----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: My Many Jobs, Part Two

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

My Many Jobs, Part Two

Okay. So, after six months of diligently paying down my debt, I got a shot at moving back to L.A. again—for cheap! My dad and his sister owned a small apartment building on the Westside, and one of the tenants had died, so her apartment was vacant. My aunt offered to let me have it for the same rent that the woman had been paying. That tenant had been there for years, so the rent was cheap, especially for a two-bedroom. I was so excited! I know that seems a little morbid, but consider: I had never met the woman. She had lived a long life. She died of natural causes. Why should I not take her apartment?

The problem was, I moved back to L.A. without a steady job, thus necessitating even more stopgap measures. And even with cheap rent, I had to take on a roommate to lessen my financial burden. Anyway, since I had worked as a substitute teacher in my hometown (at my old high school! Bizarre.), I started subbing again in the Southland. I worked in private schools—very upper-crust. I once had a three-day assignment at The Brentwood School, and Ah-nuld Schwarzenegger’s daughter was in my class. Alas, that was before he became the governator.

In January, I found a part-time job working as an assistant for a woman who ran her own special-events company. She didn’t interview me in her office, though. We met at a Starbucks across the street. That should have been my first clue. We agreed that I would start work for her next Monday. I arrived right on time, but the office suite was locked. Finally, someone in an adjoining suite came to see why I was hanging around in the (relative) cold. He knew my boss, but he hadn’t seen her that day. So, after waiting for more than half an hour, I went home. When I checked my email, my boss said that she wouldn’t be coming in for “personal reasons.” Oookaay. She had my phone numbers—home and cell. Would it have been so difficult to call?

Things went rapidly downhill from there. Although I was hired with the understanding that I would help write all press releases and media pitch letters, I quickly learned that the bulk of my duties would consist of printing shipping labels from the UPS Web site on our low-tech printer that could attain a top speed of one page every five minutes. I also got to walk to the Postal Annex on the corner to buy stamps. (Why do I always get stuck with the shipping responsibilities?) Worst of all, my boss did not care about correct spelling or grammar! The final straw came when she sent a letter off to print without having me proofread it. It started off: “By now, you should of received your confirmation packet…” Should of? Should of? This was almost like a personal affront! Compared to that, the line, “If you have any questions or/and comments…” seemed like a harmless quirk. She was unperturbed by the error, though. When I pointed it out to her, she said that it wasn’t a big deal and she’d already made copies, so she wasn’t going to change it. That was it for that job. Oh, well…the best thing about working there had been the fresh and delicious salad bar in a restaurant right next store. I’m amazed I lasted until April!

But perhaps the most frustrating job I have held is the one from which I type this epistle right now. I was hired by a company that produces direct mail--"junk mail." Yes, it’s for a good cause, but do you really want those address labels from the American Heart Association? (I must confess that I do quite like to get the address stickers because I never buy any on my own. But I feel guilty about using them without sending a donation, so they usually just languish in a drawer.)

Anyway. I was told that I was being hired to help write and edit the direct mail letters. It wasn’t exactly journalism, but I thought it would be a good chance to develop some copywriting skills. And it paid slightly better than journalism, too. But actually, the bulk of my responsibilities involve opening Quark files and converting them into PDFs. It’s three clicks of a mouse. Not exactly mentally stimulating. It’s really more of an art production position. I am expected to line images up and move art around and adjust tracking and kerning, none of which I really know how to do. Nor did I ever claim to be able to do such things! I have very little design ability. I can’t even draw a straight line. Heck, I can’t even cut in a straight line with scissors! How can I tell (or care) if the top of the capital M in the text aligns with the top of the mountain in the logo?

One thing I don’t mind doing is making copy changes. But one of my bosses apparently thinks I am illiterate, because he makes a printout of the page I am to make changes to and then painstakingly annotates it. Then, instead of just giving it to me to make changes, he reads to me. He reads each and every change aloud, as if I cannot fully grasp the significance of these changes by just reading them myself. Here’s the other thing I wish would stop happening: I wish my other boss would stop trying to pass off copy changes as writing opportunities. One day he came to me with a piece that he claimed needed “subtle revisions.” I read it and carefully made a few changes, including rewriting a sentence, but the layout didn’t allow for much new copy. When I took it back to him, he said, “Oh, we didn’t need you to write anything new.” Hey, if you just want me to change three words, tell me to change three words. Don’t act like this is some creative feat that I am privileged to attempt.

My current job is the main reason I started this blog. After regurgitating the same copy over and over for multiple clients, I needed a more creative outlet. So here we are. And things will get more fabulous soon, I am sure. For one thing, this stifling job ends January 6. For another, I get to go to my voiceover class tonight. Love it!


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