Hope In A Bowl Of Chicken Alfredo

We had company last night, my boyfriend’s Uncle Lloyd and his uncle’s wife, Betty. It was a very casual affair with a simple, homemade meal. Up for discussion were mainly travel adventures and life in the gated senior community they now call home in South Carolina. They were both dismayed that neither of them were able to make the senior citizen’s baseball team. Their attempts to do so were quite comical though.

Of course, considering the crowd, the topic of writing came up. Jim mentioned he’d just finished reading one of my books. I’m very modest about my writing efforts because I guess I just don’t feel my ‘successes’ are worth mentioning. They don’t live up to my expectations of where I’d hoped to be at this point in my life. I’m published, but pfft, I don’t even bring in $200 a year on what I have out there.

The banter turned to things like, “Some people who write never get ANYTHING published,” and “Sometimes luck plays just as big a role as talent.” Betty commented that sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the RIGHT reader, the person who loves your work and knows who’s who and what’s what in the business. I haven’t found that person. Sometimes I wonder if I ever will. When Jim and I last saw his cousin nearly a year ago, he said he wasn’t the best writer in the writing classes he took. To paraphrase part of the conversation, “There were a lot of people in those classes who were far better writers than I am. I, however, was the most persistent [in getting published].”

Persistence, as the saying goes, paid off for Jim’s cousin. I am doing my best to be persistent. I try to have queries out there at all times, always hoping that eventually one will come back with something other than the generic, “We’re sorry, but this isn’t what we’re looking for right now,” rejection form letter. If Queries are the Job Applications of the writing world then I am not finding any gainful employment here. If you’ve ever been desperately looking for a job and either never hear back or go to one interview after another only to be told, “Sorry, you’re not quite what we’re looking for,” you know the feeling well. It sucks, doesn’t it?

You can’t give up though, can you? No, not if you really care about getting a job. You’re driven to keep on filling out the forms, submitting the letters, and tweaking this or that to adjust the resume to fit the job you are applying for. What does it take to land that job? The right person to see it and realize, “Hey, this person’s got some potential. Let’s give him a shot and see.” That’s really all I’m asking for, a chance beyond the erotica.

To add insult to injury, over the past few years I’ve read a number of novels by quite famous female writers and I just shake my head wondering. They were alright, but as modest as I am, I write just as well, if not better, than they do. The plot to one was over the top predictable. Another told me the story instead of showing me. That was even more annoying. A third contained some of the most two-dimensional characters I’ve ever encountered. Yet, there they are, out there, known, loved, embraced, accepted and appreciated for their skills.

A few weeks back I finished writing my ninth novel. I have at least three more in me patiently waiting for their stories to be told. Where will these go? I’m not sure I want to know. If I knew they’d never be shared with anyone but a handful of family and friends, would I make the effort to write them? If I knew they’d bring me millions, would I put more effort into getting them done? Will that elusive Right Reader that Betty mentioned EVER enter my life? Is it any wonder so many writers are slightly insane? How do I up the odds of making it? What about my queries is not getting through to the right person?

The doubts creep in and tear me apart all too often. All the encouraging words sometimes don’t do much to lift the spirits of the jobless man standing in the soup line. He needs the job. He wants the job. He KNOWS he can do that job. His wife, family and friends are encouraging and supportive. They tell him to keep trying. In his mind, he remains an unrecognized and unwanted failure.

That’s the place I am standing now, bowl in hand. I’ve not given up. I’ll persist a while longer. I’ll write. I’ll edit, rewrite and submit again and again. I’ll try and look at Lloyd and Betty’s visit as another nudge in the right direction – that little glimmer of hope offered to me over a honking big serving bowl of Chicken Alfredo with broccoli and sweet red peppers on a hot and humid Tuesday night in July.


