The Raven Lunatic

Still trying to figure it all out

Bernadine Spitzsnogel

Bernadine Spitzsnogel
December 01
All material on "The Raven Lunatic" blog is copyrighted by the author. Author of "The Luxury of Daydreams"--available on amazon and all major book sites.


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OCTOBER 28, 2011 4:28PM

Why I Became the World's Oldest Cub Reporter

Rate: 28 Flag

 message-image_Royal_1950s_Pink1On January 30, 2009, Jon Stewart pontificated on the “The Daily Show” about the large number of Fortune 100 companies that cut people on that day. 

That morning,  I was told to sit by the phone at home between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m. EST and wait for my call to learn my career future.

I worked for a Fortune 100 company that sliced and baked 4,000 sales reps that day.  My district manager called me at precisely 9 a.m. and read from a prepared text. 

Everyone knows the drill.  His manager called him the day before with the same outcome.

My company computer was shut off within 24 hours, and the 2007 Ford Taurus that was my company car wasn’t to move from my driveway after that Friday. I was lucky to be provided with a year’s worth of health insurance at employee premiums, but all the stock options I had earned as “bonus” were worthless that day, under water the entire time I had to exercise them.  A decade of bonus money drowned. 

That fall the company’s president was ousted and given $187 severance million package to walk away.

Mine wasn’t quite that much. 

As corny as it sounds,  in “The Sound of Music” the Reverend Mother tells the postulate Maria, “When God shuts a door, He opens a window.”  While the elegant Captain von Trapp wasn’t on the other side of that window, our slide out of the upper middle class offered me an opportunity to pursue my dreams as a writer.

Thirty-plus years ago I graduated from college with a degree in journalism, but ran screaming from the low wage opportunities directly into sales and marketing. People tend to fall back on what we know, and I love telling stories. So, at fifty-plus years old, I became the world's oldest cub reporter, the Grandma Moses of local journalism.

A South Carolina newspaperman named Dan Brown (no, not that Dan Brown!) gave me some advice.  “Contact a newspaper and tell them you will write for free,” he told me.  Oh, you mean “The New Yorker” is not waiting for my prolific prose?

Once I accepted that I wasn’t Joan Didion, I contacted a newspaper I interned for in college, a local daily in my hometown.  I started writing nostalgia pieces, and soon developed a fan base. My column "The Raven Lunatic" is now in eight small newspapers, and published every two weeks.

  Readers suggested I publish a collection, and my book “The Luxury of Daydreams” came out last July and remains in the top ten best sellers on the publisher’s web site. While self-published, I received great reviews and am now making money.  I didn't try to get a traditional publishing contract, aware of the odds against me.

I joined Open in fall 2009, unaware that I would meet the most amazing, talented, and engaging people from all over the world.

Fresh clips (er, links) in hand, I approached some local magazines in a larger town, and now write regularly for a number of area and regional publications.  While I’ll never make the salary I made, I am making a living.  I have many opportunities for work, and my reach and reputation is growing in a positive way.

The work is very fulfilling; as an independent contractor I can say "yes" or "no" to assignments.  I am able to write about what interests me, and am not tied into the "golden handcuffs" that gave me fewer choices in my life.  On a personal level, I am able to be more involved in the community and I have more time for family. 

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I love this! It is encouraging for everyone who needs to start out fresh.
If you are willing to share - how do you feel now? Do you miss things about corporate-world? Does the writing feel natural? I realize this is a whole post to answer, probably, but I'm curious about what the internal transformations process was like.
Keri, I added a paragraph based on your suggestion.
You are an inspiration. And a wonderful writer. ~r
Well you know how I feel about you.-RRRRR-
Brillliant, Amy! And it led to a book! Brava! (I just used up my day's quota of exclamation points!)
Love this. It gives me hope for a shot at making some money for writing. Nice to hear that someone is making progress in a path they love. This sounds like a good Second Career Open Call.

Hat's off!

You're an inspiration, Bea! I know you put a lot of work into this, and I am glad to hear it is paying off.
How wonderful to be free to write what you want and to be paid for it, too. I hope it is handsomely. Good for you!
If Frank Capra was still alive he would have made a movie about you. Meryl Streep could play you, and I could play myself as your smart mouthed wise cracking internet friend.
Good for you! I truly do believe that the closing of one door leads to the opening of another one. You are a damn good writer! The corporation lost a treasure when they let you go.
Amy, I especially loved hearing "the rest of the story." You got some great advice, to offer those services for free, because in the end they paid off in ways you wouldn't have imagined. That's an entirely different kind of stock option. Not everyone can write for a living. Some of us write to live.
Good for you. That was quite inspirational... I'm glad I read it. R.
This piece gives me so much hope - and it makes me very, very happy for you! It's also excellent to know that a talented writer like yourself - not only talented, but with so much heart that comes through what she writes - can make a living doing what she loves.
A tale of rising from the ruins and making yourself into something maybe even bettger. Great story.
What a terrific story! And so very well told!

I am becoming a firm believer in the windows/doors theory, and I've seen it and experienced it over and again. And here's an instance in which the good (corporate job) is the enemy of the best (your life now).

I wondered if you felt angry or depressed before moving on, or at any time after. It sounds as if you didn't waste time feeling sorry for yourself.

I admire your persistence; you are inspiring.
How the heck did I miss this:?! You, my dear are pure inspiration. Thanks for sharing this. Sometimes I think I miss the rat race, then again....I feel better now. :)
Back when I was a reporter I was researching an article on food stamps---and discovered that, on my salary, I qualified. That's when I switched career plans.
Great, inspirational post! Congratulations! I like Con Chapman's comments as well; a fellow cub reporter (many moons ago) discovered that very same thing about food stamps and told us about it one early, early morning at work. We were certainly wide-eyed and speechless. R
I love this story for many reasons.
I'm so glad you are doing what makes you happy, Amy. It's interesting you got good advice from a newspaperman named Dan Brown; my first editor is named Peter Jackson. Best to you.
A, Great article. You didn't mention that you also have time now for coffee or lunch with your friends. See you soon.
I support everything you wrote except the working for free advice. That effectively undercuts the profession you want to be in, and makes it much harder for others to do what you have done.
I used to share a castle with a cub reporter, but he drove me batty.
Great story, great read. Love!
Good for you, kiddo!!!
I can see why you developed a loyal following...add me to the list! R.
This is very inspiring! Thanks!