Tag Archives: RW1

Deconstructing the Zillion-Dollar Investment That Still Hasn’t Yielded Any Damn Returns…

Recently, while I was en route to meet up with some old coworkers circa 34th and 8th, I ran into a classmate from junior high who I haven’t seen since — oh, I don’t know — 1994? And as soon as we established we were who we thought we were, she said, “Lisa! This is so weird! I was just thinking about writing you because I’m thinking about applying to journalism school…”

Sooo…long story short, I sent her the longest email ever. Which — slightly doctored — seemed like an okay blog post, too.

Et, voila.

Here it goes: The jury is still out on whether I think Columbia was worthwhile. It was certainly a good experience at the time and I met really wonderful people and made really wonderful contacts…and it’s super-quick and definitely gives you some street cred and/or a name to drop at cocktail parties…and — keep in mind that I graduated at quite possibly the single worst time ever…and *that* has definitely played into my experiences post-Columbia. But, then again, after Martha let me slip through her fingers, I was networking like a fiend, trying to drum up freelance contacts and/or a full-time job…and I met a guy who had graduated from Columbia a few years before me…and he said you have to look at it like an investment and, understandably, you can’t expect an ROI immediately. Which makes sense. But it’s not always comforting.

If I could do it again, I’d definitely do the new media program — or whatever they’re calling it now. Prior to grad school, I was a financial journalist…but only because I majored in English and wanted a writing job…and there are TONS of financial writing jobs here. (In fact, a LOT of my classmates ended up at Reuters and Bloomberg and Dow Jones…even though they’re not necessarily interested in writing about finance at all — but they need paychecks and health insurance…and this week I got not one but TWO panicked emails from friends in that situation…and had to send them peppy responses about how it’s all going to work out for us someday and that these are just the lean times…and, I mean, I hope I’m right…but I know how they feel — I, too, have my panicky moments and sort of depend on them for the same advice when *I* freak out…)

So, anyway, I went to Columbia because four years went by really fast and all of a sudden, I had backed myself into this niche and even though I told myself I wasn’t going to make a career out of venture capital or mutual funds — and I really feel that I am woefully inadequate to cover these topics as I am HORRIBLE with money — by ’06, it was all anyone trusted me to cover (…if they actually trusted me at all. Which is a whole other can o’ worms…). I really had no clips about anything else. And…a lot of people I worked with at Dow Jones had gone to Columbia, so I finally decided it was worth my while to go, too, so I could prove that I had basic reporting skills and that I *could* write about other things and I wanted to make the leap from financial reporting to Martha. (I really like baking…) And more than one person I worked with at Dow Jones didn’t actually want to be there…which didn’t seem that bad for poor Master’s-Degree-less Lisa…but I sort of looked at the Columbia grads who ended up there with pity, thinking that things would be different for me if *I* went through the program…

So…I hustled. I really did. And — I don’t know about you, but…when I graduated from college, I just sort of expected someone to give me a good job because I worked really hard in college. And, you know, if I had studied business or engineering or something, maybe that would have been the case. But, other than maybe teaching, there just isn’t a really clearly defined career path for English majors. And so I really struggled to find my way. And eventually I did…but I was determined not to let the same post-graduation slump hit after Columbia.

And, like I said — it worked…for awhile. I interned at Good Housekeeping while I was a student and I got a gig with Martha after graduation. But…then she let me go…which, in hindsight, maybe wasn’t the worst thing ever as I wasn’t enormously happy there…and, between the two gigs, I learned magazine journalism isn’t really what I want to do anyway. Which sort of ushered in another existential crisis — like, “I thought I knew what I wanted to do! And now here I am practically 30 and I was totally wrong!” And, I mean, I’m working on a book now and freelancing and whatnot…so it’s not exactly tragic…but…like I said, if I could go back in time, I’d do the new media program. I tried to sort of couch things while I was there and take the new media elective…but I got the fill-in teacher on Saturday…and the class was AWFUL and we learned NOTHING. The guy knew his stuff…he was just really bad at explaining it…and, to make up for it, he just had us create WordPress blogs…and said we could do as much or as little with them as we wanted. So…none of us really learned any valuable Web skills. So. That’s point #1.