Food, Glorious Food! / Just Plain Random Weirdness

I’ve heard the remark, “Nobody sits down and eats dinner as a family anymore,” many times over in the past year. Until about five years ago I probably would have blamed it on the parents being too busy to bother or the kids having a lot of afterschool activities or heck, maybe even on cable television or video games. That’s no longer my tune.  I blame the increasing importance of retail stores and company greed.

My current household consists of four people between the ages of 23 and 56. Of those four, I am the ONLY one who does not work retail. That means I am the only one who has a standard Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm type of hours work schedule. One person has a set weekly schedule as far as days of the week go but is seldom home before 6 pm, closer to 7 o’clock most nights. The remaining two people have wild and random days they work and wide ranging hours. They can be on duty anywhere between 5 am and 10 pm. People leave the house as early as 4 in the morning to get to work and arrive home as late 11 o’clock at night or even midnight, depending on the time of year. Week to week this schedule varies. I have gone as long as three days and nights without seeing some members of the household upright and awake despite living in the same place. This does not even bring into the picture trying to find a date and time where my daughter can come over to visit or even meet us for dinner somewhere.

How does one schedule meals together when people have to work these wild shifts? Is anyone really going to show up at 7am on a Sunday morning to buy a pair of work gloves or set of ski poles? How often does someone arrive at 9:30 at night to order a set of cabinets?  What happen to a standard eight hour day? Oh, that’s right… MONEY!

If we stay open longer, more people will come. They will spend more money. We can get richer, faster. In the meantime, we have to have employees on duty for the customers that will be busting down the doors to get in at 7 o’clock in the morning. You never know when you’re going to have an “I need a new pair of boots” emergency! We better be open – – – just in case. And being open all these extra hours and having to pay the employees, not to mention the increased electric bill, we better lower the pay scale to cover all that thus making our profit even bigger! Woot!

Family sit down dinners where EVERYONE is present are few and far between in my house anymore. When they do happen it always seems to be a very special occasion and it really makes you appreciate that time. It’s a shame that the majority of corporate big wigs seem to have no concept anymore of what it means to have family time. Maybe they feel they’ve done their time and now that they’ve worked their way to the top of the ladder, those things are no longer important. Instead, they should be climbing down from that lofty position and remember from whence they came. Show your employees that you actually give a damn about them.

I stopped at a newly opened Hobby Lobby in town a couple weeks ago and then realized as a I pulled into the parking lot, “Oh, crap. It’s Sunday. They aren’t open on Sundays.” How awesome is that? I’m not even a Christian so I don’t need the time for ‘Worship’ but dang, the ‘time with their families’ clause really struck a chord with me and made me smile. Yes, it was slightly inconvenient as I’d made as special trip to check out the new store but if that’s the biggest thing I have to worry about in my life, that Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays, I must really have a boring life. Which, I don’t.

As we dive head first into the holiday shopping season, I urge you to keep in mind those people behind the counters who are waiting on you. (I put in my retail time, too, folks, I know how nasty some holiday shoppers can be.) Remember they are only doing their jobs and trying to support their families on a pay check that probably barely covers their living expenses. Don’t get all snippy and impatient when a certain sweater isn’t there in the size or color you demand. Don’t be pushy and rude to your fellow human beings. Life as we know it is not going to implode on itself because you didn’t get the best deal of the day. Really – it’s not!

This is supposed to be a time of kindness, giving and love. A simple smile can go a lot further than you think.  Let these folks working their butts off at obscene hours of the day and night share in the joys of the holiday so that when they do eventually get to have some time at home with their family they don’t spend it venting off steam from your rude and demanding customer behavior. As much as you might like to imagine it, these folks are not your personal minions.  Be gracious and patient. It’s amazing how much your service will improve if you’re not being a greedy ass.

But, I digress.

I won’t be out shopping on Thanksgiving Day and by some miracle of miracles, all the members of my family have the day off! I have a lot of things to be thankful for this past year and a day spent with all of them enjoying a meal and some after dinner board games is going to be one more of those things.  We’ll have three generations around our table and that’s really what matters the most to me. Now, pass the gravy, please.