She Should Have Believed in Me
When someone upsets me, I tend to react. Sometimes I write a letter to the editor, or maybe I never return to a certain inconsiderate store. I’ve also been known to drop men, including husbands, for various unnamed offenses. It’s not like I’m unreasonable, but after all, people need to be held accountable.
Anyway, my relationship with Ali started out just great. I knew she had a lot of power, but I work with powerful people every day, so I wasn’t concerned. Several writer friends told me she had outstanding credentials, and highly recommended her.
A week later Ali and I met over coffee at the quiet shop nearby, and with a grand flourish, I handed her my book, printed out in double-spaced manuscript style. She glanced through it, and then said she’d like to work with me. I almost floated home. After anticipating our first work session for nine, long, self-examining days, she asked to come to my home.
How exciting. This talented woman is going to partner with me in my quest to become a best-selling novelist. My bookshelves are full of autographed books by famous writers, who like me, had once written their first book—books that then went off the charts, blowing away Amazon’s sales records. I can see all that glory and success in my future, and I will do anything to make it come true.
I knew Ali would like the book as much as my parents did. My husband Howie usually loves everything I do, but he was less complimentary about my book. I wasn’t surprised. I had recently criticized a “guy” poem he wrote, and like an elephant, Howie never forgets.
Anticipating her arrival, I made a fresh pot of coffee and carefully arranged cookies on an heirloom plate. All smiles, Ali accepted my gift of coffee and cookies. After a bit of small talk, Ali offered up my neatly stacked 400-page, 140,000-word manuscript with her two hands outstretched, like Asian people do when presenting a gift—or, as I learned later, showing they held no weapon. I was psyched. This was the moment I’d waited for. My heart thumped excitedly, my face frozen in an anticipatory smile I had practiced for months.
When Ali opened her mouth, and words like “trite,” “sophomoric” and “flat” spewed out, I was shocked. She added that a tome of such length could sink a battleship, at least metaphorically, and any agent in her right mind would hit delete without a second thought. What publisher would take a chance on an unknown writer whose characters were common, and worst yet, stereotypical, with a weak storyline that rambled, and went nowhere. And the title, oh my, she threw up her hands, rolling her eyes as if to ask for help from her special god.
The only kind word she said so far was how tasty the cookies were. Not one “atta girl,” not one word of support, even if she had to lie, she could have thrown me a crumb. She didn’t have to be that harsh. In that moment, I knew I had a new writing problem: I had picked a moron for my editor.
Although I’d been sure this novel was going to make me big bucks, I could now feel my dream slipping away. I thought, “And if she is right, then I am wrong. I’ll make absolutely nothing from this book.” I had imagined the amazing book launch, the multiple appearances on TV and radio, and the successful and well-attended book signings around the country. I had already anticipated the fame, especially right here where I live in total literary anonymity. Now silently, all my dreams were popping like soap bubbles falling onto blades of grass.
Right there I decided that, like lawyers and mortgage brokers, this world had one too many editors, at least the cruel and insensitive kind. Perhaps this situation got away from me, but frankly, she asked for it.
In a fit of rage, my soft, feminine hands flew to her scrawny neck. As her hurtful words echoed in my mind, I squeezed tighter and tighter. Applying more enraged pressure, I wondered whether any second now, her head might pop off like a cork from some celebratory champagne. When I let go, she dropped to the floor, crumpling at my feet. I was glad to see no blood, because blood makes me squeamish. Towering over her, I can't stop thinking—she deserves it!
Really, I didn’t mind killing her. I’m sure if you asked other aspiring writers, they would totally understand why I did it. What bothers me is that one day very soon, I might have to pay for eliminating this blight on good, worthy writers, but at this moment, it seems like a good solution.
I’m glad she’s gone.
Having removed one big problem from my life, I have another. I have to move her dead weight from my house to some appropriate resting spot. As I am sure she would have noted in her glaring red handwriting, the word spot is kind of abstract, and I should use stronger, more concrete words. Ah, concrete, that makes me think of the nearby lake, a block of that solid cement tied to a long, yellow, ten-foot plastic eight-strand rope around her delicate, yet cinchable, 28-inch waist. How’s that for concrete?
I digress. Where, oh where, to dump her body? First I called the local landfill but, just my luck, it isn’t open today. Then I thought of a construction dumpster at that new housing development, but I’m afraid if I drove through, I might be jumped by a desperate real estate agent who wanted to offer me the deal of a lifetime. The wooded regional park has lots of secluded hiding places, but I’d have to pay an entrance fee for a quick drive-through-and-toss, and I really don’t want to spend the money. If I did, I’d have to get cash at an ATM on the way home because I need to pick up a pizza for supper. A good mother, wife, and writer does not always have time to cook a decent meal for her family.
Before I could anticipate leaving the privacy of my garage, with the dearly departed sharing space with the spare tire in my trunk, I grabbed a sleeping bag to make proper disposal easier. By chance, I grabbed one of the kids’ bags. No matter how hard I tried, Ali’s long and lanky frame would not curl up enough to fit into my darling Mimi’s princess bag. And her pesky right hand kept sticking out—the one with the calluses from making all her mean and malicious editing remarks in RED.
Jostling the bag caused the zipper to break. Good thing I always keep my trusty industrial-strength, goes-with-everything, grey duct tape handy. Not that I’ve done this before, but a gal needs to be prepared. Seeing those pen-hugging digits daintily jutting out of little Mimi’s sleeping bag still makes me furious. I dig deep to the bottom of Ali’s designer canvas bag and find it—the red “I-hate-you” pen. I stick that flaming wand of misery into her pocket. The package is complete, ready for disposal.
I am extra sad because red used to be my favorite color, but SHE ruined that. Can you tell—I’m quite irked at her?
Dragging the heavy sleeping bag through the kitchen, I glance at the refrigerator. At this moment, anything with words makes me crazy. Tugging on my yellow dishwashing gloves so as not to leave any telltale fingerprints, I grab every magnetic verb, adverb, adjective, noun, and pronoun off the refrigerator door. No more profound literary sentences from me, ever again, no matter how creative I am feeling. I tuck every one of those annoying little words into the sleeping bag. Ali can go to editor heaven, joined by all those beautifully expressive and essential descriptive adjectives she so loved to X out.
Before I had lost my mind and strangled the Word Wizard, I had thought about wrapping a string of dangling participles around her neck, topping it off by dropping a bunch of heavyweight, fifty-dollar nouns on her head. Or maybe I could gag her with excessive and sugary cuteness, and whack her a couple times with her 10-pound Chicago Manual of Style. I told you, I’m really good with words. But it was too late to use any of those ideas, so…
Darn, after I’d written those incredible, award-winning words about the poetically perfect resting place I found, I accidentally hit the DELETE key. And as you well know, saying it perfectly comes only once to a darn good writer like me. Anyway, I suspect Ali would have redlined the explanation as “too unbelievable.”
Now I can use all the words I want, how I want—without fear. Next week I’ll share with my writing group about the wonderful feeling of having creative freedom, void of the restraint editors selfishly demand to make themselves look good.
Ali was really dumb not to believe in me.
Connie Anderson has been editing both non-fiction and general fiction books for over 25 years. She believes that the right editor can help make your book the best possible. For many years, she wrote a regular column about “life happenings” for her local suburban newspaper. She has written two books In My Next Life I Want to be My Dog and When Polio Came Home: How Ordinary People Overcame Extraordinary Challenges, both available on Amazon.com.