A struggling author finds that if he just sits down to write, then his novel might just get finished. After making his bones on the writing scene for years, Crowell Meanstreet has arrived at a seminal moment. How will he handle it? What happens when you finally get everything you’ve desired?
Sitting at his writing desk, Crowell clicked the keyboard keys in a staccato rhythm. His greatest gift, according to him, seemed a preternatural talent for understanding context in any and all situations. The problem for him, existed within an inability to articulate that understanding in a meaningful way to others. Sure, Crow called himself, a writer, but he had doubts. He exercised his talents on a daily basis in order to keep himself in top form; but the evil opinions of far lesser colleagues found their way to the top of his mind, when he needed clarity the most. Some might consider him self-defeating, but Crow liked to think of himself as a working writer, or a writer’s writer. He regarded so many of his colleagues in a fair light, without jealously or cynicism. The writing community didn’t always reciprocate. In fact, the writing community had no shortage of undercutting others, especially when they were making strides. Crowell stretched in his chair and opened another window in his browser. He often liked to do image searches when he came up with a concept for his current project. He would look and look until he found a perfect embodiment of what existed in his mind. If that didn’t pan out, he would create it himself, via stealing photographic images from the world at large. The creative process never ended for Crow. If he wasn’t thinking about writing, he busied himself supporting ways in which he could present the art within him to the world. This constant attention to the environment around him allowed for ebbs and flows in his creativity. He knew how to ride these waves well. Never feeling for a moment the desperation associated with writer’s block or being unable to come up with ideas. He never ran dry of ideas, just the time to be able to express them to their fullest. The smartphone resting in the correspondence tray lit up with an incoming call. It read a Boston area code, but he didn’t recognize the number. He usually didn’t answer the phone, but allowed it to go to voicemail instead. But, call it sixth-sense, or a hunch, Crow moved to take the call.
He picked up the phone and slid the bar icon to answer.
“Good morning! Can I please speak with Meanstreet?”
“I’m so glad I caught you, Mr. Meanstreet. My name’s Sanford Kiln, and I’m over at Hickarado Publishers in Boston.”
“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen your works with Jacoby Munter’s series.”
“Yes, Jake’s one of our hottest clients right now,…but I’m calling because we want you to come into the office to discuss the manuscript you sent over to us a few weeks ago.”
“What? Are you kidding me?”
“No, I m not kidding. We like the premise a lot and it’s in our wheelhouse.When can you come in?”
“As soon as you need me.”
“Does tomorrow…say elevenish work?”
“Yes, yes, absolutley. I’m glad I picked up, I usually don’t answer my phone.”
“Well, we’re excited to meet with you tomorrow.”
‘No problem, Mr. Meanstreet.”
“Call me Crow.”
“Ok, Crow. Call me Sandy. See you tomorrow.”
Crow ended the call, and sprung out of his chair, knocking over the stacks of books reserved as “to be read”. They ended up falling onto a pile of stacked papers, beside the wire basket full of the crumpled up rejection letters.
He couldn’t believe it. Hickarado Press was one of the newer, but more reputable publishers in the niche market of nuevo-novel fiction, but he never would have imagined that they would want to look at his manuscript, much less invite him over to discuss the possibility of next steps.
