Part of my job includes writing the occasional advertorial. Went to one today (yes, I work on Easter) and after a few minutes the man, who has been peppering me with questions, apologizes and tells me he and his wife both are used to “being on the other side of the computer.”
“Oh?” I say, “What did you do?”
He is a retired New York Times editor and she oversaw some of the news bureaus. He retired in 2009; she took a buyout last year.
And now I’m supposed to write an advertorial and send it to them for approval. There is no way I can do this. I usually e-mail the client the draft I write at the interview’s end, but after chatting about style guides and how the dailies have fallen, but this time I was in no way, shape, or form prepared to let this couple judge my work.
I fully enjoyed talking to them, although I remained wholly and completely in awe of them, and finally had to tell them as much. For their part, they were gracious and forthright and delightful. After two hours (no, they usually don’t take me quite that long) of talking and typing, I stood to leave. I mentioned I was under contract for a book with the University Press of Florida, and they, being polite, inquired as to its subject. I told them it was a travel narrative, and talked a bit about the Federal Writers Project and the Guide to the Southernmost State, and the man remarked he would like to read it as it sounded like an excellent guide book.
“Oh, it’s not so much a guide book as it is a travel narrative,” I said, then added: “have you ever read any Bill Bryson?” This is how I tend to explain my book to people, that I wrote it in the style of Bill Bryson.
“I know Bill Bryson,” he exclaimed, and started talking about Bryson’s latest book.
Yeah. No way I can write this advertorial. None. Bonus: after we spoke, he said he planned to start reading the Gabber.