This was one of those days when, even though I ran late most of the day, things just kept lining up.
The editorial cartoon I picked was the perfect pairing for the guest column I was using, and the letter immediately below that column (all had to do with federal worker furloughs). I was at a loss for art for our main column and just threw out a suggestion, not thinking we had anything like it, but we did. And I managed to pull in a couple more guest columns to ease the strain on Steph, whose mom, like mine, is battling cancer (she starts chemo next week) to help fill the page during the summer lull. Whew!
I think most letters editors would agree that it often takes a special kind of crazy (actually, several special kinds) to be an interesting letter writer, and the breadth of missives we get is staggering.
A look at part of my job: The out-of-state letters are tossed first, though some are kept for a laugh if they’re especially paranoid, cranky and conspiracy-driven (If everything’s a conspiracy, nothing is; c’mon!).
Then there are the repeat offenders, those people who just can’t wait the required 30 days before sending in yet another post, which very well may be oooold news by the time the cooling-off period is over, so they’ll send in another 2 or 12 later.
Some of these include letters from people who exhibit a rare display of wisdom, then retract the insightful letter in favor of one that could make Tammy Faye at her worst sound sane.
There are some letters that will never make print because they cross lines, whether legally or taste-wise (I’ve lost count of how many letters have had only one printable sentence), or because they state things that are false as true, are libelous or are simply personal attacks.
Once those are tossed, it’s all a matter of documenting letters (and some will fall through at that point), calling for permissions, editing the letters and laying out the page. Except for the editing and layout, Steph handles most of this part of the process, and amazes me every day (she rocks in every way possible).
In the course of all this, we find letters that are funny, irate, charming, platitudinous, sweet, sour, goofy, proselytizing, insightful, pompous, and hundreds of other adjectives that just make life more interesting (and yes, annoying at times, but that’s life).
I actually love my job most days, partly because I love to create flow on the page by pairing point-counterpoint letters when I can (and I like causing trouble … shocking!), and by sticking little pieces of nuttiness and/or wisdom in the middle of deserts. Yeah, I’m weird.
Okay, so it takes a special kind of crazy to be a letters editor. And I’m feelin’ pretty special right now.