Crow didn’t know what to do. He went to the file cabinet and pulled out a well worn copy of the manuscript he sent over to Hickarado. It was dogeared, and full of red ink. There resided a lot of love and anger in this piece of writing. He didn’t know how he felt about them reading it now. There existed a clear vulnerability from the outset of the piece. He threw the manuscript to the floor, and kicked it across the room. Then he went over and picked it up, and tried to pretend that he didn’t know the words on the page. He tried this best to come at it with fresh eyes, the kind of eyes that would accept the manuscript for what it was; the culmination of twenty-five years of hoping and bleeding at a variety of desks and keyboards. Crow collapsed onto the floor and started to weep. It started slow but then the dam burst and all that residual angst spilled out of him. He cry-sneezed, and rolled into a jag. He then started to giggle, as he imagined the sight of himself sitting on the floor, crying into a hand full of heavily edited pages. He got himself up and thought to call his best friend to share the news. Then placed the phone gently back down on the desk. He decided to wait to share the news, until he actually had something to share. He’d been in a similar situation once before, but it didn’t pan out. It took him a while to recover from that one, as he had invested so much belief in the fact that it would work out. He didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
He tried to calm his nerves by going to the fridge and pulling out a can of Coca-Cola. He cracked it open and pulled three lusty swallows out of the can. Crow drank alcohol, but nothing gained his satisfaction as much as the first few sips of his favorite beverage. He kept the cans chilled as close to freezing as they could go without actually freezing. The little pleasures in life always mattered more than the hollow gestures. Crow loved his habits, and found a myriad of ways to engage these peccadilloes both openly as well as clandestinely. It all depended on where you were in Crow’s circle. Those within the innermost ring, were well versed in the odd habits and extensive indulgences that he harbored. Being vulnerable with these folks, was almost an admission to himself of the extravagance of his view on small guilty pleasures. In fact, this kind of perspective often found its way into Crows writing, and you would find many of his characters containing the characteristic DNA of their creator. They always say, write what you know. Well, Crow enjoyed the revelation of himself within his characters. Many of his colleagues often spoke of how they never based their characters on real-life models. Crow immediately identified such utterances as complete and utter bullshit. His belief abounded in the notion that fiction was a strong evolution of a lie based on truth. Acknowledging that your writing has origins in the experience of existence was a surefire way to get Crow over to your cause. He selected his beta-readers quite carefully, and he was well aware, and very much required that they employ his writing philosophy, before he entrusted them with anything he had ever put to paper. The only outlier in this sample, was Crow’s best friend Daniel Gall. Daniel and Crow had a deep connection that allowed for frank criticism to be allowed in all matters and manner of things. This seemed to be the only allowance. The trust between the two men was so great, that Crow would strike anything that Dan had issue with. Without question. Crow not only alleged that Dan was the greatest editor a writer could have, he conceded that he was the greatest editor that a writer needs. He thought one more day, then I can tell him. Crow was reticent to share the news of the meeting with Dan, not only because he didn t want to count his chickens, but he had also submitted a manuscript to Hickarado, that didn t have any of the edits that Dan suggested. Despite their long history, and innate trust, Crow had an inspired shower thought.
What if all the edits Dan has been suggesting, are sinking my manuscripts?
So in a let s see what happens if I do this moment. Crow sent Hickarado Publishers a version of his manuscript that didn t contain Dan s edits.
Crow felt a twinge of anxiety and guilt when he sent the manuscript out three weeks ago, but today s phone call could be pointing to a new possiblity.
He went over to his file cabinet and started to pull other manuscripts out of the many drawers, and began to place them in a peacock fan on the floor. When all was said and done, Crow had upwards of thirty-two rejected manuscripts littering his floor.
Couldn t be. Could it?
Crow went and collapsed back into this writing chair. He would have to see what Sandy at Hickarado had to say. There had to be others in the meeting tomorrow, but then again, maybe not. He realized that this was his first experience in meeting with publishers. He had to create a loose outline of what he might say if asked questions. He popped back on his browser and began doing cursory searches on speaking with publishers.
The top ten search hits brought back a lot of discordant information regarding the correct answers to questions, and what to wear, as well as questions you should ask them. Crow started to get butterflies in his stomach as he realized the stakes involved in walking out of that meeting with something tangible tomorrow. He had been waiting his whole life for this opportunity, and now that it was here, he didn t know what to think, how to act, or what to feel. It seemed somewhat unfair to Crow, that he should experience such turmoil when he was on the cusp of getting something he so deeply desired.
Crow took the stairs two at-a-time, as he went upstairs to shower. It seemed fitting that he would cleanse himself, almost ritualistic. He often would take marathon showers upon finishing a manuscript. There was something therapeutic as well as symbolic in the cleanse. He often liked living his life thematically or within the constraints of the symbolism that he enjoyed placing in his stories.
The act of living in such a way, made him feel as if he was the character within a narrative in which he not only was omniscient, but also able to exercise complete and total free will over his choices.
Crowell found it important to be able to direct his destiny, ever since he gained the age of adulthood, he swore he would never allow the actions or choices of others to determine his fate. For too many years, he relied upon small-minded people, that didn’t have the wherewithal to make a bowl of cereal for breakfast. To say that Crow was on his own for most of his life, is a vast understatement. It just didn’t become official until his eighteenth birthday. Even now when he thought back to those years and those times, he felt a twinge of rage shoot out to his limbs, and he would sometimes smash the wall with a closed fist. He had no one he could trust, and learned early on that disappointment was a consistent feeling for the outcomes the were delivered to him despite his hopes for better.
