...I thoroughly enjoy meeting with my editor/agent/confidant for a session of literary bull...the seasoned veteran offering his pupil a length of rope with which to grasp if he so desires.
I leave each session feeling a bit wiser, re-focused, and a tad foolish from the realization of knowing so little about an industry I've dreamed of partaking in.
I slouch in a chair along the corner of his desk, him behind his Mac, eyes drilling holes through the monitor. The room is silent. I'm buried in revisions. Behind schedule. Feeling a bit timid, awaiting something negative...sarcasm, an irritable sigh, anything. What I receive is silence, which is worse.
Anxiety being pushed aside by impatience, I say, "I'm seriously behind. I know. Tell me I really suck at this. I can take it."
He throws me a glance. Says nothing.
"They've got me working tens all month. I'm getting one day off a week, which I've gotta spend with my kids. If I'm lucky I'll get to see my wife before Christmas. Don't give up on me, okay? I'll get it done."
Nothing. Eyes glued to the screen.
"Did I mention I saw John Grisham downstairs in the lobby? I flipped him the bird, told him to take his business elsewhere...that I'm the big fish in this pond."
"You need to learn how to relax," he finally says, offering me a grin.
"But I'm miles behind, and feelin bad. This is huge for me. Something I've always wanted, and I'm blowing it."
"You're doing no such thing. Tell me...what chapter are you working on right now?"
"Finishing 21. Trying to."
"And you've made those changes we discussed to the last passage?"
He rolls away from behind his computer, scooting on the wheels of his leather chair, sliding to a stop directly in front of me. "What do you mean, you think?"
"I'm not sure if it's good enough," I mumble.
"Okay then, let me hear it."
I feel my brow lowering. "Hear it? You want me to read it to you? Out loud?"
"To me, and to you as well. Listen to what you're saying as you read it."
He holds up a hand. "Just humor me and try it."
Feeling like I did back in the sixth grade, standing in front of the class, giving an oral report on why students should be allowed to chew gum in school, I look down at the papers in my lap, thumb to the section I know he's interesting in, and begin.
"For a moment we remained on the path, our shadows lengthening with the passing hour. While the ominous cloud-cover had produced no rainfall, it left the darkening skyline marked like a bruise.
"Side by side we watched as Mom's smile faded, her gaze wandering toward a stand of skeletal evergreens in the distance. A bottle of ketchup in one hand, a plastic fork in the other, her attention utterly focused on the decaying firs, their branches reaching out for assistance.
"A lone blue jay swooped in from above, finding a suitable perch for the evening. It called out, noticing our presence, its crest rising from its head in the shape of a razor blade. Mom paid it no attention, her thoughts lost in the thicket."
David held up a hand, stopping me in mid-sentence. "Well?"
"What do you think?"
"What do you mean by that? I'm supposed to be asking you that question."
"Which is why I'm asking you instead. Do you like it?"
"Can you do better?"
"So you're saying it's crap?"
"That's not what I said. I asked you a question. I'm wanting your opinion."
I frown, deciding on an answer. "I kinda like it, but I could tinker with it if you want. Or if you don't. Or whatever. I don't know what's going on right now."
David's shoulders bounce as he giggles, and I'm reminded of Jesse Duke, watching his nephews in the General Lee glide over a slow moving river in Hazzard County in order to escape Sheriff Roscoe.
"You already knew the answer," he says. "By reading it aloud, you answered your own question for both of us."
"So what's next...will I be painting the fence in your back yard, or waxing your car while unconsciously absorbing some mystical trick to writing a best-seller?"
David hesitates a moment, then, "Ahh, Karate Kid, I get it. Nice touch."
"Thanks. So what are we gonna do about these deadlines?"
He shrugs, holding a smile. "You're not dealing with Random House, you know. We'll be fine. We're an independent, which means we're a small fish, but a personable one. One who understands. Who wants their writers to succeed to the best of their abilities, which we know you have. Your story's good, it just needs some tuning. And it'll get done. And we'll be fine."
He leans forward. I realize I'm about to hear something worth remembering.
"The publishing industry has unfortunately turned into a contest. I'd like to call it a competition, but sadly I cannot. More like a popularity contest. Those in the know, do quite well. As for the others...well, normally it's one and done.
"The trick is to put something out there that simply demands to be read. A cover that can lure both young and old. A story line capable of attracting even the casual reader. And written with a voice good enough to cause people to want more. That's when you win. And that's why I'm not worried about any deadlines. I'm not as concerned about the when. It's what's inside that we've gotta nail down."
I heave a sigh. "Okay. Sounds good."
"But you can still wax my car if you want."
"Uhh, I don't think so."
"Well, you brought it up."
"See ya next week, David."
I rise from my chair and head for the exit when he says, "Hey El, just so you know...I thought it was pretty good."