FRANK TALK ABOUT WHAT WE DO WITH OUR LIVES

Welcome

In Notes on April 1, 2015 at 12:05 am

Work Stew is a collection of original essays and in-depth interviews. To learn more, please visit the FAQ.

New essays and interviews will be added regularly, so please check in often. Or you can sign up to receive email notifications of new contentlook for the button at the bottom right of the site.

Also, Work Stew now has its very own Facebook page; if you ‘like’ it, you’ll be able to see periodic updates in your news feed. You can also receive notices of new content via Twitter.

 

A brief history:

The site was launched in January 2011, when I published “Random Acts of Business,” an essay about extraordinarily long hot dogs, True Believers, and my lifelong quest for flow. Since then more than 70 other essays have been added to the mix.

You can view a complete list of contributors here. To date, the Top Ten Readers’ Favorites* are (in alphabetical order):

Molly Bishop Shadel A law professor writes about juggling her wide-ranging legal career with a personal life

Gerald Casale A founding member of the ground-breaking and enduring band Devo reflects on what constitutes “work.” 

Samantha Cole A prep school grad embraces her “inner laborer.” 

Ronald J. Granieri An historian pulls back the ivy to reveal what life in academia is really like.  

Tasha Huebner A self-employed Wharton grad takes a hammer to the old chestnut, “Do what you love, and the money will come.” 

Meg Heimovics Kumin A software developer reboots after three babies and two family crises and emerges as a photographer

Gopi Kallayil A Googler ponders the power of intention after an idea scribbled on a piece of paper almost immediately springs to life. 

Lindsay Moran Following the Abbottabad raid, an ex-spy reflects on her decision to leave the CIA

Rhino A soldier describes what it’s like to come home, including what goes through his mind when someone says to him, “Thank you for your service.” 

Terri Rowe A longtime factory worker reveals the secret identity that has sustained her since she was four years old. 

If you’re interested in submitting an essay of your own, please write to me at kate@workstew.com. I’d love to hear your story.

Thanks,
Kate

Kate Gace Walton
Editor, Work Stew

*Note: ‘Readers’ Favorite’ is a pretty subjective designation based on page views, shares, comments, and the volume of love/hate mail each essay has so far inspired. So, read all the essays; as they say, your mileage may vary.

And Now for Something Completely Different

In Contests on March 3, 2015 at 9:15 am

Note from Work Stew editor Kate Gace Walton: On Sunday, when I announced the winner of the latest Work Stew writing contest, I mentioned that I would also share a few of the other entries. The whimsy of this fictional (I presume!) submission caught my eye.

THE FAIRY

By Cari Oleskewicz

hcj011_k_back_1_1He walked into the playroom, and Courtney looked up from her collection of Monster High dolls, who were preparing to rumble with the Barbies. The man wore shiny shoes and a dark suit. His hair was slicked back and he raised one eyebrow while he scanned the colored pictures on her walls and the hopscotch rug on the floor.

“Who are you?” Courtney asked.

“I’m your guy,” he said. “Didn’t you call me? About the bedtime situation?”

“Oh!” Courtney frowned and slid her Monster High dolls to the side. “I thought you’d look different.”

“What did you think I’d look like?”

“Like a fairy godmother,” the child said.

“Well, I am, sort of. I’m a lobbyist. How old are you?”

“Eight.”

“Super. Tell me what you’ve done so far.”

She got up from the floor and looked up at him. “Are you sure?”

“Do you want to avoid your bedtime or don’t you?”

“I do.”

“Then I can help you.”

Courtney chronicled what she had done to avoid the ritual. The tantrums, the begging, the promises, the defiance. Nothing worked, so she did what any kid would do. She conjured a fairy.

“We’re going to filibuster,” he said.

“What’s that?”

The man smiled. “Do you like to talk? Do you really like to talk?”

Courtney shrugged. “I guess.”

“Then you’ll be fine. The goal here is to eliminate your parents’ ability to get you to bed.”

“How?”

“Watch. And learn. And bring me all your books.”

Congratulations to…

In Contests on March 1, 2015 at 9:17 am

Ian Be, winner of the latest Work Stew writing contest. This was the prompt:

Describe a moment on the job, real or imagined, when the work at hand suddenly took on new meaning.

I received many good entries (some of which I may publish later…I’ll be in touch!), but I settled on Mr. Be’s piece as the winner for several reasons: 1) I appreciated the glimpse into a work world that too few of us understand; 2) I thought the entry was well crafted; and 3) I admired its adherence to the prompt.

Writing to a prompt is a special kind of challenge: how to create an entry that relates to the prompt without feeling artificial, or concocted? I thought this piece (like several others I received) threaded that particular needle very well. Here it is, all 548 words:

HONOR GUARD

By Ian Be

funeral4Riding in a Chevy Tahoe is not always terrifying. But when your driver is a twenty-year-old recently returned from service in Iraq, the experience can be pretty intense. Specialist Matthews was swerving through dense traffic on Interstate 90, braking hard to avoid collisions, then slamming the accelerator again. His reckless behavior was influenced by driving humvees in a war zone, and his concern that we may arrive late to the cemetery.

We were supposed to be there before the funeral procession. When the drivers approached they would see two soldiers wearing dress blue uniforms waiting by the roadside. We would snap to attention and salute the deceased veteran as the hearse slowed to a stop. A third soldier would be stationed a polite distance from the gravesite with a silver bugle. The bugle was real, but hidden inside was an electronic speaker that played a prerecorded version of “Taps.” The best performers would fake their inhalations to mimic the phrasing of the melody.

Specialist Matthews continued cursing and grumbling, frustrated because the previous funeral had started later than scheduled. He knew there was no way we’d make it to the next one on time. I sat in the back, unable to watch the road when SPC Matthews was driving. Sergeant Kinsey rode shotgun, calmed by his sense of humor. He kept encouraging Matthews to drive faster. He was joking, but Matthews didn’t know that.

When we arrived, the veteran’s family was assembling around the gravesite. Specialist Matthews took the bugle. Sergeant Kinsey and I walked toward the gathered crowd as quickly and respectfully as possible. We stood at attention behind the casket, which was overlain with a crisp American flag.

I could hear sniffles and sobbing. The pastor gestured wildly, accusing the deceased of being an “alcoholic parasite.” The pastor was the veteran’s brother. He blamed his sibling for many things which hurt their family. I glanced over at Sergeant Kinsey, both of us wide eyed as we listened to the passionate scolding.

Most veterans serve short contracts in the army, quietly live the rest of their lives, and die in their own due time. Their funerals are solemn. Mundane. Sometimes I’d work five services per day. There was rarely an opportunity to learn anything about the people I was honoring. But this was different. Suddenly the duty I had performed so many times before took on meaning. I felt a deep need to return respect and dignity to this man, whose memory was being torn down by the harsh words of his unforgiving brother.

After the pastor struggled through the traditional prayers, there was a brief moment of silence before Sergeant Kinsey and I raised our final salute. Specialist Matthews brought the bugle to his lips. The slow melody of “Taps” sounded across the cemetery. When silence returned, Sergeant Kinsey and I lowered our salute and proceeded to fold the flag. I clutched the stiff triangle, executed a right face, and approached the next-of-kin. I knelt down, offered the flag to her, recited the speech I had memorized and delivered countless times. The last words spoken at this veteran’s funeral.

“Ma’am, this flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation, as an expression of appreciation, for the honorable, and faithful service rendered by your loved one.”

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