Thursday, March 16, 2006

Barney Days

The funniest thing I unearthed during my recent mucking out of the office also serves as a vivid reminder of why I'm doing what I'm doing now, and why I'd fight tooth and nail not to go back to my old career.

I found a stuffed Barney (the dinosaur) toy.

No, I don't have preschoolers. Barney was the mascot for the PR team with my biggest client back in my PR agency days. These were the boom years for the and Internet-related industries. The client company did actually have a product, and did actually apparently occasionally sell it (unlike a lot of similar companies), but most of what we announced seemed to be strategic partnerships with other companies. I wrote a lot of strategic partnership news releases that went along the lines of, "This company and that company have formed a strategic partnership (or alliance) to better address a particular market niche." Then the CEO of this company would say something about how great it is to work with that company, and then the CEO of that company would say something about how great it was to work with this company. Only, neither of them actually said it because I wrote all the quotes. Sometimes the news release would actually go out, but more often it got held up in the legal departments of the various companies that were involved.

The PR director at my client started calling these "Barney releases." You know, "I love you, you love me." So Barney became our mascot, and the PR director even gave everyone on the PR team a stuffed Barney doll. I'm not a fan of Barney, but the doll really is quite soft and cuddly, and I found that I could better tolerate writing all those awful news releases if I did so with Barney sitting in my lap. It was also nice to be able to throw Barney against the wall when I had to re-write the same release for the hundredth time, often late at night.

The Barney thing did cause me some embarrassment at one point. This client company was holding a big event in New York, and I had to go there to be on stand-by to write news releases on the spot in case any strategic alliances broke out. I threw Barney into my suitcase to keep me company on the trip. You have to have your mascot present, right? Plus, I knew Barney would be hitting the wall at some point. I got to La Guardia, and my suitcase didn't show up. They were pretty sure it was on the next flight, but I still had to file the full lost luggage report. In addition to giving them a description of the bag, they wanted me to describe some things that were in the bag, just in case. I'd packed the usual business travel wardrobe that mostly consisted of black slacks and some sweaters. I couldn't remember anything in particular that would stand out to make it obvious that this was my bag. But then I remembered Barney. I sheepishly told the baggage person that there was a stuffed Barney toy in the suitcase. She gave me a funny look, so I went on to clarify -- The purple dinosaur? Like the kiddy show? She gave me an even funnier look, but I knew the explanation wouldn't make much sense, so I just shrugged it off as an inside joke for the event I was going to. I'm not sure she bought it.

Fortunately, the bag did come in on the next flight, and they delivered it to my hotel. That was really lucky because that flight was the last one to come in before they closed all the airports. There was supposed to be a huge blizzard on the way (which ended up fizzling out), and New York was battening down the hatches. The event we'd gone there for had to be cancelled, but we couldn't leave because of the anticipated storm, so Barney and I were trapped at the Plaza for a couple of days.

About a year later, that company moved to another agency, which meant I got laid off. That was when I decided to really devote myself to writing instead of finding another job. And here I am. Barney's back on the bookshelf where he belongs to remind me that no matter how bad my deadlines may seem, this is still more fun than writing tons of Barney news releases.

In other news, I'm wondering what's going on with the noisy next-door neighbor. Every time I've gone into my bedroom in the last couple of days, the radio has been playing -- mid-afternoon, early morning, mid-morning, midnight. I'm starting to wonder if she's out of town and left a radio playing so robbers will think someone's home or maybe if she's out of town and forgot to turn off her alarm on the clock radio, so it's gone off and is now playing non-stop. I guess she could just be home and listening to the radio a lot. Or maybe she's lying dead on the floor in there with the radio blaring (I may have read too many mystery novels). I know I'm going to be aggravated if it turns out I can't get any peace and quiet even when she's not home.


Stacey said...

Hi Shanna,
I loved Enchanted, Inc. I was fortunate enough to get an ARC at last year's RT. I finished it before I even left the convention!

I have kind of a strange question for you. I thought I'd read at some point that you were doing freelance writing as well as writing books (I could be remembering wrong, though). As a writer who's always had a day job and is now contemplating a shift toward freelancing to give myself more time for my books (one published, a few more in process), do you have any suggestions on how to combine the two? I don't want freelancing to take over, but I need the money it brings in.

With a day job, it was a little easier to define. I'd write for a couple hours before I left the house in the morning. Now...with the prospect of a freeform work day, I'm a little freaked out! *grin* Any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks.

Stacey K.
P.S. if I have you mixed up with another author regarding the whole freelancing issue, then please disregard all of this! : )

Shanna Swendson said...

I did freelance corporate communications writing until my novel writing took off. It wasn't a hard transition to make because I'd been telecommuting for my agency job for a couple of years before I got laid off and started freelancing. I pretty much kept working in the same way when I went out on my own. I worked on my freelance projects when I had them and when there was a deadline, and then when I wasn't working on those things, I wrote. I didn't worry about keeping a set schedule.

It just takes a lot of self-discipline to make sure you're getting everything done when you don't have a boss nagging you, but considering I once worked for a "Mimi," that's a trade-off I was willing to make!

Lately, I've had the luxury of being able to turn down projects because my fiction writing is keeping me so busy and is paying the bills.

Stacey said...

Hi Shanna,
That helps, thank you! It also helps to hear that someone has managed to do what I'm hoping to do. So, I'm going to do my best to follow in your footsteps. *grin*

I'm a corporate copywriter at the moment. I've worked from home in the past. Not on a regular basis or anything, but enough to know I can keep myself on track without anyone looking over my shoulder.

Thank you again for letting me know your thoughts. Are you going to be attending RT this year? If so, I will try to find you and introduce myself.


Shanna Swendson said...

Yes, I'll be at RT! Do try to find me and say hi. I'm not good in large crowds, so I may be the one cowering in a corner (hopefully with a cover model to console me, but only if I can find a straight one who isn't too oiled up).

Stacey said...

"but only if I can find a straight one who isn't too oiled up"

Ha, ha!!! Last year was my first RT, and Linnea Sinclair told me my eyes were about to pop out of my head when I saw all of the cover models walking around--some of them were indeed very shiny!

I will definitely keep an eye out for you. I'm not fond of large crowds either, so we may end up hiding in the same corner!