Hey, guess what? I have a job.

A real, live job. Seriously.

After 52 months of unemployment — and barely scraping by with a little consulting work — I’ve been hired by the Orange County Register of Santa Ana, Calif. I’ll be editor and designer of the Register‘s daily Focus page, which takes a look at a variety of topics of interest to readers.

My start date is March 4. I accepted the Register‘s offer –and wrote most of this blog post — a couple of weeks ago. I’ve just been waiting for the official paperwork to come through before I announced something. We’re still waiting on a couple of items to filter through the system. But I can’t hold off any longer — namely, because I hit the road in just a few hours.

For our relocation of 2,723 miles, Sharon and I rented a 16-foot Penske truck. We chose Penske based on the recommendations of Richard Curtis and Jim McBee.

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Driving this rig home yesterday made me feel like Oliver Wendell Douglas in Green Acres. Or maybe C.W. McCall.

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“Bring ‘er on back, Rubber Duck.”

The back of it is fairly roomy. Hey, maybe I ought to just park it in the deck at the OCR and live in the truck!

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I was treated to my last Virginia Beach sunset last night. Smack in front of my eyeballs as I tried to drive back to my neighborhood.

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With the help of a couple of friends of my daughter, we loaded up.

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As soon as Sharon gets out of school this afternoon, we’ll hoist my trusty PT Cruiser — better known to longtime blog readers as the Deerslayer — onto a trailer behind this truck and we’ll set out for a four-and-a-half day, cross-country odyssey.

I’ve already changed our proposed route once and I may have to do it again, given weather forecasts along the way. I really don’t want to drive a truck-and-trailer rig through an ice storm.

With luck, we’ll pull into Southern California on Tuesday afternoon. Sharon will help me find a small apartment, I’ll start work on March 4 and Sharon will fly back home to Virginia Beach on the 5th.

One of the big downsides for me: I’ll then have to live apart from my wife and daughter for up to a year-and-a-half before we can afford to sell our house, rent a place there and move them out as well.

But, hey: This is a terrific job and a terrific opportunity. And frankly, we’re looking forward to exploring Southern California. The headquarters of the Register itself is on the south side of the L.A. metro area near Anaheim and Disneyland.

I feel like I know the region already: I have every record Brian Wilson ever made.

You don’t really need me to recap my bio, do you? You do? Very well, then…

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I’m a 1984 graduate of Winthrop College in Rock Hill, S.C. I spent several years working in the school’s sports information operation, stringing sports for the Charlotte Observer and, later, drawing editorial cartoons for the Rock Hill Evening Herald.

I spent a year in Atlanta as a “directory closing analyst” — essentially a managerial-level troubleshooter — for the Southern Bell Yellow Pages before moving to the Athens, Ga., Banner-Herald and Daily News in 1986 as an advertising artist.

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I absolutely hated ad work. But I won a couple of national awards there, which made it even harder to concentrate on moving into the newsroom. I also drew editorial cartoons. My rough plan was to be a cartoonist, but as papers of all sizes added graphic artists in order to be more like USA Today, I thought that might be interesting to try for a while.

Good call. What I found was that my content-driven approach was a little different from what many small papers were doing. They simply added color logos and doo-dads to their pages in order to look more “modern.” They didn’t grasp at all what a powerful tool wonderfully written and planned infographics could be.

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Not that you’re seeing any infographics here. These are all page illustrations and page designs, obviously. The “Getting Away” cover at bottom right was one of the first covers I ever illustrated. The two larger pages up top are two of the first broadsheet pages I ever designed.

But in addition to work like this, my main function was to dive into news graphics via a brand new Macintosh computer. With two megabytes of RAM and a 20 MB hard drive. Which, at the time, seemed huge.

 

Two pictures of me at the Athens Banner-Herald,

around 1987 or so. On the right, I’m drawing an

editorial cartoon.

Athens eventually moved me into the newsroom. I worked there another year or so. In that time I redesigned my first paper.

I worked briefly to the Savannah Morning News but then — in 1988 — I moved back to the Rock Hill Herald, which had shortened its name and converted to morning publication in my absence.

I spent nearly five years in Rock Hill, doing everything from infographics to rack card design to researching and writing my own mega-graphic presentations to designing Sunday section fronts.

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During my time in Rock Hill, the paper was bought by McClatchy. Just a few weeks after my daughter was born in 1993, I moved to the Raleigh, N.C. News & Observer. Not long after that, McClatchy bought that paper.

I suggested to Gregory Favre once that McClatchy just pay me a few million dollars the next time and cut out the middleman. Unfortunately, he didn’t take that advice.

Much to my surprise, though — thanks to the time a larger staff could afford to have me spend on research and rendering  and thanks to wonderful art direction from a very patient and talented Ken Mowry — my work just exploded. I began winning national awards in Raleigh. Some were for my big, full-page graphics…

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…but others were for breaking news coverage. In fact, I won honors from the Society for News Design in three consecutive years for projects in which I went out to the scene of crimes or accidents and sent sketches and info back to the paper for my teammates to craft into a graphic.

