My First Assignment: Bad coffee, Texas heat, and technology
Right now I am sitting in a hotel room in Killeen, Texas, drinking a second cup of complimentary hotel coffee that I loaded with those terrible tasting-French Vanilla-no refrigeration-required-creamers. Tonight I will drive down to San Antonio to connect with the band, Megafaun. Wednesday morning I will follow the band up to Austin and start posting twice-daily blog posts for The Independent Weekly <http://www.indyweekblogs.com/
SXSW is a four-day event that takes place is the wonderfully weird city of Austin. During these four days over 1,500 bands will perform for more than 125,000 attendees. Music shows start at eleven in the morning, run til five or six in the evening, followed by an hour break so the clubs can clean up and get ready to do it all over again, going until three or four in the morning. My job is to find the unknown or half-known bands, those both local to North Carolina and others known on a national level, interview them, review their performance, take pictures, write about it all, and upload the content on to the blog—in the midst of a hectic music festival. Most of my writing will be done on a sidewalk where I can cop a free wi-fi signal, and my editor, Grayson Currin, will receive the file on his iPhone, edit and upload the content from the palm of his hand. As the week goes on, things will get desperate. I will scourer the streets for any free electric outlets in order to charge my Macbook, camera, and Blackberry. My knees will ache from sixteen-hour workdays and my ears will ring from the continuous hours of live music. I will be on assignment.
If you climb the stairs of Tompkins Hall you will find numerous signs that promote the English department's internship program. On one of the signs, during my last week of classes, I felt so inclined to leave my mark. Underneath the question, "What will you be after graduation?" and between the options "Waiter" or "Writer" I took my pen out and wrote, "BOTH!" Although the first two months of life after graduation felt flat-lined and pale, taking that I finished school in the onset of what some call "Recession 2.0," I continued to write and save my tip money. I am balancing life as a waitress and a writer. It's nothing to brag about, or maybe it is, after all I am writing you this e-mail. Being a writer, for me, is about freedom—the freedom to think, to make my own schedule, to read what I want rather than what is assigned by a boss, the freedom an assignment, and all its unpredictable challenges and gifts.
So as classes, budget cuts, and headlines continue, eliminate no option, because all those late-night hours of serving two-dollar Pabst Blue Ribbons have funded my first writing gig.