It is stunning how years of work can be reduced to a 30 minutes conversation. And then reincarnated 30 seconds later.
* * *
The four hours prior to meeting the Alumni were much like what I put myself through before a date. I tortured myself over what to wear. I don’t want to wear a suit, it is too buttoned up – but it does say I am serious. I don’t want to wear jeans – seems to casual, to familiar and this woman barely knows me (she did allow me into her home, but still). I end up selecting black pants, black pumps, a white tee-shirt (dressy) and a green sweater – this color combination is my home run.
Then I hopped on a train, dashed across to the island to midtown and arrived a little earlier than our appointment. Unlike a date I need to show id and damn near be fingerprinted in order to gain access to the upper floors of the building, but alas I was seated in a waiting area. And unlike a date, today I was nervous.
Luckily when I was led into the Alumni’s office she remembered me and was gracious, as she welcomed me. A few minutes later a young woman came into the office. “Desi Girl, this is an Associate in our firm. I asked her to join us – to give you a better perspective on your options,” Alumni says. “Great, I appreciate this,” I reply. “So, tell us your story,” Alumni says. “Of course, I brought some samples of my writing, various sections of my story,” I share and distribute the copies I prepared for our meeting.
“Is it fiction?” Associate asks. “Yes,” I reply. Associate and Alumni exchange glances and then Alumni says, “So pitch us your idea.” So I do, I talk for about 10 minutes, making sure to enunciate and talk slowly. I had practiced what I was going to say several times in the mirror after I wrote and re-wrote the talking points. When I finish, pleased with my performance, I sit up, just a little taller.
They nod and Alumni turns to her computer. “Have you heard of Media Bistro?” she asks. I had, so I nod. She turns back to me and solemnly says, “I have to be honest, the fiction market, the chick lit fiction market is over saturated – with substandard writing and storytelling – that you are going to have to be the most amazing writer ever to get your story published. I don’t mean to be hurtful, just honest,” Alumni says. “I appreciate the candid advice,” I reply. Associate and Alumni again exchange glances.
“Do you know what I find most interesting about you? The fact that you grew up Indian in Minnesota – what was that like?” she asks. “Cold and snowy,” I reply. “I’ll bet,” she replies. “What else?” she asks. “I had a unibrow, hairy monkey arms, sideburns and homemade clothes. And I made good grades, so I was destined to be unpopular and un-dateable,” I reply. Alumni leans forward, “write about that. Write about what you know. I am more interested in that than I am in an Indian Joy Luck Club novel filled with overly educated Indian women living in Scarsdale. Are you sarcastic and self-deprecating?” she asks. Am I? Hell yea! “Good, then tap into your voice and tell me your story. And take some classes while you are at it. Let me send you some links."