Aspen Princess: Living the writer’s life | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Princess: Living the writer’s life

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

So last week I wrote about how I lost one of my biggest clients and spent 1,000 words whining about my struggles making it as a writer.

Naturally, ever since then I have been inundated with assignments from editors who have these last-minute stories they need written and turned around lickety-split. Either they read my column last week and felt sorry for me or they read my column and decided to take advantage of me, or they could give two hoots about my column and it was all just one big coincidence.

But it just goes to show, when you put your mind to it, you can make things happen.

Even though I'm not writing for Vogue, the assignments I've been doing have brought me into contact with fascinating people with interesting stories up and down the valley; people I never would have met had this random assignment not come about. Even though most these assignments pay less than $500, it's still rewarding to get to do what I love, which is to sit in someone's living room and hear about how they narrowly escaped a tsunami in Thailand after surviving a civil war in Serbia or watching someone with a spinal cord injury walk with assistance from a high-tech robot.

At the end of the day, being a journalist isn't so much about writing as it is about listening, about knowing the right questions to ask and learning enough about something you probably knew nothing about, like the herding behavior of yaks in Mongolia and why that's good for the environment.

I always said that as a member of the media I don't get paid very much, but I am often afforded the opportunity to do things I wouldn't do otherwise and have access to things that even some the fancy people might not have access to. One year I got a press pass to Food & Wine and was allowed into any event I wanted 45 minutes before everyone else. Or the time I got to ride up on the early tram at Jackson Hole for first tracks, or the time the mayor of Cordova, Italy, let us borrow the municipal helicopter event, though it seemed like every time we landed somewhere there was a tram.

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I don't get to do that glamorous stuff anymore because I'm now relegated to spending most of life being ordered around by a demanding little creature who isn't even 3 feet tall, which means staying close to home and writing about topics here in the valley. Yet somehow that's been enough to keep me engaged in so many other ways and reminded of what a truly incredible place this is in terms of the people it attracts.

On my way home from a particularly fascinating interview this morning (the details of which I can't disclose because I don't want to scoop the magazine I am writing for), I realized that my love for the art of the interview is something I learned from my parents, who are both psychotherapists. My dad loves to ask people questions about themselves, no doubt after working as a psychiatrist for more than 50 years, and it's a skill I admire. Not only does he ask a lot of questions, he's always such an attentive and enthusiastic audience that he inadvertently makes people feel good about themselves, which is probably a good thing in his line of work. While he does have the tendency to put his foot in his mouth Larry David style, he is still irresistibly charming, and I think it's because of his ability to engage.

It's unfortunate that's such a rare quality these days. I've never had a hard time talking about myself (in case you haven't noticed), but I am bad about letting other people talk. I married someone who is even worse at conversation-domination to the point that I have to physically put my hand over his mouth and scream, "My turn!" at the top of my lungs in order to get a word in edgewise.

Now we have this tiny, little person we've brought into this world and somehow, even though he has a 10-word vocabulary, he literally never shuts up. From the moment he wakes up I can hear him in his nursery rattling off all the few words he does know in succession as if he is just getting warmed up.

"Ball, truck, papa, papa's truck, shoes, mamma's shoes," and so on and so forth.

When he's not running through the list of words he does know, he's speaking straight up gibberish, but with authority and confidence, as if whatever the hell he's saying is actually very important.

At any rate, he seems to have inherited our social prowess and love of people as he often greets perfect strangers with an enthusiastic "hi!" followed by "bye!" as they pass him on the sidewalk or in the aisle at the grocery store, and you'd have to be half dead not to be totally charmed by that.

I digress, though not really. What first-time parent doesn't love finding any old excuse to talk about their kid? And there I go, talking about myself again and not asking you any questions.

Enough about me. What do you think about me?

The point is, sometimes you have to take two steps back to take four steps forward. So maybe you lost your biggest client and have no idea where you're going to get the money to pay for the day care you need just so you can get work to pay for day care (which is a conundrum for those of us who don't live in France). And maybe losing a client stings and it's hard not to take it personally.

But in the end, clients come and go. It's the experiences I have and the people I've met that keep me going.

The Princess still believes that writing is a fine art. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.

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