Administrative Notes and an Editorial Comment, 8/23/21

As noted in the day’s previous entry from Athena, today’s post from her marks her last contribution to the site for a bit, as she starts up school again and focuses on classes. I am, of course, 100% in support of this plan, but it does mean a few changes around here, which I will detail now.

First and most obviously, Whatever is going to go back to being largely handled by me, all the time. Some of this is back end stuff, which you won’t necessarily notice — for example, I will again be posting the Big Idea pieces, which Athena had been handling during her tenure (I had invited her to continue posting them, just for fun, but she declined). It also means that aside from the Big Idea, everything here will be generated by me.

Which is a little sad for me! I’ve enjoyed the variety that Athena’s pieces added to the site — it made the site more “Whatever-y,” if you will. That said, it reminds me that the site ethos is to offer up a wide range of topics and thoughts on them, some serious and some not, and I think going forward I’m going to keep that ethos a little more present in mind as I write and present material. How will that manifest itself? We’ll see, and we’ll see probably after Labor Day, since I’m still on my “Take August Easy and Don’t Do Too Much” plan, which I think has been an excellent plan for me, by the way. I do have ideas, however.

As the site is going back to being mostly me, I’ll be dropping the side photo for now; it’s not needed to differentiate posts between authors, and you all already know what I look like, I suspect. If you have any confusion on the score, the byline is still at the top of each post.

Athena mentions in her piece that after a month or two back in school she’ll reassess how much (if any) time she wants to devote to Whatever. Again, I’m 100% in support of this. School takes precedence and Whatever, by design, is a side hustle (it’s my side hustle, after all, and has been for going on 23 years). Right now there is no concrete plan for her future contributions; they may happen, or not, depending on her time, circumstances and inclinations. No plan, but what Athena has is an open door to post when and if she feels like it, on whatever it is she is thinking about. If she wants to, she can and may! If not, she won’t and that’s fine, too. She’s not banished, she just has other things to do. To reflect this new status, Athena’s masthead designation has changed from “writer/editor” to “contributor.”

(I’ve also changed the picture of the two of us that shows up on the front page of the site, to suggest that Athena may still be present on the site from time to time, just, you know, looming. Don’t worry, I cleared its use with her.)

So those are the administrative notes for the site at the moment. With those taken care of, let me talk briefly as an editor and a father about having Athena be part of the site.

Clearly I knew Athena would be taking a break from the site to focus on going back to school, and inasmuch as we have weekly staff meetings to plot out what’s going up on the site, I knew she would be writing a “farewell” piece as her last regularly scheduled post. I didn’t know what the specific content of it would be prior to her submitting it, or that she would talk about her time at Miami University and her thoughts about it.

I have nothing to add about her time at Miami; that’s her story to tell and it’s not my place, nor do I have an interest, to drop in my two cents there. I will say that we supported her taking time off, first to recalibrate, and then, when COVID hit, because trying to focus on education in the middle of a pandemic for which there was no vaccine wasn’t going to go great for most people in general (this suspicion has, I should say, been borne out). I’ll also say that when it looked like Athena would have an extended hiatus to her formal education, I asked her to come work for me on Whatever.

Three reasons for this: One, because a year-plus of unstructured down time is not a great idea for anyone, and the other job options in the area available to her were mostly retail, which again in a pandemic had their own issues, exposure-wise. Two, having her work on Whatever would let me focus on my own writing a little more while the site was tended to, which was an actual benefit to me, and worth paying her for. Three, because Athena is a legitimately good writer, and here was a chance to give her the time and opportunity to work on her craft on a regular basis, with someone who actually had editorial and journalistic experience. The nature of Whatever is loose (write on whatever subject interests you), but writing regularly and competently takes discipline and skill.

Of those three reasons, number two was the least successful; even with Athena taking over administrative tasks on Whatever I had a bad focus year in 2020, and the only mitigating comment here is that just about everyone else in the world felt similarly. Otherwise, I think Athena’s year on staff at Whatever was a success. The growth of her unique and specific voice as a writer is measurable over that time, as is the confidence in which she approached the topics she addressed. I am biased, of course. But I am not that biased. Athena is a good writer and she got better in her year here.

It’s not the year she or frankly any of us were expecting, but it did not go idly by. And the result was her honing a life skill that will be useful to her out in the world. I’m proud of that, and, obviously, very proud of her.

Which is a thing I feel I should say publicly: I’m proud of my kid. Life is a complicated and messy thing, and rare is the person whose life goes exactly to plan (and to whose plan? Theirs? Or someone else’s?), if they even have a plan at all. Some things are in our control and some things aren’t. I finished college in four years, right after I finished high school. Krissy got her college degree at 35, after years of fitting in classes where she could. Athena will do her thing, and it will take the time it takes. I’m not too worried about that. In the meantime Athena is a good and decent person, one of my favorite people to talk to and snark with, someone whose presence in the world makes me happy every day. And also, a hell of a good writer, and getting better as she goes along.

Again: the last year was not the year she or any of us were expecting. But I wouldn’t trade this last year of working with her for anything. For me, it was a joy, and I will never not look back on it as one of the best of times. Given the time in which it happened and everything that surrounded it, that’s saying something. It was a privilege to be her editor, and is a privilege to continue to be her father.

Me and Athena.