#2: I haven’t been astonishingly impressed with Career Services — either as a student or a grad. In my first meeting, the lady looked at my resume and said, “Oh, great! You have financial reporting experience! It will be easy for you to get a job after graduation…” and I said, “Well, that’s the thing — I don’t want to write about finance anymore. That’s the whole reason I’m here…” and she said, “Oh…” and I think she knew someone at Food & Wine…but that went nowhere. And, I mean, it could very well be because I had these weird, stringent demands at the time — Food! I want to write about food! — and, really, a lot of my classmates have gone on to successful careers at the Miami Herald and CBS and the Huffington Post…but…I found the gig at Good Housekeeping on my own. I found the gig at Martha on my own. Take from that what you will…

The Career Services department sends out emails about jobs from time to time…but I haven’t found those to be enormously helpful either. We got one once about an entry-level position at the New York Times Syndicate. And it said it was very clerical but that it was a great position for someone who eventually wanted to go on to editing and that two grads from ’07 had taken similar positions and were quickly promoted to editors. I sent in my letter and got called in for an interview…and the first words out of the editor’s mouth were, “Did anyone tell you how crappy this job is?” and I tried to be upbeat and mentioned what Career Services had said about the two grads from ’07 getting promoted and she said, “That was a fluke. I had to fire one guy and another joined the Army…your ascent would be profoundly slower.” And then she told me that the job entailed an hour and a half a day of sorting mail…and cleaning the managing editor’s office. So. I didn’t get the job…but wasn’t really upset about it…and then about a month later, Career Services sent out another email about this SAME position saying the SAME things about how it was great for a future editor and that two grads from ’07 quickly scaled the editorial ladder…so I sent a reply to some of my classmates and said, “Don’t be fooled! This is the mail-sorting, office-cleaning gig!” and one of them jokingly responded, “How do we know you’re not just saying that to keep this job for yourself?”

So. I don’t have to tell you that it’s tough out there…but…I really feel like I’ve been on my own as far as finding jobs are concerned. But, then again, a friend got a gig at a Spanish language newspaper thanks to Career Services and she just loves the guy who works there. And…in Career Services’ defense, they *do* tell you how much easier it is to find jobs if you leave New York. So that may be part of my problem, too.

And…I’m a Libra — the scales. So I’m notoriously bad with decision-making and can often see both sides of an issue. Case in point: Sometimes I feel like maybe I would have been better off just quitting my job and hustling to become a freelancer. Because…in the end, that’s what happened…and I wouldn’t be up to my eyeballs in debt for the rest of my life. But…on the other hand, I really, REALLY hated writing about venture capital and mutual funds…and…I fill in for this marketing publication every now and again…which really just means I write about brands that have promotions on Facebook or Twitter…and I just wrote about beer…and, as I was writing it, I had an epiphany that I really was much happier writing about beer than I ever was writing about, say, XBRL or 22c-2. And I realized that I would probably be profoundly unhappy if I had stayed in financial reporting and I would totally regret not taking a chance and seeing what happened. And…I suppose there’s still hope for my career. Who knows what the future will bring…but, at the same time, I haven’t dreamed of writing about Facebook campaigns ever since I was a little girl…so…it’s not like what I’m doing now is truly fulfilling. It definitely sucks less than what I was doing before…but, then again, I didn’t go to Columbia to get a job that sucks less.

But…then again (again), I wouldn’t have worked at Good Housekeeping or Martha (or written for HuffPo) without Columbia.

And I think your experience there is really strongly influenced by your RW1 instructor/class. I got really lucky — I had Dale Maharidge and he was/is wonderful and has been a great resource post-graduation. (I also took a literary journalism class with Christopher Lehmann-Haupt…and he is totally amazing and I love him…and he’s been really helpful with this book I’m trying to get published…) And…I was really lucky because my RW1 class got along really well…and we’re all still (pretty) good friends now. But…I heard horror stories about some RW1 classes…and so I can imagine if you don’t like your instructor, it would really profoundly influence your experience…and you’re only there for ten months! But…there’s not much you can do about that — it’s just sort of the luck of the draw.

And, I mean, really — the experience is what you make of it. There were people who really worked hard to get a lot out of it and endear themselves to the community and who were super-involved…and there were others that, well, didn’t. But…even some of the ones who did everything “right” while they were there still ended up scrambling after graduation…

I assume you’re looking at starting in the fall of 2011? So…you’d be graduating into a totally different environment than the one I found…and I really don’t know much at all about CUNY’s program. I sort of put all my eggs in one basket…as I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to stay in New York and I figured that if I didn’t get in to Columbia, it would be a sign that I was supposed to move on to a different city.

So, in short — if you go, I’d highly recommend the new media program (even though the first thing Sree Sreenivasan said to me was, “You have a weather girl name.”) and remember that it’s REALLY REALLY REALLY hard to be in journalism now…and you may end up having to take a job that you don’t want after graduation in order to make ends meet…which may be totally obvious…but…I thought I had such a leg up on all those kiddos who came to Columbia right after graduating from college — I felt like I had a much better idea of what it was I wanted from the program and, noble as their aspirations might have been, I couldn’t help thinking whenever they spoke of becoming the next Susan Orlean or John McPhee that they were perhaps being a bit idealistic…and that’s not to say that it won’t ever happen…it’s just highly unlikely right after graduation. And yet I still ended up getting a HUGE reality check after graduation, too.

