14. August 2007 · Comments Off on Why Writers Turn to Drink · Categories: Domestic, General, Home Front, Rant, Veteran's Affairs

(deteted and re-posted to allow comments. Punctuation in the title messes up the comments. Don’t know why, just one of the laws of the universe)

Or this one would, if it weren’t a weekday. Besides the slow corrosive frustration of dealing with the various submissions processes of the big literary-industrial complex over the past year with very little to show for it but a tall pile of incompetently Xeroxed rejection slips with totally lame apologias and indecipherable signatures, there is one enormous frustration coming to a boil.

This frustration has been sitting in my metaphorical in-box like a pile of cat poop for a while. It’s as if someone is trying to send me a message; the cats do this when the litter box gets a little rancid. They usually do it on the rug in front of the TV stand, though. This is more of a psychic pile of poop, with a long history attached.

That is, if this last March can be said to be history. This is when a friend of mine at the ratio station where I part-time referred me to his own week-day place of employment, a local monthly magazine of stupendous glossiness and cachet. He told me that they were always looking for good free-lance writing, and what with one thing and another, the editor liked one of my story pitches, and so I wound up with an assignment for a not inconsiderable payment – well, it was about as much as I make as part-time office help in a week of workdays. All clear so far: got the assignment in March, did the work in April (including a re-write) for a deadline in early June and publication in the July issue, with payment to follow publication. So – not getting paid when the article was accepted (as does one of the other enterprises that I do work for occasionally) but the following month. Hokay, so another four weeks.

The exact timing of payment for the article became a little iffy, when we actually got to July. When I asked, my friend allowed casually that he usually got paid for his stuff during the first week of the month. The editor, when pressed by e-mail, responded casually “oh, sometime this month“. And the invoice they sent to me to fill out and fax back to them so they could process the check said (in smallish print at the bottom) to expect payment up to six weeks after the issue in which the invoiced story was on the newsstand. Which bumped the whole thing back to August; especially if there is some quibbling about what actually constitutes the meaning of the phrase and the precise date of “hitting the newsstand”.

So, picture this: I am going down to the mailbox and hovering over our kindly postal-worker every day that I am working at home for the last two weeks, expecting a check, planning a quick trip to the bank just in case. My plans for that check include buying some blogads advertising space, a box of printed postcards to send out to market it directly, and a good few extra copies of the book to send out for reviews. I’ve lined up a good few promises of reviews from an assortment of bloggers and friends. The next step of my strategy depends on this and the fact that I have not been able to move ahead – because I am waiting on this payment – is sending me absolutely spare with frustration.

So, yesterday, still no check. It’s the 14th of August and halfway through the month. That six weeks is pretty much up, by a strict definition. Polite e-mail to the editor, asking where is my payment for the story I did in July.

Reply, which can be rephrased thusly: “Oh dear, so very sorry. Thought you had been paid ages ago – but our office manager is off today. I’ll ask her tomorrow, when she is in.” It is not a good sign when it looks like a situation is setting up to drag on forever and ever – especially when I’ve been to this getting-paid-for-freelance rodeo before.

I was stiffed on payment for another writing assignment recently – this was text for a website and the end client apparently stiffed the web-designer after promising a check in full for months – and I was gaffed off for months, re-sending invoices and reminders about the measly $30 that I was owed, before the designer finally threw in the towel and admitted that he had never been paid either. I can write off a piddling amount like that, but the payment from the glossy monthly is a little more substantial.

Not enough to take them to small-claims over, but too much to just walk away from. And the most frustrating, drive-your-fist-through-a-sheet of drywall part is that I can’t really make as much fuss over this as I would like. I can’t go off on my friend, after all, and I can’t really go off on the editor if I want future writing assignments from her – which is looking less and less appealing, actually, as this whole thing drags on. Is this a game they do with the other free-lance writers? They could probably go on for years, burning one or two an issue. It’s all about renewable resources, I guess.

There is still the faint hope that I might actually be paid, or be paid for other work in future. Writers like me are disposable; we can’t be prima donnas throwing spectacular temper tantrums all over the office, not if it sinks the chance of getting writing work with another local magazine, another editor. I do not write for validation – I already have that. Or for exposure – ditto. I write for money – and in this case, it was money I wanted in my hot little hand two weeks ago. Now I know how illegal aliens feel when their employer is dicking around with paying them for work already done.

It’s half-past nine here, and still no response from yesterday’s e-mail.

Update: Eleven forty-five, no email response all morning, so called the offices and spoke to the office manager. Apparently my payment is on a list which has to be approved by someone or other. I may have a check by Friday at the earliest. Or maybe Monday.

I am so not happy.

Further Update: Oh, well… not until Monday. The guy who signs off on all the checks is just this very week in surgury. How very convienient! And I am not any happier BTW!

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