Before my practice novel crawled into the corner where it slowly choked to death on stilted dialogue and mixed metaphors, it occupied my every waking moment. I felt I was actually letting my characters down by failing to find them an agent. (Now I like to imagine them saying to one another, “Thank Zeus. Dodged a bullet there. Wanna grab some tacos and play foosball?”) So naturally I dropped the topic of my novel into casual conversation whenever I found an opportunity: “Hey Jess, did you hear that Ann had her baby?” Me, nodding excitedly: “No, but did you hear I’m writing a novel? That’s kind of my baby!” or “Hi, my name is Greta and I’ll be your server tonight. Can I start you out with some drinks?” Me, trying to look wistful: “Oh, that’s just what one of my characters would say! See, I’m writing a novel.”
I’d like to thank my friends and family for not punching me in the face during this period of my life.
ANYWAY, a few years ago I mentioned my writing (surprise!) to a woman I’d been working with on a grant project to keep kids off drugs or whatever, and guess what? She was a writer, too! She’d even been included in an anthology gift book you may have seen on the shelves at Hallmark. Kind soul that she is, she suggested we meet at a local Christian bookstore to critique one another’s work. The good news is that I didn’t burst into flames when I walked in with my crappy opening chapters and ordered a coffee. After my new writer friend arrived, we swapped work and began to read silently.
As I read her work, and she read mine, I experienced one of those surreal, hyper-paranoid moments where you know someone must be playing a practical joke on you, where you’re sure Peter Funt will come jogging out of a closet to tell you to look at the yellow light and ask you to sign the release to appear on national television. Because here’s what happened. Her novel was a beautifully-told story about Christ’s life as told through the eyes of one of his disciples. My novel was a shittily-told story that opened in a bar with my protagonist slurping body shots from the crusty navel of an overweight male stripper named Armando.
Armando and his Magic Wando.
Dear God, I remember thinking, is this divine retribution for laughing at Tracy R’s subtle armpit farts during post-CCD mass back in 1987? For making fun of the insanely long toenails attached to another of my peers at a pre-confirmation retreat? I swooned with relief when I heard her snickering a few times, but I still couldn’t help but feel like an A-1 jackass.
Anyway, this writer friend of mine has a great sense of humor because we met for lunch again this week. I didn’t wig out this time. Mostly because there are no strippers in the current book.
Well, not many.