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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 21st day of Swimming, Yr 21
The Neopian Times Week 48 > Short Stories > The Search for Unique

The Search for Unique

by amyli_emitar

BRRIIINGGG! CIARA REACHED for the office phone, muttering irritably to herself. "If you're another one of those star-struck citizens, thinking that your story is really gonna be chosen out of all the others and make you rich, then you can just..." The green Zafara's eyes widened in surprise as the chiding voice of her superior reached her ears. "Oh, I'm so sorry, ma'am. I didn't realise it was you... Yes, I know the deadline's tonight... Yes, I only need a few more articles... Of course the paper will be done in time." She slammed down the phone, causing her Quiggle colleague to glance up in surprise.

        "Something wrong, Ciara?"

        The young editor frowned. "Of course not, Kendrah. I mean, I only have to find half a dozen more articles and stories. I only have to write an editorial and answer the same old questions all over again. I only have to..."

        Kendrah carefully raised a rainbow hand. "Don't worry, dear. Once you've been working for the Times as long as I have, you'll be able to handle it. Why, I remember a time when..."

        Ciara rolled her eyes heavenwards. "Yeah, yeah. But you only have to do the comics."

        The elderly Quiggle glanced up innocently. "I have them all chosen, too. You wouldn't believe how amusing the youngest generation can be... And what great artists!"

        "Whatever." Ciara returned to her work, pointedly ignoring Kendrah as she droned on...

        "Of course, the cartoonists of my day..." Kendrah's words were cut off as a young faerie Blumaroo bounced in, throwing the door to their office open.

        "Hi, Ciara, Kendrah! I've a bunch of submissions for you to look through!" She plopped a formidable pile on Ciara's desk, hardly stopping her chatter as the Zafara groaned loudly. "Now, I don't know what's wrong with you, Ciara. I've just been all over Neopia Central collecting these - the least you can do is be properly grateful!"

        "For more work?" Ciara muttered under her breath, but obediently began to skim through the papers. She had long since learned that agreement was the best way to quell Brittanee. But, moments later, she protested again, holding out an article for her co-worker's perusal. "Brittanee, I can't run this!"

        The pretty Blumaroo shrugged. "Why not? You do have to pick something - and soon."

        "Don't remind me. But listen..." She began to read aloud. "'This article will sho u how 2 make lots of np. u got 2 play lotsa games and sell stuff in ur shop.'" Throwing down the paper, she turned back to Brittanee. "We're not desperate enough to run that!"

        "Oh, come on, now, Ciara, they can't all be like that!"

        The green Zafara frowned. "I swear, Britt, you'd find something good to say about Dr. Sloth!" Brittanee flushed, embarrassed, but persevered. "Well, if it comes to that, he is a brilliant--"

        Ciara raised a paw for silence. "Forget it." She rifled through the submissions, occasionally reading aloud. "Game tips. Battle strategies. Shop help. Get rich quick."

        Brittanee bristled slightly. "And what's wrong with that?"

        But before Ciara could retort, Kendrah raised a rainbow hand. "You two stop fighting, or you'll never get anything done. Brittanee, she's had a hard day. Ciara, laying blame won't help anyone. Now, why don't you try to work together so we can get this paper published?"

        The Blumaroo and Zafara exchanged glanced. Finally, Ciara spoke. "Sorry, Brittanee. It's just... we get so many similar themed articles and stories. I wish someone would write something new, something different. Something unique."

        Brittanee regarded her seriously for a moment; that is, until the phone rang yet again, causing the agile Blumaroo to jump. Ciara sighed, glanced at the clock, and reached for it. "Hello, Neopian Times Publishing Press - how may I help you?"

        She listened intently, put a paw over the mouthpiece, and turned hurriedly towards Kendrah and Brittanee, both of whom were now watching her curiously. "There's someone who wants to interview... us!"

        "Us?" Kendrah's query was quiet, but then Ciara had rarely known the long-time employee of the Times to become agitated.

        "Us!" Brittanee's response was more enthusiastic; she preened little, flailing purple wings.

        Ciara frowned, eyes darting to the clock once again. "Yeah, yeah, but can we do this now?"

        Brittanee giggled. "As opposed to what? You know we weren't getting anything done, anyway."

        The green Zafara grinned. "Tell it like it is!" Removing the silencing paw from the phone, she added, "Yes, now would be fine. Yes, we'll be expecting you. Great." She set the phone down with uncharacteristic gentleness, looking between her two colleagues. "You guys realise that we're not gonna get this paper out in time, right?"

        Brittanee shrugged, pulling out a chair for herself. "We can try. And Ciara, if you can't be productive, at least look busy! This reporter of yours is going to make us the laughingstock of the press!"

