Former Coleman staffers pen novel of life in D.C.

Jayne Jones, left, and Alicia Long, both former staffers for U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman have written the book, “Capitol Hell.” - Photo provided

The life of a political staffer working on Capitol Hill is hectic.

Working from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., staffers are expected to maintain the offices of some of the most powerful leaders in our nation.

With such a high-pressure environment comes some hilarious and insightful stories, however.

Jayne Jones and Alicia Long, former staffers for U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, knew the time they spent in Washington D.C. would make for a unique experience, and after collecting stories from former co-workers, they’re sharing some of the excitement and mania in a new fiction novel, “Capitol Hell.”

“It was for both of us, our first foray into politics,” said Long of her and Jones’s time at Coleman’s office. Long, a University of Minnesota graduate, started working at Coleman’s office in St. Paul in 2002, the same time as Jones, a William Mitchell College of Law graduate.

 

The two eventually followed Coleman to D.C. and found other opportunities, as Jones became executive assistant to Minnesota House of Representatives Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum, while Long ended up working for U.S. Sens. John Thune, R-S.D. and George Allen, R-VA.

Though the duo have moved from the life of political staffers — Jones is a political science professor at Concordia University and Long recently spent a year working as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. — but they’ve treasured their time in legislative offices of our nation’s capital.

“I learned so much from working on the Hill,” Jayne said. “It really is an amazing place to work.”

That’s why, four years ago, Jones and Long were swapping outrageous work stories when they realized their experiences would make a good book. They got several fun, hilarious stories from co-workers sent to track down the most minute information or goods for the office, and began writing one chapter at a time.

“Alicia wrote the very first chapter,” Jones said. “We had no notes, we didn’t talk to each other, we each just started writing a chapter at a time.”

Once one of them would finish a chapter, the other would build off it. That’s how the story two staffers working for a rising Senator from Minnesota came to be. “Capitol Hell” follows Allison Amundson and Janet Johannson, who are swept into the campaign of rising U.S. Sen. Anders McDermott III, of Minnesota. Each must navigate the tough world of political work, as everyone from the Senator to the office Chief of Staff to even the other political staffers are high-octane, busy personalities.

If the work wasn’t enough, the jobs come fast and sometimes ridiculous. In one notable scene, Allison reminds McDermott of his upcoming anniversary with his wife. McDermott asks Allison to pick up some lingerie and make arrangements for the event, as he simply (and realistically) can’t spare the time. In another scene, Allison gets a Blackberry message from the Senator in the middle of the night asking for Kim Kardashian’s phone number.

“As a staffer, you’re expected to get all of these things done,” Long said.

Though the stories in the book mirror real-life experiences from a collection of staffers, the authors say the book isn’t just about the crazy lives of people in politics, but more a look at the hard work and sacrifices it takes to serve the country in the political realm, like making the decision to buy food and essentials, or spend money at an event staffers are expected to be at.

 

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