Living La Vida Laidoff

The ink was barely dry on the severance agreement when this ex-newspaper editor thought, hey, our local fair is coming up on its 100th anniversary – how about a book? This led to crunching numbers, doing market research and drafting umpteen versions of a big-bucks proposal. Getting the project green-lighted was an eye-opening first foray into a business mindset.

I’m producing the book for the fair board as well as writing it, which has meant coordinating photos and design, planning promotion and distribution, learning social media marketing on the fly, and a non-stop forced march of better-late-than-never adapting new technology.

It’s meant doing a radio phoner at 6:45 a.m., sitting in my PJs and being interviewed for the first time in 20-some years of journalism. Still working up the nerve to listen to the podcast.

Interviewing skills come in handy whether talking to ag teachers about swine insemination (if you’re going to show a pig at the fair you want it born around Valentine’s Day) or a 93-year-old who’s gone to the fair every year since he was 5. There’s the archaeological thrill of wading through old premium books and spotting a 1950s photo of Loretta Lynn canning pickles for the food judging. So now I’ve had a taste of the historian’s life (and new, huge respect for what Ken Burns did with a pile of old photos).

Along the way, the AAJA workshop “Choppy Waters” and Doug Kim’s “Reboot Your Career” were incredibly helpful. Still, whether I’m brainstorming about corporate sponsorships, audiotaping a livestock auction or non-stop networking, the learning curve is steep. For example, I’ve never done a blog post before. But complete ignorance of a topic has yet to stop me since I was laid off six months ago … so here goes!

Sarah Wallace is a former newspaper editor who lives and writes in Bellingham, Wash.

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