        Ciara laughed quietly. "Why Britt... I wouldn't have thought it of you!" Maybe the pretty, proper young Blumaroo wasn't that bad, after all...

        Kendah looked between the two Neopets, smiling softly. Now if the younger generation would only stop trying to kill each other off...

        A sharp, rap at the door startled them all into a sudden flurry of work. Even Ciara bent her head over her papers; Brittanee rose swiftly to admit the visitor.

        A faerie Meerca bounced in, smiling brightly but with a pen tucked, businesslike, behind her ear. "Hi... I'm Allimeow. And you choose what is published in the Neopian Times, right?"

        Ciara grinned. "We try."

        The Meerca laughed, and produced a clipboard and paper. "Good enough. You don't mind if I take notes, do you? I'm planning on writing an article, afterwards."

        Brittanee shook her head. "Of course not, Allimeow. We're honoured that you chose us, and..." She caught Ciara's pointed stare, and subsided.

        "Thanks. But please, just call me Alli. And... you three are?"

        "Brittanee."

        "Ciara."

        "And Kendrah." Alli nodded. "And together you handle the publication of the Times?"

        "A little simple, but yes." Brittanee was in her element. "I'm usually collecting story and article submissions from our reporters and authors, but Ciara and I also work together to choose what is actually published. Ciara also handles the editorial, and writes the news brief. Kendrah puts the comics section together."

        "Wow. How long have you been doing this?"

        "Twenty years - just about since the Times was first published," Kendrah spoke up.

        "Three," Ciara answered. "Quite long enough."

        "I've only been here for a year," Brittanee confessed, "but..."

        "But you love your work already?" Alli guessed, bright eyes sparkling.

        The truthful Blumaroo blushed. "Well... uh..."

        Ciara smirked, filling in for her friend. "No, I wouldn't say that."

        The little Meerca raised an eyebrow, obviously interested. "Why not?"

        "Well, we work long hours, and rarely get credit. It's always a rush to get the paper done on time, and -"

        "It's hard to find good submissions," Brittanee grinned, anticipating the next item on Ciara's list. "You shouldn't have gotten her started, Alli."

        "Hard to find submissions?" Allimeow frowned slightly, wings fluttering. "But surely you get plenty... I mean, everyone wants to have trophies, and a lot of my friends have tried to get something published. What's the problem?"

        "Mainly, finding work that's good enough to be published," Ciara explained. "We publish about ten to fifteen short stories a week, fifteen to twenty series episodes, fifteen to twenty-five comics, and twenty to thirty articles."

        Alli raised her eyes upwards, mentally adding up Ciara's figures. Moments later, her jaw dropped in surprise. "But... that's sixty to ninety different submissions a week!" Her eyes rounded with new respect for the Neopian Times' employees.

        Ciara waggled a paw in contradiction. "Not quite. Sixty to ninety quality submissions."

        Allimeow was bent over her clipboard, taking notes at a furious pace. Finally, she looked up once more. "OK... So, what do you look for in a 'quality' submission?"

        "It really depends on the category," Kendrah explained, finally getting a word in. "For the comics, submissions need to display good artistic skill - but most of all, they have to be funny. That's what makes them different from say, the art gallery."

        "Short stories need to have a good plot, and also have to make sense. They should be fairly concise and to the point - otherwise, it's a series you should be writing. Plot is also important in writing a series, but in this case, it must be long enough for several episodes to be written without becoming boring or repetitive," Ciara added. "But boy, do we get a lot of repetitive!"

        Brittanee nodded. "While we know that there are only so many basic plots, it's nice to have a new twist every once in a while, something that readers will remember. It's the same for articles - if they're written about new topics, they stand a much better chance of getting in."

        Allimeow nodded. "So you're saying that the bottom line is, 'Be creative and original'?"

        The three Times employees exchanged glances, and nodded. "Yeah, I guess that's it," Ciara affirmed.

        "Good. I just have a couple more questions. Are you still short on articles?"

        "I thought you understood that we're always short on good -" Ciara began, then broke off at Brittanee's warning glare. "Uh, yeah, I guess you could say that."

        "Then would you publish this interview in the Neopian Times?"

        For once, Ciara was speechless. Brittanee took one look at her friend before collapsing in giggles. Kendrah hid a smile, answering, "That's certainly never been done before... and it would be nice to get some credit. Maybe people would also follow our guidelines next time they sent something in to be published..."

        The little Meerca beamed. "Well, I hope that I have!"

The End


Note from Allimeow: This story is fictional, although Ciara, Kendrah, and Brittanee are based on the committee of pets reading the submissions described in the e-mail my owner received after sending in her first article. No offence is meant to anyone who has submitted but not been published; this was only intended to be a more creative guide on how to get your submission published in the Times, as well as my personal tribute to everyone who makes The Neopian Times possible. Hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading!

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