A light at the end of the tunnel brightened by an award nomination

It's my last week at Creative Loafing, so I can see a light at the end of this tunnel. Three more stories to write. One more front page to approve. Four more pieces to edit. Twenty-five more emails to send (well, that's just a low estimate).

I expected today to be fairly low-key. It was my final Tuesday ever at the Loaf -- fun fact: I've spent roughly 430 Tuesdays in this newspaper office -- and I'd finalized my pages earlier than usual.

An hour before the issue was due to the printer (who is located in Fayetteville), the Internet went down. 

You really become aware of how dependent you are on technology when the free-flowing hose of information and connectivity gets cut off. #firstworldproblems

The newspaper gods must have felt sorry for us because we managed to get the pages uploaded only one hour late. I can't even begin to try to explain to you how we did that with spotty Internet connection. But it worked out.

Because of the no-Internet thing, it wasn't until I got home this evening I discovered that one of my writers is a finalist in the annual Association of Alternative Newsmedia contest. "Charlotte is ground zero for coal ash" was written and published last year for Creative Loafing by Rhiannon Fionn, an independent journalist whom I first worked with when she was an intern for us. She went on to become a hard-working freelance journalist and is now producing a documentary that shares the stories of people all over the country affected by coal ash.

I am over the moon for Rhi and this honor. One of the things I really wanted to make sure we accomplished with this cover story was making the topic as accessible as possible. Coal ash is not sexy -- hell, environmental reporting isn't sexy. But it's important stuff, and I'm happy to see the story get the recognition it deserves.

So, allow me to revise my earlier assessment of my final week at Creative Loafing. Three more stories to write. One more front page to approve. Four more pieces to edit. Twenty-five more emails to send. And one more celebratory blog to pen. 


May 2014 cover of Creative Loafing, illustrated by Henry Eudy and designed by Melissa Oyler

May 2014 cover of Creative Loafing, illustrated by Henry Eudy and designed by Melissa Oyler

A new adventure for this worker bee

I had my first job at the age of 8. My mother owned a little shop in a strip mall, where she sold everything from clothes and accessories to hair weave and home decor. It was called Victory Shop, inspired by my own middle name, Victoria. 

I usually helped out after school. I knew how to work the cash register and was excellent at counting money, but my mom mostly handled that. My job was to watch the customers to make sure no one stole anything. 

One day, my mom left me in charge. She needed to walk two stores down to the neighboring fish market to order us dinner. A couple of minutes after she left, a group of teenagers came in.

"How can I help you?" I asked in my best grown-up voice. Finally, my chance to show my mom I was responsible.

I can't remember now how many kids there were. Maybe three or four? They wandered to the glass display case I stood behind -- I could barely see over the top. They wanted to get a closer look at the selection of gold caps we had. I don't keep up with the fashion trends of grills, but back then, some of the caps had cutout shapes in them: a star or a cross, for example.  

The teenagers pored over our offerings. One kid made his choice and moved toward the cash register. Another girl, though, asked me, "Can I have this one?" She was holding another gold cap, protected by a plastic case, that had a simple butterfly in it.

Me, a mature almost-9-year-old, I said yes; I thought she meant, could she buy that one. 

I rung up the first customer, took his money and gave him his correct change back. I made sure to give him his receipt, too, just as I had watched my mom do so many times. To my surprise, though, the girl did not step up to the register to pay for her selection. Instead, the group walked out, laughing. I just stared after them.

"Ooh, [insert name of girl here], you're wrong for that," one of her friends said as the door closed softly behind them.

Needless to say, my mom was a little upset when she returned. 

Since then, I've become a much better employee. My mom closed her shop a few years later, but I got to hone my worker bee skills in a handful of different places until I graduated college. In 2006, I applied for and attained a part-time copy-editing job at Creative Loafing, the weekly alternative newspaper in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fast-forward to 2015, and I've now been donning the hat of editor in chief for two years now. 

Yesterday, though, I put in my notice of resignation. 

After having worked for several bosses throughout my short 30-some years, I've decided to freelance. It's a scary and exhilirating move for someone who's lived to please an employer since she was 8. But it's time.