Empire State of Mind, Part III

So there I was a couple days later, pissed at the world. I'd been gone almost 4 full months and had made no progress whatsoever reaching my goal. I didn’t even know how to reach it. Great.

I was sitting in the basement one afternoon watching TV in the dark, undoubtedly I'd just come in from a smoke. Busta's "Pass the Courvoiseur" came on the screen.

Hmmm, I wondered, did he get paid for that product endorsement?? And then I wondered, like what's hip hop's obsession with liquor? This was the time when Diddy and Jay were still shouting out references to Cristal in every other line. And then I wondered, if I'm wondering this, aren't other people too?

I went upstairs and got an issue of The Source and my laptop. I looked up the editor who I thought would be best for the idea, wrote a pitch letter with my ideas and fired it off.

Within a day or two, Anslem Samuel (ie Naked With Socks On) wrote me back, assigning me the piece.

Was it this easy??

It was the first piece I’d ever written as a writer—not "just" an intern. And it was the first time I’d written anything other than a cover letter in over three months. It was the longest time I’d gone without writing since I learned how to.

I guess I did okay for a newbie. Because when Leah Rose over at XXL called Anslem looking for new writers to do reviews and profiles, he gave her my name. Then she started calling with assignments, a profile here, a review there. Then Bonsu Thompson (yes, B that guest blogs on here sometimes) started doing the same.

I started to see the light at the end of a very long tunnel again.

I decided to get a job in DC. If for no other reason than to save up for New York. Just those small assignments, and too, the ease at which they came, made me think that maybe I was good enough to be there.

That, and I was getting bored doing nothing more fulfilling than searching the Internet for jobs and working out all the time.


I went to a temp agency and took the most mind-numbing job I could find solely because it paid the most and had free parking. I think was copy-editing mechanical textbooks or something. It was an hourly hustle and they catered lunch everyday because they didn’t want people to leave for an hour.

I abused the mailroom privileges, sending out copies of my clips to any magazine I could possibly think of writing for. (This was still when large attachments like PDFs of clips would fill up your email super quick.)

I could do an entire week’s worth of work in about an hour. So I used the dead time to call up every professor I had in grad school and every editor I’d written for and asked them to send me a quote about my work. I compiled all their glowing reviews and used it as a cover letter for my clips kinda like how DVDs and books use reviews to really sell you that the flick is worth your buy. I figured too, that the people I'd worked or written for were well-known so their names had to impress someone who would be more willing to help me. (It worked.)

I also started calling up anyone I could think of in DC who was remotely related to journalism or publishing for informational interviews. All I wanted to know was, 'how did you get your job?' 'is there anyone else I should meet to get to know more about this industry?' And ‘do you know anyone in New York who can help me get back?’

I met with a woman at BET (two years later, she would become my boss based off this interview) who liked my drive and introduced me the PR director. He was too busy to meet me, but on the strength of the recommendation, he ran off a list of names of people I could contact in New York and drop his name. One of them was the ENC of People Magazine.

So I sent that guy an email. He wrote me back, via snail mail, telling me to contact the head of People’s DC Bureau. I did and she called me in for an interview that week. I took off on my lunch hour to go see her without having a clue what I was in for. I'd planned to ask her the same questions I'd asked everyone esle. Instead, she hit me with a barrage of questions, said she liked me after about a half hour, and told me I’d do a good job working for her.

Hold up? Did she just offer me a job working for People?

She threw out a number for hourly work that was double what I was making as a temp, and told me she’d be calling soon with assignments.

Just like that, I was a stringer (loose definition, they do the legwork of stories and send the info in and someone else writes it.)


So during the day, during all my dead time, I researched assignments for People, found contacts, made up questions to ask folks and interviewed them, and at night (or on my lunch hour) I went out and covered events around the city and beyond. Somedays I hobnobbed with congressman and A-listers on Capitol Hill. Other times, I drove out to mansions in VA for private parties at old money residences to ask some huge star a funny story about their dog or best friend. Or maybe I was at some black-tie gala schmoozing and making connects. Or maybe I was kneeling in dirt while wearing my best suit, while an award-winning scientist explained the affect of some new irrigation system that would revolutionize farming.

I realized I liked writing. But what I loved about journalism was the access, and too, the randomness. I found myself in places I never thought I’d be, talking to people I’d never imagined I would. It was… cool. That’s still the draw.


So I kept my day job and I worked my side hustle (cause I liked the dual checks.) I slept no more than 4 hours a night. And I got really skinny because even though I barely made it to the gym, I never had time to eat.

I was exhausted. I was frail. But I was writing again. And for the first time in months, I was no longer depressed.