Erica was calendar editor and arts editor (2007-2013)
I may just look like another sleep-deprived work-at-home mom in her early 30s, but let me tell you, friends — I used to be a @calendar_girl at the Charleston City Paper.
My six years of working there were as glamorous as they were seedy, and they were some of the best of my life.
I’m really not sure why Stephanie Barna decided to hire me when I applied for the editorial assistant job in 2007. Weeks after graduating from a small Virginia liberal arts school, I was poorly dressed, meek, and I’m pretty sure I blushed furiously throughout the interview. When she asked me what I liked to read, I replied, “The Brontes.” (Classic English major move.) She even likes to tell me that I blew the editing test, although I always suspected she was lying about that.
But for some reason, she offered me the job, and I jumped right into my role of writing City Picks, copy editing, intern-wrangling, and managing the Calendar section (hence the Twitter handle). I pretended to know what the hell was happening in town, and pretty soon I didn’t even have to fake it.
It didn’t take me long to screw up, though. For the first issue I ever copy edited, for some inexplicable reason, I changed the word “raucous” to “raucuous” in the first paragraph of the cover story. It made it to print, and Stephanie caught it while the entire editorial staff was gathered in her office for a meeting. I quietly admitted my guilt, and — shockingly for anyone who’s ever met the fiery former EIC — Stephanie did not immediately murder me. But to this day, that word makes me question my value as a human being.
Sadly, that was far from my only gaffe — though many of them had more to do with learning to hold my liquor alongside some of Charleston’s most committed drinkers. Between work happy hours at Rec Room, open bar events, and company parties, I got to know the sloppy side of my colleagues intimately. I knew who to avoid after a few drinks if I didn’t want to enter a deep philosophical debate. I knew who got flirty, who got mad, and who liked to talk shit about everyone else. I knew who could be counted on to bring sex toys to the gift exchange at the Christmas party, and I also knew who was most likely to puke in the alley behind the Black Cart midway through the fete. (The latter would be me.)
The alcohol-fueled bonding made for some slow mornings at the office, but it also made the pressures of running a successful weekly newspaper a little more bearable — even when we were locking horns about silly things like editorial integrity and important things like em dashes. (Though we were more likely to be discussing the previous night’s TV and how bad Chris Haire’s lunch smelled.)
The bulk of my 20s passed by in a blur of interviews, transcribing, media dinners, press conferences, art openings, deadlines, Spoleto Festivals, and Best of Charleston issues (and even blurrier Best of Charleston parties). When it was time for me to leave Charleston, it wasn’t the city’s charm or beauty or incredible food that I found myself mourning. It was a little newspaper that gave me the confidence to write in a voice I didn’t even know I had — and more hangovers than I can count.
So the next time you see a harried woman bouncing a screaming baby on her mom jeans-clad hip (skinny jeans are mom jeans now, right?), just remember this: You never know who she was in a previous life.
Erica Jackson Curran now lives in Richmond, Va. with her husband, Todd, and their 11-month-old son. She works for a digital marketing agency and writes whenever she gets the chance. Todd bought her the domain name RichmondCityPaper.com for her 30th birthday — just in case they decide to start their own alt-weekly one day.