I keep a list. On it are the names of the writers who will never again work for this magazine, no matter how brilliant their pitches, no matter how plaintive their appeals to my good Christian nature. Losers. I’ve worked at D Magazine for six years. In that time, I’ve put three names on the list. They have either stolen money from us or ripped off ideas or busted deadlines repeatedly and egregiously, without warning or apology. And I’ve told them: “As long as I’m working here, you won’t.”
It’s been a weird week. I added the third name to my list as we were going to press with this issue—which, I realized, happens to carry a story by a writer who lost favor with the magazine a decade ago, when it was under different direction. Let’s not dwell on the third name and how the divorce went down. Though I will say that it went down loudly, over the phone, with my voice trembling in a way that had to impress my co-workers. Forget the third name. Let’s talk instead about Craig Hanley, the prodigal writer who has returned to these pages.
Back in the mid-’90s, as a freelancer, Craig wrote a handful of successful stories for D, about such topics as how UT Southwestern attracts Nobel laureates and what the head of a hot boutique brokerage learned while on an African safari. Then Craig got a little off track. He turned in a 6,000-word profile of a chimpanzee who lived at the Dallas Zoo. Management at the time apparently didn’t think the story was, um, a good fit. Craig disagreed. That was that.
I learned this history while having lunch with Craig a couple months ago. We were exploring the notion of his becoming a contributing editor to D. By then, I’d stumbled across a beautiful story he’d written in 1997, during his first tour, called “Death Never Takes a Holiday,” about the 200 people who’d died in a single week in Dallas. Inspired by that piece, I’d reconnected with Craig and worked with him on two recent stories (“Scenes From the Class Struggle in Farmers Branch,” May 2007; “The New Face of Heroin,” October 2007; both free, along with everything we’ve published since 1974, at www.dmagazine.com).
Craig had said when we first met that he sometimes worked with a friend who remodeled homes. So as the check arrived at lunch, I asked about his flipping business. No, no, Craig said. I’d misunderstood. He didn’t flip houses. He did manual labor, “the unskilled stuff the Mexicans refuse to do,” as he put it. Then he started telling stories about working alongside illegals, when he was between books and other writing projects.
That’s how “Will Work With Mexicans” found its way to page 34. At the risk of blowing too much sunshine up Craig’s skirt, to my mind it’s a touching, perfectly constructed magazine story. I’m proud to publish it. And I’m proud to have Craig onboard now as a contributing editor, once again writing for D.
He joins two other newly signed contributing editors: Pamela Gwyn Kripke, who profiles a curious French artist; and Gretel Kovach, whose first story for D, coming soon, promises to be a blockbuster. Space prevents listing Pamela and Gretel’s bona fides, but together with Craig, these three people make quite a triad of writers.
As for you three miserable hacks on my list—and you know who you are—hang in there, guys. Take heart from Craig’s journey. This, too, shall pass.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.