And it’s a TON of money. And, nearly two years out, I’m still not quite sure if it was money well spent. Although, then again, if I get a book deal and become the next Julie Powell, I will totally be singing a different tune. That’s the other thing — you have to remember what it is that you really want and even if you *do* get stuck writing about the price of corn (as one of my classmates does), I think you have to have the chutzpah to keep working on projects on the side — which is also not easy to do when you have a job you hate and come home and just want to watch Mad Men and eat Cadbury mini eggs — or you’ll get really super-depressed.

But, then again, even though I have to write about social media campaigns and dispense financial advice to savvy urban 20-something ladies and I fake-gamble three mornings a week to make ends meet, I’m not writing about mutual funds anymore…and I *did* break out of the financial niche…which may have been impossible otherwise.

I know this is WAY MORE than you wanted to hear…but…the “Was going to Columbia a good idea?”-question has been in the back of my mind for about 18 months now…and I feel like most of my classmates are on the fence about it, too. For whatever that’s worth.

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Avoiding Post-AP English Syndrome, Using Expired Scone Mix, Descending Upon My Proposal Like a Beast, Going Through a Cream Phase…and Still Rooting For Team Melissa

Alright, so, I’ve been getting LOTS of amazing feedback…which, for a writer frequently plagued by self-doubt, is really wonderful to hear (although, folks, don’t be shy! Feel free to comment *right here* so, you know, any future employers/publishers can feel the love, too…)…although, in true LL style, it sort of worries me as I fear I’ll get Post-AP English Syndrome again…which, for those of you who haven’t known me since high school, is basically what happened after my AP English teacher told me I was a good writer and I went off to college and felt all sorts of pressure to *be* a good writer and it backfired and I’d spend weeks and weeks on individual papers and get Bs — Bs! — and, about a year later, I finally threw in the towel and said, “To heck with it! If I’m going to get Bs, I’m not going to spend weeks and weeks writing these damn things…” and I wrote a paper the night before it was due…and I was so, so embarrassed by the, you know, word-vomit that I turned in…and that very paper turned out to be the turning point and my professor asked me to stay after class because he thought I could get it published. End Writer’s Block.

So, long story short, I worry my blog will all of a sudden become crap and I will find myself incapable of writing about anything anymore if I let this go to my head and/or try to write anything that I think people will like. Although, in all fairness, Post-AP English Syndrome was — cringe — about ten years ago. So…perhaps I have matured since then. We’ll see.

I haven’t really cooked or baked anything since returning to New York to tackle the New Year (I *did* make eggnog scones from a mix that was given to me last Christmas(-ish) by the Luxury Spot…which were okay…and the only other things worth noting about it are: 1) I like the name of the bakery — Sticky Fingers — and would like to come up with something comparable for my book; and 2) the mix said it was best by 07/03/09, which I *assumed* meant merely that they would have turned out fluffier last summer and not that I would, you know, die after consuming them now…but I’m very much in starving artist mode, so I took a chance.

And, really, the past week has been all about the freelance scramble — drumming up projects, applying for jobs, working on the book proposal — which I absolutely HATE and which stresses me out even more than, you know, baseline…and I feel like I’m constantly working, but never really getting anywhere — there’s ALWAYS a pitch I could be writing or a job I could be applying for (…even if it doesn’t sound all that interesting…)…and there’s always some editing that could be done on my proposal…and, while we’re at it, there’s always some editing that could be done on my 90,000-word draft, too. And…I keep extending my proposal deadline to accommodate…but feel like if I do it any more, it will be 2011 and I’ll still be saying, “My proposal is almost done!” So…this week is it — I’ve given myself an ironclad deadline. No excuses. It’s going out to agents no matter what. (I had a little freakout when I realized that all agents seem to want something different — some want the first chapter, some want the first three…some want the first five to ten pages…some want the first four to seven…and here I’ve been working on a proposal that weighs in at about 100 pages now…and it sounds like I’m going to have to pick it apart — like some sort of vulture! — and cater it to each agent specifically…although a friend pointed out that the agents likely appear finicky just so, you know, they know that you’re really specifically sending it to *them* rather than just sending out a blanket email to see who will bite. [Although a blanket email with my 100-page proposal would be SO much easier…and yield a much faster sense of accomplishment! But…I guess if I’ve waited this long…])

So…simple math — 20 agents in five days. Totally doable. And then no more of this starving artist business with expired scone mix. Lisa Lacy is going places.