— JS

30 Comments on “Administrative Notes and an Editorial Comment, 8/23/21”

  1. Thank you for your item and posts, Athena, and I hope this new tack both leads you to discovering where and what you wish to be, and furthermore leads you there.

  2. Well said, Dad. As a fellow father, I am in full agreement with you: This life has challenges and there is no single way to navigate its sometimes challenging waters. My wife and I have four adult children (now ranging from 28 down to 18 years old). Each has their own story and have overcome challenges of their own. They are my favorite five people in the world I’m sure you feel the same about Krissy and Athena. Best of luck to Athena in all her endeavors. I very much enjoyed her contributions to Whatever.

  3. Athena’s voice will be missed, and I hope she’ll still show up from time to time. Fatherly pride entirely justified.

    A couple of thoughts on “changes of plans” and “finishing college degrees:”

    1.) An old Jewish proverb: “Man plans. God laughs.”

    2.) I think it’s interesting to see what may be the beginning of a gradual trend away from academics and toward “trades”–no longer a disparaging term. In a sense, as more and more jobs require a degree before one is even considered, universities are already “trade schools.”

    In my own case, after hopefully embarking on a biology major (wanted to be a marine biologist), I found my heart wasn’t in it–but was, rather, drawn irresistibly toward flying. (It probably helped that my school, in addition to being famed for oceanography, had a glider strip right on campus.) Ultimately, I dropped out, and have never regretted it–I can still hold my own in conversations with academics, and nowadays chances are that the barista who makes my latte (if and when I can go out for one again) is a postdoc marking time until they can get back into academia. If and when I go back to college, it’ll be to take courses (possibly extension ones) for stuff I want to learn, and for the joy of it…not as a way to get a job.

    I look on flying as a “trade”–perhaps one more fun that being, say, a plumber. On the other hand, nowadays the plumbers riding in the back of the airliner may well be making more money than the drivers up in the pointy end…

  4. Thanks for the update and good luck to her on her return to school. I enjoyed her unique voice while she was here and hope she can drop in occasionally.

    You and your wife are so great to not add to the pressure of her life. I remember that period. What do I do? Am I doing it even right? What will become of me? Oh sheesh. Fortunately it all worked out. It should for her too.

  5. Berni Phillips:

    No. Krissy has no interest in that.

    Louis Sivo:

    It’s not accurate to say we don’t add pressure to her life — we’re parents. We do try to be decent parents. Sometimes we’re better at that than others. It’s up to Athena to say how we’re doing generally.

  6. I am right there with you… Both my boys are starting college, and it’s tough after the shitshow of 2020.

    Feel ya there compadre.

  7. I went to college at just shy of 17, right out of high school. It was the totally WRONG school for me (Cooper Union) and I dropped out after 6 months of mostly not going to class a la Athena’s first year. I went to work for two years, the best thing ever for me (not that my mother gave me a choice – it was school or work, period). I went back (this was the years of Vietnam and the draft, after all) to a different, better school (for me), but dropped out a second time after Kent State in Spring 1970. Another year or two and I finished, cum laude, and boy, did I get so much more out of it that last time than the first two put together.

    Not everyone should go to college, is my opinion. And you need the right school for you and the right circumstance and the right classes. For me that was history (mostly British and American, but also Asian) and English literature and theater. Is it of practical use in my everyday life. Yeah, every single damn day. But not in a practical nuts & bolts way, just in a “I love to read and learn new things” kind of way.

    My only curiosity is (and this is totally not my business) did her parents know what was going on all along, because my parents sure didn’t know about me. I’d leave home in the morning and ride the subway until it was time to go home most days, with occasional forays to the 1965 Worlds’ Fair or a double feature on 42nd Street (pre-TAXI DRIVER so still safe for a teenager). It was a lousy time for me, so I can totally feel bad for what Athena went through.

    Good luck to her, whatever she ends up doing.

  8. Like everyone else here, the folks I know who have gone to college took a variety of paths in their studies. Wishing Athena the best in her path, which will be whatever works best for her.

  9. That is a wonderful picture of the two of you. My favorite picture of you is still you and Smudge photo bombing each other. But that is still a wonderful picture.

  10. I do want to say to you Mr. Scalzi that based on your comments in the past, I never for a moment thought that you were not 100% supporting Athena and proud of her.

    Your comments here simply reinforce that thinking

  11. Glad she’s going to school! Wish her all the best! I enjoyed reading her contributions, and I’ll miss them. (Thanks for the pic, I love it!)

  12. I don’t have kids yet, but I’d say yours is pretty darn excellent, and I’ve super enjoyed her posts. I’m going to keep stopping by either way, since I also super enjoy your posts, but getting to hear from her has been wonderful.

  13. It’s been fun reading her posts and sharing her interests. I look forward to seeing any further contributions from her in the future.
    Good luck in school Athena!


  14. Good luck to Athena, and hopes that the new college environment suits her and that she will return when it’s right for her.

  15. Cute picture. I’m going to miss her posts. But I think it’s great she is going back to school.

  16. First time commenter, looooong time reader.

    Athena’s posts about school and being the daughter of a Little League Famous (no shade, her words!) author were incredibly brave, emotionally insightful, and honest. What a voice.

    Thanks for addicting me to KDA, Athena. I think I’ve listened to “Pop Stars” about a squillion times, now.

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