A little something happened while I was running a mile-long freight through the Carolina foothills, hogging on the Tennessee Carolina & Coast.
I placed a magazine article.
See, I was running trains up in the Asheville area (you can see my blog on trains, over on the left, for details of prototypical operations of trains). Guy named Steve was on the dispatcher’s panel, in the other room, directing the traffic by line phones. He’s got a magnetic board in front of him and he’s moving his markers to keep track of the trains (and telling the crews how far they should go and where they should stop). In reality, a dispatcher would be using a big sheet of gridded paper to record times, or a computer program. But most operating layouts, you’ve got the magnetic board.
Not the N-scale club in Orlando, though. Being an Excel demon, I wrote my own panel program, making it possible to double click and move trains on a computer. Why is this better? Because (a) the computer marks ALL track a train is cleared through (not just where the marker is). And (b) you can add new trains, with new designations, on the fly. On magnetic boards, each train only has one marker, and you can only designate trains with whatever’s already printed on those markers.
And what does this have to do about writing?
Well, I came out of the train room after getting my train into Kingsburg Yard, and found that club dispatcher Bob was raving to current dispatcher Steve about our program that we use, and how much better it is than these boards. And Steve is the editor of The Dispatcher’s Office, a magazine for model railroad operations. And he’s interested. “Write me up something,” he tells me. “I’d love to see it.”
The program is already up, posted to our gaming site, Gridsims.com. I write the article and post it over, and it’s in the January issue. I’ve gotten lots of positive email since them, a couple of earnest questions, and some always-needed praise for my concise instructions. And that’s always nice. We writers get enough bad breaks. A good one is welcome.
And our lesson from all this? Sure, you might earn rejection following rejection posting to magazines and agents. And then, one day while funning and running in some stranger’s basement empire, you walk through the door and a writing proposal falls in your lap. Sometimes the world is like that.