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Two Writers, One Roof: A Literary Love Story

Knopper melissa
By Melissa Knopper

The first time I ever saw my husband it was 1987. That was the year the movie Broadcast Newscame out. With his curly hair and nervous energy, he was like Albert Brooks. I was feisty like Holly Hunter. Like those two characters, we worked side by side as journalists at our college newspaper,The Michigan Daily.

I walked into the Student Publications Building to start my first night shift and asked what to do. They said, “Go find Knopper.” I thought this was some kind of fancy layout tool, so I said, “What’s a Knopper?” You should have heard the roar of  laughter. Well, I found out what a Knopper is – and now I am one!

So that first night, we sat side by side creating a digest of current events and writing headlines together. We made each other laugh with jokes about hammerheds and such. Later, he informed me that I would be “Dinner Editor” that night. I felt ok about paying my dues, so I went out to Blimpy Burger and got Steve and I matching burgers with a pile of extra pickles.

There was definitely chemistry there, and the beginning of a true friendship, but we both were dating other people, so we didn’t really start our romance until about seven years later, when we both landed newspaper reporting jobs in suburban Chicago. As fate would have it, we literally bumped into each other on a street corner near Grant Park during the very crowded Taste of Chicago. From then on, we were inseparable. My orange tabby cat, Max, persuaded us to have a first kiss, and we married on Jan. 3, 1998 at the Chicago Historical Society.

These days, we live in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood and we both work from home out of our crumbly old Victorian house. Steve is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone and I’m a freelance health writer with a side business writing life stories for people. We have worked this way, under the same roof, for 10 years. People always wonder how we do it, and so do we.

A few important rules help.

Most important: never read each other’s writing. We learned this the hard way back in Chicago. I remember one time, when we were newlyweds. I had worked and worked on a long analysis piece about the local cable TV market. I was in the newsroom late on a Friday, polishing it to perfection. Just as I reached for the send button, I had second thoughts. I knew Steve would reassure me, so I asked if he would take a look at my lead. Soon, I heard the fax humming. The machine spit out a page covered with his scrawling chicken scratch. He hated it!

I couldn’t help it, after such a long day, and so much effort on this story – I started to cry. But down in my heart, I knew he was right. So I made the changes, turned in the story and dragged myself home in the darkness. I spent much of that weekend simmering about it. That’s when we made the rule about not reading each other’s stuff.

We also have to try not to be that annoying co-worker who stops by your cubicle all the time and wastes your whole morning with shop talk. We are both guilty of violating this rule far too often – just barging in and saying, “Guess what? My editor killed that story, can you believe it?”

We are best at comforting each other when we have to run a correction. Both of us have been there and felt that sting, so we know just the right words to make each other feel better.

I imagine we have a much sharper analysis of the morning paper than your typical American couple. Our poor daughter, Rose, has to listen to us go on about how they screwed up the jump page or how their investigative reporters really nailed it on the latest police scandal.

To be honest, I think we would get along better in our marriage if one of us went off to an office each morning. But my husband loves freelancing more than anything, and I like the flexibility it gives me as a mom.So we keep persisting through pockets of joyful togetherness and periods of driving each other crazy. Some days, when we meet up in the hallway to go out for lunch at Spicy Pickle, or we take off early on a Friday for a weekend in the mountains, it all feels worth it. As I always say, you’ve got to enjoy the “free” in freelancing.

__________

Melissa Knopper has 20 years of experience writing for magazines and newspapers, including theRocky Mountain News and Chicago Tribune. She attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York and has written two books. In 2009, she launched her new business, Real Life Tributes (www.real-life-tributes.com), to offer a meaningful and personal type of storytelling for people of all ages. You can also visit the Website she shares with her husband www.knopps.com.

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