It amazed Crow that he could still pull such feelings of despair from out of his inner reaches. He started to feel down and turned the shower faucet a little further to the hotter side. The newly scalding water that developed chased him from underneath the shower head. He then took his time immersing himself under the stream of water until he was used to the temperature adjusting to a level that he could sustain. It wasn’t lost on him that he felt so safe under the heat and pressure of the water. He loved taking showers and had come to depend on the regularity and assurance it provided him when he needed a bump.
After soaping up and then rinsing, Crow grabbed the nearest towel on the rack, and busied himself with the task of drying off. When he last had a lady-friend, he was chastised for leaving a trail of moist footprints from the bathroom to the bedroom. His former girlfriend hated moist things, and like most women he knew, she also hated the word. he could never understand the aversion to the word moist. He thought that moistness was a good thing in many scenarios.
He finished drying off, and threw his damp towel on the hook on the back of the door. It usually would take a full day for the towel to dry out, and then be used again after the next shower. If nothing else, Crow loved efficiency. So his morning cleansing ritual was developed after years of practice, and had become the foundation of most of the days he spent trying to legitimize his belief that he could not continue on with success after success without setting small achievable goals that he could succeed in accomplishing one right after another. He called it success stacking, and he would be pretty put off if he didn’t get all the things on his list done. He’d pout and remain surly, even when among friends. Crow spent a great deal of time convincing friends that he was a writer. In fact, most of Crow’s friends believed in him, more than he believed in himself. In many ways, Crow was a lucky man. He just needed validation from peers and his readers. He was starving for recognition, and needed to justify all the time and effort he put into his writing career.
As soon as Crow finished dressing he ran back downstairs to the kitchen and ground some coffee beans so he could make some piping hot joe. As he reached for the package containing the coffee filters, there came a knock on the door.
Crowell froze, as he didn’t remember inviting anyone over to his place.
His mind raced.
It was too early in the day for the mailman.
He walked the hallway and pulled back the sheer covering the window pane to the side of the door.
Danny Gall stood there, shifting foot to foot. He caught sight of Crow peeking out at him.
”Hey Crow, it’s me. Let me in”
”Hold on, hold on”
Crow decided again not to tell Danny about the call from Hickarado. He unlocked the door and turned the knob. Danny was already pushing in and almost pushed Crow to the floor.
”Jesus Christ! Brother. What the hell are you doing?”
”Oh, sorry. Just had to get here as fast as I could.”
“Do you remember that chick I dated last summer?”
”You’re a real comedian. The girl from the framing store. The one that talked in her sleep.”
“I can’t keep up with your dates.”
”Turns out she took a job as an office assistant at Candlewick Press. I bumped into her while on lunch in Davis Square the other day.”
Crow could see where this was going. It was likely that Dan reminded her that he had a writing friend.
”After we caught up a bit, and I found out about her new job, I told her about you.”
Crow’s stomach dropped.
Danny through his arm around Crow, and patted him on the back.
”I told her about that manuscript you were working on, the one about the struggling writer.”
”Yea, I’ve kind of tabled that for now.”
”No, no, that’s the one I looked at last fall, and sent you all marked up.”
”Yes, I remember the excessive comments.”
”I’m just trying to help, But, listen, I convinced her that you can send that manuscript over tomorrow. She says she can put it on the desk of the chief publisher.”
Crow grabbed his collar and tugged at it and cleared his throat.
”That’s not necessary, Dan.”
”What are you Crazy? This is the chance of a lifetime.”
Danny has no idea about the phonecall from earlier, and Crow still didn’t want to share that info, yet.”
“I don’t know, Dan. It doesn’t feel right.”
”What is there to feel right about? She just going to put it on a guy’s desk. What’s wrong with that?”
Crow thought about it, and realized that if his hunch about the manuscripts that Danny edited was right, then no harm could comebof letting Dan give it to his ex.
”Okay, sure, let me dig it out.”
”Great! Now you’re talking. I have a good feeling about this, my friend.”
”Yea, maybe this time I’ll get a call back.”
”That’s the attitude.”
Danny clutched the manuscript , and slapped it lightly against his chest.
”This is the start of something, Crow.”
Crow warmly smiled at his friend, he began to regret his decision to withhold the information about Hickarado Publishing calling to invite him in to talk about his work.
Danny walked down the hallway to leave.