Unpacking The Aunty Em Ericann Blog ► A Writer’s Rant

Having been a professional writer for my entire adult life, I have come to the conclusion that Bill Gates ruined my trade.

Writing has always been something I did for as long as I can remember. If I wasn’t being paid to write, I was writing something for which one day I hoped to be paid. If neither, I was journaling, trying to capture smoke with my pen and ink hieroglyphics that often only I could decipher.

It was back at Sheridan College in the early ’70s that I got my first taste of writing to a deadline. I also learned how to publish on deadline, when I became the editor of “A” Student Magazine, working with an entire staff of writers and graphic designers to get issues out on time.

I was taking Media Arts and always assumed I would go into tee vee, or movies. Writing for the college paper was just for fun. So was being a DJ at Radio Sheridan, the ‘underground’ radio station that myself and several others had built from scratch a few years before. When I graduated, I became the first full-time paid manager for Radio Sheridan, which had been floundering after a series of part-time, student volunteer Station Managers almost drove the station into the ground.

Writing about music. What could be more fun?

During this period I started my first freelance writing/editing career. [There have been several.] First came ZoundZ Magazine, a small Rock and Roll handout placed at record store cash registers all over Toronto. Marty Herzog was my business partner and managing editor for a couple of years, for a couple of publications, as far back as “A” Student Magazine. ZoundZ [the second “z” was backwards] led to being asked to edit Cheap Thrills by Concert Productions International. It had promised a publication as part of its Cheap Thrills membership, a VIP line for ordering concert tickets. However a Cheap Thrills publication had never been produced and they were getting flack.

I was 100% against the idea. I loved the idea of having our own publication, without adult supervision. ZoundZ was starting generate income. We were being forced to consider more pages and a larger print run to justify the advertising we were getting from some of the “majors.” However, I didn’t have the headaches Marty did. He had been fronting all the money to have ZoundZ published. Aside from this, he did all the running around to printers and vendors, and sold all the advertising. Marty decided to ‘sell out’ to Michael Cohl and CPI (which really only solved his money headache) and I went along for the ride. [See my previous post on Ivor Wynne Stadium] For the first time in our loose partnership I was suddenly an employee. When Marty started ordering up good reviews of certain records because that’s what he promised the record company, I took a hike. My opinion was never for sale. I went back to freelancing. Marty went on to work for the record company to which he promised good reviews.

Over the years I have done every kind of writing there is, except the greeting card. I’ve crafted Hollywood puff pieces and gritty Rock and Roll profiles; written for Canadian music trade papers and various record companies; created artist bios, as well as reviewed concerts and records; practiced investigative and political journalism; did an entire decade as a tee vee news writer, where I called myself a ventriliquist; and, using the nom de plume Travis Bickel, wrote a regular column for Taxi News, while I drove cab and continued to sharpen my free lance Word-0-Matic Machine.

One of the supreme ironies is that I also wrote the first column in Canada which explored the nascent World Wide Web, still being called The Information Superhighway. I sucessfully pitched the editor of “We Computes,” a publication about hardware, the idea of monthly consumer-style column on those funny “http” things that had started to crop up everywhere you looked. At first Eric was baffled because even he didn’t know what an URL was and what it did. However, in the end, he took a monthly column for a couple of years, until a guide for navigating the World Wide Web seemed superfluous.

This is the same period when Bill Gates was turning the Information Superhighway into a point-and-click dealie. In the days of 300 baud modems and BBSs, one needed to know EXACTLY what to type on the C: prompt to get the computer to do anything whatsoever. Before Bill Gates made it easy, one needed to know programs like PINE and understand how to navigate USENET. Then came the mouse and GUIs and everything changed.

Suddenly HTML ruled and everybody and their brother thought they were a writer, which totally devalued the craft. Everywhere I go (on the innertubes) from the smallest sites to the largest, I see poorly written and poorly edited web sites. Most of these are making money hand-over-fist (whatever the hell that cliche means). Meanwhile, I’ve barely figured out how to monetize this web site. [I continue to be open to suggestions.] If I were being paid by the hour for these words, I’d starve. The irony is that I should have seen this coming and found a way to cash in. 

That’s why every once in a while I write one of these Unpacking The Aunty Em Ericann Blog posts, which my regular readers recognize as my way of urging them to click on one of the adverts. They know it doesn’t cost a cent, but will put a few — and I do mean few — cents in my pocket. Go ahead. It won’t hurt at all.

Now, don’t you feel better? Meanwhile, let’s break down the Top Ten Posts for the last 30 days, pulling back the curtain:

A moment on this blog frozen in time.

My post on the Detroit Riots has exploded. While it’s #1 for the month at 488 hits, it’s managed to climb to #3 on the All Time Top Posts with 916 views. That means most of the growth came in the past month for reasons that totally elude me. I’m grateful, because it’s one of the posts I’m most proud of.

The next 3 posts are all interrelated. I’ve been researching Coconut Grove, more specifically E.W.F. Stirrup, for several years now. The #2 post contains the latest research and celebrates Coconut Grove’s birthday. During my research into West Grove, someone in the neighbourhood alerted me to a controversy that was already being called Trolleygate. An Introduction to Trolleygate and The Trolleygate Dog and Pony Show are my first two investigative pieces on Trolleygate, a scandal that’s sure to keep on giving.

The rest of the Top Ten is filled with Fox News Snark, but sneaking into the pack at #7 is my post on Josephine Baker, another one I’m proud of. It also seems to be a favourite of my readers because it clocks in as #2 on the All Time Top Posts list with, 1,235 clicks.

So, there you have it. If you got this far, you owe me. Click on an advert or you’ll never be able to look at yourself in the mirror without feeling a pang of guilt. Seriously.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.