A Seasoned Writer
I didn’t call this meeting, at a coffee shop. I arrive two minutes late, and he is already at a table. I sit across from him. His eyes dart around, noticing everything happening in the coffee shop, but he hides behind a grey beard. I know that, like all writers, he has an agenda. Writers are always looking for something; praise for a recent novel, comment on a recent success, or even a request to inscribe a book. Maybe they are looking for a new character, one with unusual flaws or habits, or perhaps they are eavesdropping on conversations. This particular writer has spent much of his life in the company of literary people, and was even the writer in residence at one prestigious university, professor and lecturer at others. His notes and correspondence and drafts are in a collection at a university, for God’s sake!
I don’t know what he wants from me yet, but he must be desperate; he has already paid for my cup of coffee.
He politely inquires about my writing, how’s it going, and so on, but I don’t believe a word of it. The inquiry about me is perfunctory; writers secretly hold all others in disdain. We tire quickly of people saying, “Oh, have you read this or that?” Of course we haven’t; we’re writing. Lately, I have been reading Hemingway, finding fault; his style, his negativity, the sometimes confusing flow of the story, but only in private. If I mention that out loud, I know I will be accosted and forced to admit my inferiority. Inside, unspoken, is the sure knowledge that I am better than Hemingway, and that someday the world will know.
In our first meeting I learned that he had been friends with one of my favorite writers, one whose writing helped shaped my stories. He had told me that “Abbey was all about Abbey.” Now, I’m thinking, the same thing is true of my new friend. He’s just like all the rest. Searching for perfection in a single phrase. Looking for the unexpected. So we quickly get to the point: he’s back into writing again, wants to take on some new work as an editor. He is about to publish a book of short stories. He is re-working a long abandoned novel. Now it makes sense, this invitation to meet. Eyes darting back and forth, he lays it out, and his unspoken vulnerability is revealed; Facebook, Twitter, blogging, he knows none of this. He is naked in the digital revolution.
I quickly lay out my offer: he speaks to our writing group, we get him the maximum publicity. We casually mention that his skill as an editor is back on the market. We talk about my group sponsoring a follow-on presentation, charging a fee, splitting the cash. The deal is done. He shakes my hand and leaves.
He is something I may never be – a seasoned writer.