Monday, January 16, 2006

Jesus and Armando

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.


  1. I must say the Jesus book sounds boring but you need to get the crusty body shots published stat!!

  2. Well, THIS is hilarious! And your first-novel period reminds me of when I was briefly an art major in college. Insufferable, I tell ya!

  3. Anonymous7:49 AM

    What a hilarious moment, Jess! I once gave a rather violent short story to a woman who, unbeknownst to me (I can't believe I just typed unbeknownst), was a born again Christian. She never recovered.

  4. My last major critique included a scene with a bachelorette party going to an "Adult" store. I handed it out, knowing that most of the recipients didn't know what was coming. A couple did since I reviewed a synopsis with them at one point.

    One of the girls is just out of high school and told me that she wasn't old enough to read it. We all had a good laugh about her reaction and my blushing.

    You just never know what is going to appear in the pages.

  5. Anonymous8:44 AM

    I feel your pain..

    As we were leaving church one sunday morning our young child just beginning to walk tripped and fell. Out of his mouth came..."shit". Our lovely Pastor was walking in front of us and heard a young babes mouth say "shit". He turned around to see who the lousy parents were of this young toddler.

    On the bright least we take our filthy mouths to church!

    :) LK

  6. Hahaha... Armando with the wando.. love it.

  7. Hi Jess! Just checked messages and found your comment on my site. Thanks for visiting! I'm so jealous of your writing success. I'd love to be published, but in a column, not in a novel way. I can't wait to look for your book. Congratulations to you!!

    P.S. Michele is Michele Agnew ( Lots of bloggers visit her every day and then visit each other.

  8. Great story. I know the feeling of wanting to talk about what you're writing to anyone who'll listen!!