When I was working in Russia, we had a Russian freelancer who liked to write about the history of art and opera in St. Petersburg and didn't do it very well. She looked like a pre-revolutionary (the 1917 one) throwback: long fur coat, slightly menacing hat with a feather, thick glasses that did scary things to her gaze. She would come into the office when we had the least time to talk about pitches with her, and my co-editor and I were almost reduced to playing rock-paper-scissors right in front of her to see who would be the one to talk to her that time.
Her merits included good connections, stories that landed when she said they would, and useable photos. To her credit, she often swooped in when we needed something to fill a page, and seemed to know when we were stuck for an evergreen feature. Our newsroom was in a long room at the top of the building, but when you came up the stairs to get there, you actually had to climb the stairs up to the attic room (where the reception area was), and then emerge at the top of a set of stairs near the ceiling of the long room, and descend into the newsroom. It's hard to describe, but I will never forget the effect of seeing Yevgenia at the top of the stairs, terrifying and resplendent in her ancient coat and hat, as she peered down into the newsroom, trying to spot an editor before we ran out for smoke breaks or picked up the phone to make a fake call.
Yevgenia is on my mind because it is her I think of as I jump-start this blog in the new year. Her spoken English was good; she dropped the high falsetto she used in Russian and used an unnerving, viola-tuned governess voice to articulate her careful BBC accent. She had a habit of prefacing almost every single thing she said with "Hm. Yes. Well. You know. Now."
What have I been doing this last month? Thinking about blogging, especially about John's discovery of dialectical Marxism. But thinking isn't doing, and the point is, I need to follow Ruth Whitman's advice to "Write first." December is such an easy month to do everything else but write -- prepare for Christmas, chauffeur for hockey, some editing, some cleaning, and so on. I'm also working on a super-secret writing project that I started in November, put aside a little bit in December, and will jump back into this month. In the meantime, I need to keep blogging, if only to clear out the chaff and stay limber. And so that's what this post is today, a throat-clearing: Hm. Yes. Well. You know. Now.