jayellebee's Blog

July 31, 2011

The Call

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 6:23 pm

    My sons were eleven, nine, and four in 1985.  DVD players with screens, and even CD players with personal headphones were not standard equipment in Chevrolet SUVs at that time.  The Sony Walkman was cutting edge technology, but way out-of-reach for our boys’ paltry allowances.  The family collection of G rated movie soundtracks, recorded at home from vinyl LPs onto cassette tapes, had worn paternal patience perilously thin.   So, to prevent mayhem from erupting in the backseat, I risked car-sickness to read to the assembled audience during road trips.

    The assortment of books written with boys’ interests at heart was limited back then.  The prevailing doctrine at the time was: girls read, boys run around and pummel things.  Books reflecting situations that might evoke the male response, “I can imagine being in that situation” were even harder to find.  So, I decided to try my hand at writing.

     The learning curve involved with becoming an author is long and steep.

     My first literary effort was told in the third person.  Most of the time, at least.  I wrote, “He did this,” and “he saw that,”  with an occasional “I felt like ___” thrown in for good measure, much as a cook adds an extra dash of spice when the simmering stew is too blah.  Since I’m not in James Patterson’s league, changing the point of view is a no-no.  But I didn’t know-know about POV back in 1985. 

    Nor did I know to limit adverbs.  Or to avoid leading dependent clauses.  Or anything at all about how to query editors at publishing houses, which was still an option the better part of three decades ago.  I didn’t even know the mantra, “Show, don’t tell.” 

     Publishers did not respond well to my advances.  No path was beaten to my door.  My fancy font, elegant stationery, and reports of how the neighborhood kids loved my work did not impress. 

     Enter Kismet.  The listing for an evening adult writing class jumped (out of  its own volition) from the community center’s catalog and smacked me square on the forehead.  The program began late enough to permit me to have everyone fed before I fled the house.  Ken was supportive.   I couldn’t find a single excuse not to test the waters.

     The first session taught me phrases like, “story arc” and “character driven.”  My eyes saucered.  My hand scribbled notes.  My brain tingled from information overload.  New knowledge meant rewriting my wonderful manuscript, beginning with word one, and allowing strangers to read the resulting pages.  A terrifying but rewarding experience which, over time, led to a much stronger story – but still no interest from publishers.

     I decided on a different tack:  time to build a resume.  I wrote humor essays which found their way onto the pages of the local paper.  I entered contests.  I joined writers’ organizations, attended meetings and conferences, got involved, and got to know real published authors. 

     All the while, I kept writing.   A second homeless manuscript joined the first on my book shelf.  An idea for a third story sparked and, once again, I gave in to the itch to write.  I have now ushered that piece through two years and four revisions.  I began querying agents (the new gatekeepers of the non-electronic publishing world), thinking all the while, I need a new hobby.

     I repeated the query process like a patient fisherman, casting out bait and reeling in an empty hook over and over again.   Two weeks ago, I sensed rather than felt the lightest of tugs on my line.  Several nibbles followed, then, at long last, a full-fledged bite!  An agent scheduled a phone call with me for 10:00 this morning. 

     I was a crazy woman in the hour before the call.   What should I wear?  Oh, yeah.  She wouldn’t be able to see me, my chocolate-stained bathroom was acceptable.  But I’d better brush my teeth again so my voice will sound, er, um, what’s the word I’m looking for?  My words!  Where are my words?  I can’t talk straight.  I’m going to sound like a nitwit.  Where are my notes?  I know I have a list of questions to ask.  The room is spinning!  Is there time to put my head between my legs?   Is this what hyper-ventilating feels like, or am I having a stroke? 

     The clothes dryer dinged to signal the end of the cycle at two minutes before ten.  I ran to empty the machine, whisking an arm load of hot linens to the bed where they wouldn’t wrinkle.  No sense making extra work for myself since my history in the writing world insisted The Call was likely to be non-productive.

    I gathered myself at the desk, and watched as the digital clock blinked to 10:00. 

     A single, deep cleansing breath accompanied the telephone’s ring. 

     “Hello?”  My voice sounded like it came from my toes, which were curled. 

     “Hi, Joanne.  This is Karen. . . .” 

     Hers was, by far, the sweetest voice I’ve ever heard.



  1. And then what happened? As Olivia would say, here’s a story with a hook!
    Well written as well.

    Comment by Jean G — July 31, 2011 @ 8:04 pm | Reply

  2. Tell me more!

    Comment by nina bucchere — July 31, 2011 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

  3. Hope this story has a happy ending, can’t wait to hear more!

    Comment by Donna — August 1, 2011 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

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