I was wondering what to talk about when Providence intervened in the form of a phone call from a friend (yes, he's really a friend, and I do love him regardless of this paraphrased transcript). Friend is in Mexico, soaking up the sun while I watch the rain pour down here in Hawaii. He called me from poolside:
F: How's your writing going?
Me: Great. One of my mss finalled in a contest, the short story collection is coming out soon, and I've got some ideas on the burner.
F: Are you writing about anything important?
Me: I think so, yes.
F: But how is your work any different from all the other books out there?
Me: It's called Voice.
F: Yes, but do you have anything to say that hasn't been said before? Is this worth doing?
Me: If you're asking if I'm working on a literary piece that will make you mope around for a week pondering the meaning of life, no, I'm not. But yes, I think my stories and my characters have something to say, even if it is genre fiction. [said because friend is a professor and not because I think there's anything wrong with genre fiction]
F: If you're any good, then why doesn't anyone want to read it?
Me: [gritting teeth] It's not as easy as shipping the mss off to New York and then raking in the bucks, dear. Sometimes it's timing and luck. Sometimes it's your idea or execution. The next one might be it. [didn't bother to mention I haven't actually shipped anything anywhere recently]
F: Take such-and-such. It was his 10th novel that hit big, but his previous 9 got published even if they didn't make a splash.
Me: How do you know he doesn't have 9 more under the bed that never saw the light of day? First novel doesn't usually mean FIRST novel, you know.
F: Why don't you dash off some short pieces for [insert major magazine markets here]? That'll get your name out there and then when you send your work to NY, they'll want to see it.
Me: Gee, why didn't I think of that? Surely it's infinitely easier to get, oh, say COSMO to publish an article by little ‘ol me than to get a mss request from a NY publisher!
F: Exactly. Dash off 30 or 40 of these pieces, get them published, and then submit your novel. You're not getting any younger.
Me: I'm not even 40 yet.
F: Yeah, but time is of the essence. You'll never make it if you don't do it soon.
Me: [gnashing teeth, performing deep breathing exercises] Think I'll keep doing what I'm doing for now. I have confidence in myself.
F: [I can hear the shrug over the phone] Whatever, but I still think you should get your name out there.
Me: [murder would get my name out there; too bad he's in Mexico] Well, I've got some things I'm doing for now that I think are good. Blogging, a website, active in my chapter–
F: But that's not enough. You need a blitz campaign, you need to publish these short pieces, fling as much shit against the wall as possible and see what sticks. Get your name out there any way you can.
Me: [man, this murder idea is sounding GOOD] Yeah, okay. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, I see what you're saying, mm-hmm. Oh hey, gotta run. I want to dash off a piece for the New Yorker and see if I can get it in by this afternoon.
F: (Thanks, Mauricio. Put it on my tab.) What? Oh, yeah, just got another beer. Okay, talk to you later. Let me know how the New Yorker piece works out.
Me: You'll be the first to know.
[Head to kitchen. Dump tequila, ice, and margarita mix into blender. Crush with a vengeance. Back to computer with icy drink. Open file. Think. Stare. Give up and go to bookcase. Ah yes, A WRITER'S GUIDE TO POISONS…..]