local college, reading on the library steps or at the gym.)

I love New England. I live in what most people would think of as a typical New England town: pretty trees, prettier streets, even pretty street signs; with neurotic academics for neighbors to complete the picture. I've always wanted to live near water, so I fell in love with this house the minute I saw it. (It's steps away from a beautiful lake and not much else.) Many a times, when I have been filled with trepidation, the water has been my solace. I find it calming and serene, and boy has it worked on these frayed, Manahattanite nerves!

I am also a first-time homeowner, and with that spanky title comes the kind of responsibility I have no business undertaking. (What does a bratty Manhattanite know about copper plumbing and re-wiring fuse boxes? The most I ever did was pass a bulb to my Super while he was changing a burnt one in my hallway.) I am on first name basis with all the guys at the hardware store here, who must bet on what the stupidest question I've asked has been.

Anyway, I know when to give up, so I've delegated all house matters to the local fix it guy/handyman, who, except for insisting on telling me all the painful details of my leaky faucet, is a remarkably able guy. In fact, I am writing to you as I wait for him to come back to fix the hardware on my claw-foot tub. Apparently, something is leaking somewhere… That's all I know, and frankly, ALL I want to know. (I know I complain, but I think I secretly love it.)

Has this been polite enough?

Now, except for a year in college playing lacrosse, I have been out of the sports world for quite a while, so I can't imagine what a 'sports marketing person' does all day. (That was how you were described to me by the editors, Awraris. I am not being trite.) I'm sure you'll let me know.

Hey, I am very worried about us going down in the annals of "Life Diaries" as the writers who nodded the most people to sleep, so pep it up, mister.

I'll talk to you soon.
Patiently awaiting a handyman,


Date:        Tuesday, May 18, 1999 (6:17 p.m.)
To:           Sofanit
From:      Awraris
Subject: What SELEDA Bullies???

Teynayestilign, Sofanit…

(I did wonder about your subject line.) Yes, I was at the receiving end of the esteemed SELEDA editors' email, which, um, persuaded (?) me with very convincing language that I should be a guest diarist. (And I'm sure you didn't mean to call them 'bullies'.)

(Just between you and me, Sofanit, I run into one the editors around town, and I have been told that unless I want my tires slashed, and/or ticking packages delivered to my house, I will do as I am told. So, please, don't get me into any trouble.)

Salutations from downtown Atlanta… not quite the hub of life like New York City, but we try hard. (or is it try harder?… I'm not crazy about being paired off with an editor, whose life work it is to pick apart unconjugated verbs. Can I apologize in advance for all my grammatical faux pas?)

Back to polite introductions… 'A sports marketing person' (well, at least THIS sports marketing person) works in promoting companies/products at different sporting events. Consumer product companies like Coca-Cola/Budweiser as well as service based clients like Merrill Lynch and John Hancock sponsor a lot of major sports events (marathons, track, golf… never thought of Lacrosse, but, er, I'm sure someone will). The marketing people come in to promote the product at the event, have the athletes/players wear our client's gear, and basically have a schmooze fest. You'd be surprised at how methodically planned some of the more 'spontaneous' events in sports are: from the towels the athletes use, to the cola or water brands at the TV booth with announcers, there is always some marketing guy/gal manipulating the subconscious.

It's not always pretty, and the fierce competition is enough to drive a less sane person to binge drink, and there is a part of me that envies you enormously. A lot of us would like to drop everything and live in the alph-alpha fields yon wonder, but few of us have had the guts to do it, so, I commend you!

I worked in the corporate world for a long time… all of my 20's…, until, like you, I had to break loose. I decided to start my own little firm, and it was singularly THE most frightening experience I've been through. I am sure you've realized six months into this gig, working for yourself allows you to go to the office in flannel jammies, but all the responsibility being on me sometimes makes me wish I was still a hired gun somewhere. (What does a financial non-wizard like me know about other peoples 401ks? I still use a piggy bank.)

It's been a couple of years since I cut the corporate umbilical cord, and breathing with my own two lungs has progressively gotten a little easier. (On good days now, I actually get to sleep a solid four-five hours.) There are five of us in the firm. I went to college (a PUBLIC, co-ed university, mind you) with two of the guys. The others are the office manager and the receptionist. Everyone gets along, pretty much, except that they all get paranoid when I start talking in Amharic on the phone with my family, or, taking a clue from our predecessors, have Amharic print-outs on my desk. Then the whole "What was it like in Ethiopia?" interrogation starts, and there no coming back.

Oddly enough, our days have some similarities… not that I dare compare my mindless, thoughtless, crass-commercial ventures with the piety of profound literary undertakings…I spend half my life on the phone with marketing ferrets/advertising and creative directors, as well as nervous special events firms people. I deal with some agents, though we have a guy at the office who is more adept at handling pre-Madonna athletes than I, so I leave it to his senses.

(How many typos have you found so far?)

After years of living in the cookie-cutter-no-personality Atlanta 'burbs, I finally came to my senses and moved closer in to downtown (nine blocks from the converted warehouse that is the office). I will try to commiserate with you on all the drama involved in homeownership, but I gotta tell ya, that chapter of my life where Saturdays cannot pass without a pilgrimage to Home Depot is over! I keep my apartment building's maintenance office phone number on speed dial, and the only lawn I want to see is the one I am flopping on with a cold beer in hand.

Downtown Atlanta is a great place to work, but a so-so place to live. Although the Olympics and the economic u-turn that usually occurs after hosting such an international event has been berry berry good to "the capital of the South", downtown Atlanta is still nowhere close to what a thriving metropolis its size should be. Restaurants are pooping up, and the theater scene is acceptable, but it is still a ghost town on weekends. (I believe it was your very own neftegna 'Yankee' New York Times which compared our fair city to a urinal. No offense taken.)

Atlanta offers a lot of opportunities for people of color, with the usual caveats, of course. Morehouse and Spelman colleges being here has helped build a solid black middle class. I've actually grown very fond of Atlanta, except that the mass and unbelievably rapid development has been the source of many headaches. Ask some of your friends about traffic on I285.

I'm heading off to a late meeting so I'll stop here. I hope I've touched on my work "briefly yet thoroughly" enough. (Have to do as the nice and gentle editors say. Tires are expensive.)

I am sure we'll do fine as Diarists. When in doubt add something steamy, is my rule of thumb.

Have a great evening.

Not worrying about whether my pipes will freeze or not,
I remain ,
Yours truly,


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