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In 1996, I moved to the Chicago Tribune. I continued to do breaking news work and I developed some new skills. Like, for example, working in 3D.

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In 1999, I finally succumbed to the temptation to move into management by becoming graphics editor of the Des Moines Register.

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During this time, I also came into demand as an instructor. I found myself speaking at SND events, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association and for the American Press Institute, among others.

In 2003, I began blogging — first, for API and then posting articles and items of interest in the bulletin boards at VisualEditors.com. The founder of that site — my old Tribune pal Robb Montgomery — finally talked me into taking the enormous amount of work I was doing there and putting it instead into blog format.

In 2010, I moved my blog to its current home at the American Copy Editors Society.

Also in 2003, I moved to the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va. I continued to write, teach and blog. I spent several years as a columnist for SND’s quarterly magazine, Design.

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But in late 2007, the Pilot eliminated my graphics department and folded its personnel into other departments. Eventually, most of us left or took buyouts. Only one artist from my old staff remains today.

Shortly after, I made the leap from newspapers into the world of electronic magazine design at the Sporting News in Charlotte, N.C. But after only three months there, my position as art director was eliminated. Not only did they fire me, but also they had security escort me out of the building.

If you’ve ever wondered why I have such a short fuse with layoffs and managerial shenanigans: That’s why.

I was lucky, though, that we hadn’t yet sold our house in Virginia Beach. I was also lucky that my talents were still in demand — even if not on a full-time basis.

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In the nearly four-and-a-half years since then, I’ve worked as as a free-lance instructor, consultant, writer and designer, teaching news design and graphics seminars around the country. I’ve spent a total of eight months over five separate trips to South Africa. I’ve also taught in Nigeria, Kenya and the Philippines.

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Teaching last March in Abuja, Nigeria.

Mostly, though, I blog. Several years ago, I’d go to SND events, people would look at my name tag and say: “Hey! You’re the battleship guy!” Now, they say: “Hey! You’re the blog guy!

Blogging has never paid me a cent. But in those long stretches between consulting assignments, the blog — and you readers — have given me an excuse to get out of bed each morning, no matter how foul my mood might be or how badly I lost out on the latest job opportunity. This blog has kept me sharp and active and productive.

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Me, blogging in: (clockwise, from upper left) Aug. 2006

in Orlando, March 2007 in Manila, Oct. 2007 in Boston,

and Oct. 2009 in Johannesburg.

And it’s allowed me to help inspire us all to do better work, to take chances and to think differently. Because if one thing has become clear over that past few years, it’s this: We can’t keep doing the same old things over and over. “Good enough” just ain’t good enough any more.

To answer the question you might have: No, I won’t have to give up blogging. I might not post quite as often as I did when I was sitting at home for days with nothing to do. But if you’ll keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

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Me, in my home office, not long after I accepted

the job offer, about two weeks ago.

For the past nine years, we’ve lived in a nice condo in the southern part of Virginia Beach. Sharon is an elementary school special ed teacher who specializes in working with students with autism. My daughter, Elizabeth, turned 20 earlier this month. She’s taking classes at Tidewater Community College and is already begging to move with me to L.A. She wants to explore.

Plus, we have a dog, three cats, a rabbit, a guinea pig, a bearded dragon (who’s minus her feet and hands) and some fish. When the time comes, I’d imagine, not all will be able to make the move. My idea: Set them all against each other. The survivors get to move with us to the West Coast. Perhaps we could get Michael Vick — who is from Hampton Roads — to help handle the arrangements.

Sharon didn’t think that was funny at all.

I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. If you’ve not friended me — or, at least, “liked” this blog’s Facebook page — please feel free.

Above, I showed you my office as it looked a couple of weeks ago and the way it’s looked for the past four years. This is what it looked like last Saturday, smack in the middle of packing.

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Now, everything’s out of it except for a rack of CDs behind the door. Those are staying for now.

I’m not able to take all my action figures. But some are making the trip.

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We’ve been tripping over boxes all week. And we’re not really moving all that much stuff.

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Elizabeth and I went out last week to buy some packing supplies. Who knew there was such a thing as Justin Bieber duct tape?

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Once I moved out of my office, I set up blogging on our dining room table. Where our oldest cat, Bones, suddenly decided he would lobby to come with me.

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He only wants to go with me because he knows I’ll feed him more often that Sharon and Elizabeth will.

But my to-do is nearly complete.

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In just a few hours, it’ll be time to hit the road.

I’ll have 3G service on my iPhone throughout the trip and, of course, hotel wifi service each night. So I’ll continue to blog as often as I can. I won’t be able to scan as much material as I usually do, however. So if you have a cool page or something I should consider putting the blog: My all means, please send it to me.

chuckapple [at] earthlink.net

And, in case you’re interested, I’ll be update our progress via social media.

Westward Ho!

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