Recently, The Stranger’s Eli Sanders won a Pulitzer for his astounding, heartbreaking piece, The Bravest Woman in Seattle.
I was amazed and excited, both because I have long been an admirer of Sanders’ work and, selfishly, because I can now claim to have written for a Pulitzer-prize winning publication.
Reflecting on Eli’s work, I wondered when I first noted it. The answer is predictable and may have lead indirectly to my writing for The Stranger.
In my post I generally stated an improving opinion of the vitality of The Stranger and said some mildly snarky things about its recent past. At just around this time, I was writing for a national slick-paper genre film magazine, Cinescape, and was either already writing for or thinking about writing for Tablet, a local alternative to the alternative paper.
At any rate, I was really just talking to myself, with no expectation or intent to be heard. I was mistaken. A day or two later I received a tart, well-reasoned defense of The Stranger via email from no less a luminary than Dan Savage. I was understandably a bit flummoxed, sent Dan a thank you, and noted the event.
Around that time, I noticed that the blog was being regularly visited by folks from The Stranger, which made me very happy indeed, as the paper will always be my paper, even when I don’t read it weekly. Over the next year or so, I worked my way up to a masthead position at Cinescape and kept writing about local cartoonists and film at Tablet. Eventually, both publications folded.
To my shock, the week Tablet folded I was contacted by Dan, asking me to write a piece, a short feature, for The Stranger about local cartoonists and the sibling rivalry between Portland and Seattle. I wrote the piece, and it was, eh, OK. Dan tried to goose me into expressing my own critical opinions more forcefully in the editing process, but my time at Cinescape made it hard for me to speak as directly in my journalism as I do in personal communication, blogging included. So, I kinda blew it. Dan’s editorial guidance was absolutely right on, and it was my own inertia that made the piece more tepid than it could have been.
I still ended up writing about comics and film as a pitching (or pitch-in) stringer at the paper for a year or two, mostly under Bradley Steinbacher, one of the other remaining founders on staff at the time and a (very) vague acquaintance from my time at The Comet.
Anyway, so it would be a total exaggeration to say, “I totally called that Pulitzer.” It would not be a total exaggeration to extrapolate that Dan may well have done so. I would be a simple statement of fact to note that my admiration for a piece by Eli led to my writing for a publication I had long wished to be a part of, and that Dan is the man responsible for making that happen. So, heartfelt thanks and congratulations to you both.