Annnd…there are really only two other bloggable things on my mind: National Pie Day and The Bachelor.

First things first, as noted, I’m poor…and I really can’t afford to bake 14 pies and a cobbler to celebrate January 23 in high style like I did last year. (I have also officially given up on Internet fame…) At the same time, I feel like I can’t let January 23 go by unnoticed (plus, I really like traditions…and wish my family had more. When I was in Chicago, I ended up crashing K’s family’s New Year’s Day homemade pizza party…which is something they’ve done every January 1 for the past 30-ish years…and I love stuff like that…)…but this then begs the question — if I’m only going to make ONE pie to acknowledge National Pie Day, what’s THE pie to make? I have my mother’s peeler/corer/slicer, but I feel like I’m over apple for the time being. And I still have cans of pumpkin…but I also feel like pumpkin is too blasé. I’m actually sort of feeling a lemon meringue or a banana cream might be nice — if not totally evocative of the pie genre as a whole. And this is after making a chocolate cream pie for Christmas…so maybe  it means I’m going through a cream phase. I don’t know — I’m open to suggestions. (And — ooh — hey, look: ANOTHER excuse to comment. Lucky!)

And…no good way to segue from cream pies to reality TV (I Googled — there isn’t…), but…I’ve totally been watching Jersey Shore because I’ve been working on a story about it (although, now that I think about it, I guess I’ve already mentioned it…but, since then, I learned that one of my J-school classmates totally interviewed Vinny when we were in RW1 together. It’s my six degrees of separation…)…but my other guilty TV pleasure is The Bachelor. And…I admit that I was genuinely into it in the Jason Mesnick era. I couldn’t believe DeAnna didn’t choose him and felt so sorry for him…but don’t even get me started on the whole Melissa/Molly debacle…and, I mean, sure — things have worked out really well for Melissa since then…and even though Jason looked like a big scumbag at the time, it probably *is* better that he followed his heart when he did, blah, blah, blah. But…I worry a little that maybe Melissa was so eager to show the world that she isn’t a Sad Sally that she jumped into this marriage with Tye. And I could be wrong — all I know about Melissa is what I’ve seen on ABC…but I also wonder if it says something about, you know, modern times (not Medieval Times) or whatever that she needs a husband to make it look like her life is complete and she can’t be independent with a successful career and hold her head up high on her own. *That* would be something. (Although, admittedly, it’s not an easy thing to do. Especially when Stupidface who let you go is right there with his new ladyfriend — who is clearly nowhere near as awesome as you are — and you have to smile through gritted teeth and tell them both how good it is to see them…even though all you really want to do is shoot laserbeams out of your eyes to vaporize them.) So, I mean, I wish Melissa and Tye the best…and I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a Charlie-Sheen-sort of situation. (I was *also* thinking about how Denise Richards must feel a little vindicated and/or be experiencing some good ol’ schadenfreude as news leaks about Charlie post-Christmas. I just hope Jason and Molly don’t find themselves in a similar position. Happy or not, I think they’re a little too smug.)

Okay — one more embarrassing paragraph on The Bachelor and we’re done. SO much to love this season…if not the Bachelor himself. He’s okay, I guess…but he didn’t really win any bonus points in my book for going back to warn Jillian about Love Don’t Come Easy. Seemed a little much to me…although I guess it established a nice segue for this season. Regardless…I totally thought the big scandal was that two *contestants* had hooked up in the house, drumming up all this girl-on-girl intrigue…and not just that one of the ladies had an affair with a crew member. Seems so droll in comparison…and I’m actually kind of surprised ABC hasn’t thought of a lesbian affair already. Perhaps next season. (“It’s okay, Jake, I swing both ways!” Can you imagine??) Back to the stuff I love: LOVE the tagline “On the Wings of Love.” (He’s a pilot! Get it?) I loved the plane flying over Jake’s head when he parked his motorcycle at the beach. I loved it when he said he’d never had 25 women fighting over him before and so seatbelts needed to be fastened. And I loved it when he threw the rose in the fire after learning of Rozlyn’s indiscretion. But the most memorable part was undoubtedly the Cambodian chick from Santa Rosa, Calif. (current home of Guy Fieri, former home of yours truly) who told Jake — first in Cambodian! — that he could park his plane on her landing strip any time. I mean, admittedly, you need to think of something to say that separates you from the pack — I get that. And I *might* be tempted to lead with my first and last name and a wink-wink with its pornographic implications…should I ever find myself getting out of a limo in an evening gown to meet the Bachelor on Episode 1. But…words fail, Channy. As much as I’d like to believe in the power of reality TV show love, I hope for her sake that the show is scripted and someone put her up to it.

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