The world is full of nasty people. Pompous, self-absorbed types with hidden agendas and strange ulterior motives.
I met one of these people yesterday. Actually it began the night before. I found a website that is akin to a modern day Reader’s Digest. A compilation of the best of everything from books to music to magazine and newspaper articles. The author’s opinion of the best of what’s around.
I found this man on a Facebook friend’s page. He made a comment on a post and I recognized his name but I couldn’t remember how I knew him. I clicked on his picture, it brought me to his homepage. Ah yes, I’d read his articles in various magazines. He’s a well-connected New York writer.
I sent him a friend request because isn’t that how Facebook is supposed to work? You make friends with your friends’ friends. It’s a way to meet people who share your interests. It is also a tool for expanding your network if you happen to be selling something like books.
It was on his page that I discovered his newsletter, so I signed up. There was an option to send an email, so I did. I introduced myself and told him I was a busy author and bookkeeper who didn’t have a lot of time to surf the Web and was happy to be receiving his newsletter.
He replied “and what am I supposed to do for you?”
My first reaction was, “What a prick.” I was put off by his tone. Here I was a fan, following his website, and this is how he replied? I should have trusted my instincts.
Instead I sent a reply. “I signed up for your newsletter. I believe you will be sending it? Unless I misread your pitch. You got me with Astral Weeks. I’ve loved the album for a very long time. Just wanted to say thanks. Nothing more.”
“Ah. Delightful. Tell me about your new book,” he answered.
So I did, because he asked. I told him I don’t have a book blurb yet but I gave him my pitch. This was all taking place at around eleven p.m. I had to work the next morning so I hit send and went to bed.
The next day, while sitting at a red light, I checked my email. There was the somewhat well-known writer.
“Suggestion. Why don’t you send me your first chapter or 1000 pages.”
Now you tell me who wouldn’t jump at that offer? I was flabbergasted. I wasn’t looking for this in the least when I signed up for his newsletter. I never expected anything like that, but he was offering, and I’d be crazy not to take him up on it. He’s connected, he’s a published author, he writes for well respected magazines. He can open doors that are impossible to get through.
I told him I was working at the accounting desk all day but I’d send the chapter later that evening. And I did. As soon as I got home, because I admit I was excited and flattered.
Ten minutes later he ripped me apart. Tore me to shreds. Sucker punched me. Deflated my ego.
He opened the email with:
No salutation. He couldn’t even type the five other letters in my name.
He told me we were complete opposites. He compared me to Tom Robbins. Remember Still Life With Woodpecker? I read it years ago, in high school or college, I think. I enjoyed it back then. I don’t think my writing is anything like Robbins but I’m not taking the comparison as an insult, although I gather he meant it as one because he added this: “It’s a tough sell.”
“What I TOTALLY push is what George Orwell called “prose as a windowpane” – everything you avoid,” he said.
He went on to say, “Here is the start of my novel, just to make it clear.”
Then he included one thousand words from the start of HIS new novel.
So I guess what he was saying was, I need to write like him. I need a voice like his.
At the end of the excerpt from his novel he started dripping sarcasm.
“I wish I could help you. But more, I wish you made it easier for the reader. In Paragraph one he’s in Winslow. In Paragraph three he’s in Houston.”
And here’s where he really laid it on. “Dull me asks How? When?”
Well to be honest, three other people read this book and weren’t confused. But then again, they aren’t famous writers for famous New York magazines. But I will take this piece of criticism under advisement and possibly add some extra guidance for the dull readers.
He continued on with the oh woe is me, silly dull me thing. “I’m just too…limited for this kind of fiction. If I read you wrong, correct me.”
Then he signs XX with his initials.
Talk about a window into someone’s soul. I felt like a peeping Tom peering into a very bitter, angry man’s bedroom. What was his point in attacking me? Constructive criticism is always welcome. This was another story.
I realize the well connected, privileged folks who know the right people who open the doors to the hallowed halls of publishing think they are smarter than mere middlebrow Americans, but I didn’t ask him to read my book. I didn’t ask him for any favors. I signed up for his newsletter and dropped him a line saying I was glad I found him. His email was right there, he welcomed comments.
For about ten minutes my heart was pounding and I had a lump in my throat. Then I said, fuck that prick. He’s not going to deter me. I unfriended him on Facebook. I Unsubscribed to his newsletter. I sent an email reply.
“Oh no, I hear you loud and clear. Thank you again for taking the time to read my first chapter.”
Then I sat down and wrote this blog.
“I have written before and I will write again.” ~ Ernest Hemingway