A New Chapter In My Theatre Writing Life: Writing for Nuvo

I am very excited.  This morning I met with Nuvo Arts and Entertainment Editor Scott Shoger and signed an “Editorial Freelance Agreement” to write for them about theatre.  In case you’re reading my blog from some other city, Nuvo is Indianapolis, Indiana’s weekly alternative newspaper/website.

I’ve been reading Nuvo forever, of course, and I’ve been dancing around the idea of writing for them almost for as long as I’ve been blogging about theatre.  At every Indy Fringe Theatre Festival since I started attending in 2007 I’ve found myself enjoying casual conversations with various Nuvo staff and/or freelancers.  Twice when their assigned reviewer had to miss a Fringe show, Scott emailed me to see if I had seen the show and would be willing to write about it for them in a hurry.  (Unfortunately, both times I had not seen the show they needed.) 

And a couple of years ago, my friend Mark Alan Lee, who blogs and takes photos for Nuvo on a freelance basis, asked me to be his date to their holiday party.  I had a wonderful time not only because it was a fun party but also because I liked hearing what the Nuvo leaders said during their brief addressing of the troops after dinner.

So why haven’t I written for Nuvo before this?

Three reasons:

I Already Have a More-Than-Fulltime Job That I Treasure

A few weeks ago, I wrote to Scott to thank him for his interview of storyteller Stephanie Holman.  Scott wrote back to ask if I had any interest in reviewing for them on a “non-last-minute-pitch-hitter basis.”

I realized I did, so we made plans to meet for coffee and talk about it.

In the meantime, I went to my boss at my day job. I had freelanced for another publication in Carmel, Indiana a few years ago with her blessing but I wanted to make sure this would be okay, too.

As before, she said it would be okay as long as I never implied that I was representing our organization when I wrote as a freelancer.

(And, of course, as long as I did it on my own time.)

Then I remembered that a few years ago Nuvo had advertised a need for a freelance writer and it required being available to attend weekly editorial meetings.  Would I need to do that? I am rarely available during the day.

I started a list of questions I wanted to ask Scott when I met him.

I Am Fiercely Independent/I Have a Fairy Godmother Fantasy

Several years ago I asked a theatre director that I respect what he thought about my writing for Nuvo instead of blogging.

He said it would be a good thing because more people would read what I wrote. He couldn’t think of any reason not to do it.

I was surprised to find myself fighting back tears as I tried to explain my hesitation. I couldn’t articulate it then, but now I think those tears were because I imagined myself encouraging all local arts writers as well as all local theatre artists.  As a completely independent reader/writer, I could retweet links to everyone’s reviews, for example.  That image of myself as an altruist was too precious to me to give it up by committing to just one Indianapolis publication.

Now I still want to Help, to Make a Difference, but I’m more honest with myself about who I am and what else I want and what I’m capable of.  The facts are: I am only one person, I have zero superhuman capabilities, and I can have a greater impact by writing for Nuvo than I will ever have by staying completely independent. 

I am now okay with all of these facts.

But…I still have a lot of affection for my Indy Theatre Habit blog even though I don’t write on here as frequently as I once did.  And I still enjoy tweeting about at least one show each weekend.  Would Nuvo want me to give that up?

I added that to the list of questions to ask Scott.

Those Stars

Scott said in his recent email that possible drawbacks to the job would be the pay (it is even lower than what I made as a freelance reviewer in Carmel) and the fact that I would have to assign a star rating to every show.

I’ll accept the low pay because I think writing for Nuvo will help me improve as a writer, which is as important to me as the opportunity to serve my community.  However, I confess that I struggle with the whole stars thing.  I struggle with it on GoodReads and I will struggle with it for Nuvo.  Experiencing art – whether it’s a theatre piece or a book – is a complex, personal thing and sometimes people forget that when they focus too much on star ratings.

But I also understand that Nuvo readers like the stars. And it is dishonest of me to imply that I don’t judge the art I take in.  I may not automatically assign stars, but I do judge.  And I know from blogging that whether I assign stars or not, there will always be people that think I “got it wrong” simply because my opinion is different from theirs.

I added, “Tell me more about the stars” to my list of questions to ask Scott in person, but I wasn’t as resistant to assigning them as I had once been.

The Meeting

It felt GREAT to follow Scott through the Nuvo newsroom this morning.  I had never been there before.  The energy is wonderful. 

Some people were at their desks, writing.  Scott said, “Hey, everyone, this is Hope.  She writes about theatre.”  People looked up and smiled back.

As we passed a large, glass conference room, Scott told me that the people meeting inside were the sales staff.  They had furrowed brows and didn’t look up but I smiled and gave them a little wave anyway, to send them good vibes.

Scott and I met in a smaller conference room.  He said, “What questions do you have?”  We worked our way down my list.

He told me that they no longer require freelancers to attend weekly editorial meetings.  (Whew!)

When I asked about the stars, he opened his laptop and read from some guidelines that he had written but we also just talked.

He shared with me that five stars means a show was “earth-shaking,” four stars means it was still very, very good, and three stars means that it was pretty good.  He said that of course “good” will mean different things to different reviewers but the important thing is that reviewers be able to justify for themselves why they gave the ratings they did.

He said that other than during the Indy Fringe Theatre Festival, when Nuvo promises to try to review all 50+ shows, they rarely publish the reviews of shows that come back from the reviewer with only one or two stars.  I was pleased to hear that.  Maybe the show really was that bad but maybe the reviewer was having a bad night, too.

When I asked, “Would you want me to stop blogging?” Scott said no, that on the contrary, he hoped I would use my online presence to help drive traffic to the Nuvo site.  He said he therefore wouldn’t want me to copy and paste a whole Nuvo review onto my blog but that it would be fine for me to link to the Nuvo review and add other thoughts on my blog if I wanted to.

I was delighted to hear that.

We also talked about my writing articles as well as reviews.  I confessed that I really have no journalism background at all.  “I know about the 5 Ws,” I said, “And about the importance of accuracy, but that’s about it.” 

I also said that what I know about theatre is based just on loving it, too, not on any formal training.

He assured me that I know enough to be getting on with.  As a reader, I liked that he described Nuvo readers as appreciating a “smart but conversational, conversational but smart” tone.  As a writer, I love that he thinks I already have that.

I asked about the nitty-gritty of how things would work.  He said that we would mostly communicate by email and it would probably be 50/50 in terms of him making assignments vs. me pitching ideas.  (So if you have an idea of something you want me to consider pitching, please feel free to tell me about it in an email: amarylliswriter at gmail.)

He said that he was interested in my helping to cover aspects of the Indianapolis theatre scene that Nuvo is not already covering.  They already have someone that writes regularly about the Phoenix Theatre and the Indiana Repertory Theatre, for example, so he would like to hear about other theatres and/or events and/or theatre artists I’d like to write about.

The map of Indy’s theatre scene that is always humming quietly in the back of my head began to light up with possibilities.  I promised I would email Scott soon with ideas. 

This weekend and next I’ll still be on my own, but starting the weekend of March 21 I will have a Nuvo assignment.

Did I mention that I’m excited?

‘See you at the theatres!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com and @IndyTheatre on Twitter

© 2014 Hope Baugh

2 thoughts on “A New Chapter In My Theatre Writing Life: Writing for Nuvo”

  1. Thanks very much, Chuck! And thanks for reading all of my theatre-related words for the past seven years, no matter where I wrote them.

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