I was relaxing in the park this afternoon when I heard the angelic voice of a little girl floating over me.
“Why is he sleeping on the bench?”
It took a second for me to realize that “he” was “me” and that this innocent child was referring to yours truly. And not very nicely.
I was indeed stretched out on a park bench on Shore Road, enjoying the warm weather—and minding my own business, I might add, and I suppose to the untrained eye I might have looked like a homeless bum in need of a shave and a career—as opposed to the soon-to-be-world-renown literary and cinematic genius I really and truly am.
I opened my eyes in time to see a man walking away from me with a cute little blond girl perched on his shoulders. I gave her a smile and threw her a wave but she turned away, clearly unimpressed.
Give me a break, kid, I thought, I’m having a rough time here.
How rough? Well, for starters I feel like crap. I’ve got a cold or a virus or a sinus infection or a voodoo curse or yellow fever, what ever the hell I got, I feel like 10 cents worth of God-help-us—despite this lovely spring day.
I don’t get it. I came through the entire winter—the holidays, vacation in California, and all the accompanying stress—without so much as a sniffle. And now, when the birds are chirping and people are chasing after Frisbees in their shorts, I want to curl up into a ball and hide under a park bench. How is this possible?
The only good thing about being sick this time of year is that you don’t have to bundle up in animal hides and galoshes and deal with the hideously fierce climate.
On top of this grief, there's the Sewanee Writers' Conference, which finally responded to my application for the summer session in Tennessee. I was hoping I would be accepted so I could improve my skills, meet other writers, and, yes, perhaps brush elbows with some agents.
It wouldn’t hurt to get out of Brooklyn for a little while and spend some time in a new location working at my craft.
The response came this week, but for some reason it was routed to my junk mail folder and thankfully I was doing my weekly review of Viagra offers and bogus lottery awards or I never would’ve seen it.
On Your Way Out...
“Dear Rob Lenihan,” the email begins, going for the personal touch, “On the basis of the report from our fiction readers, I regret to inform you that we cannot offer you a place in the 2012 session…”
On the basis of the report from our fiction readers? Do you call that good writing? Maybe you should attend the conference yourself. I’ve seen better prose in one of those Nigerian lottery scams—and they’re not native speakers.
Hell, at least the guys at Free Trial Enlargement invited me to “Challenge Mike Myers as the love guru.” And they suggested I make my lady “cry out in joy every night.” Now that’s powerful writing.
The Sewanee people said they were “experiencing a very strong response in fiction, and competition for available spaces is keen.”
Keen? Is that keen as in “peachy keen” or keen as in “will you keenly stop bothering us with your stupid submissions and go challenge Mike Myers as the love guru?”
After reading this email I wanted to cry out every night, but not in joy.
Okay, I knew this was a long shot—kind of like that 50,000 British Pounds that's lodged in a Western Union account that Mr. Charlie Palmer wants to transfer to me.
I really didn’t think the scholarly folks down in Tennessee were all that interested in a bunch of Brooklyn mobsters trying to murder each other, which is what my novel is about.
But I didn’t want to let yet another opportunity go by, let another deadline pass, without at least trying to be heard.
The Sewanee email ends by saying that “nonetheless, we are grateful for the chance to see your work, and we wish you the best with your writing.” Yes, you and all the agents who have given me the bum's rush, the heave-ho, and the get lost.
Why can’t they be more like Mr. Chung Chao, who has an urgent business proposal for me? Or my lover, Adriana, whom I’ve never met, but who, nevertheless, wants to “pick up where we left off” and is “looking for a good time on the town?”
Or even Tori, who wrote to say that she is now single and moving “RIGHT EFFING NEAR” me? Tori, by the way, works on a webcam chat community site where she gets “paid to chat with people and get naked HHAHA…” Report that to your fiction readers.
The Tennessee people invited me to try again next year and perhaps I will.
There are other conferences and programs and I’m still going to submit my work to agents in hopes of getting published, becoming famous, and getting off that park bench.