A short story about self belief and hope.
Everyone called her an author, though she did not believe it herself until the day her words were recognised by The Big Wigs. The sad thing was that her words were always being recognised by those around her – her truest fans. Family and friends doing life with her. Those who listened to her frustrations, cheered on her efforts online , and helped her regroup when she lost track of where she was in her journey. But she had always believed that to be called an author, the publishing moguls must declare her worthiness.
And finally, The Big Wigs wanted to get her words into print and even though her truest fans said her words already were – on her blog, in eBooks, chapbooks, artwork, lyrics and in journals, letters and greeting cards – she bowed to The Big Wigs in deference of their opinion instead, believing that this would catapult her to the success and recognition she longed for.
She was so excited – finally people of influence were going to tell the world she was worth reading, she was worth considering an author. Her words would be seen by more readers than she could ever hope to reach and she could finally call herself an author. Published by The Big Wigs. Taken seriously. Given credit by ‘those who know’.
But back and forth the draft went, a few changes here, a new scene there, a ‘redundant’ character removed; finally the manuscript felt complete. They had asked for quite a few changes, she observed, as she emailed the file to the editor; it was hard to reset scenes, remove much-loved characters and shape her words to their mould, but, she reasoned, they knew their readership, so really, who was she to question the changes? She was going to be a published author and this came with the territory, so she’d been told.
She tucked her misgivings away and got started on a new draft – one The Big Wigs had asked her to give a go – so that there was a follow up to the first one. A sequel. Maybe even a series! She was chuffed so put herself to work.
After many long weeks she received her much-awaited prototype. She fumbled to open the package, her hands sweaty and shaking, and then, as she slid the book out she stopped short – hold on, this doesn’t look right, she thought.
The cover art was a different colour. Actually, other than the title, it was completely different! She quickly opened it up and began scanning the pages; the first few paragraphs felt right, but then as she dug deeper, she leant back against the wall, her knees buckling. So much had been altered!
After a drawn out and emotional phone call, she slumped over her desk. She gazed at the typewriter, recalling the strokes painstakingly rendered, feeling the shame of being swindled out of her story. The shame of not seeing it happen before her eyes.
Their words rang in her ears. ‘We’ve paid you in full; you don’t have any further rights to change this – and besides, you signed off on the final version we sent you which is all we needed. We just decided to alter a few things to further match our reader’s taste’.
To add to the drama, they chose this moment to let her know that they would not be needing a sequel to this story; apparently it ‘wasn’t really strong enough to keep it going’, so would be shipped out as a minimal first edition only run. She’d receive her royalty cheques each quarter but they anticipated pretty low numbers given the ‘weakness’ of the characters. They even had the audacity to say she should be grateful they’d taken a chance on her, as an ‘unknown’ writer.
She cried. Her true fans came, consoling her, uplifting her and reminding her of who she already was before all this happened.
The morning was cold and foggy. She wrapped her fingers around her second coffee and looked over at her bookshelf, pregnant with half-finished manuscripts, pen-to-paper poems, heartfelt lyrics and journals.
‘I can’t do this’. Tears fell to the floor, but as she made this defeating declaration something rose up inside her; a small but clear voice: that’s not really true, is it? she heard.
She scanned the shelves mulling over the inner exchange. Again, ‘Go on, you can do this’ came the small but persistent encouragement, and she felt her heart warm.
Putting the coffee cup down, she picked up a hefty draft. A story penned many years ago; heartfelt, raw, and totally her own unique point of view. She had felt it come alive in her mind as her fingers had frantically punched the story to life on the page. But just as suddenly as the inspiration began, it faded.
I don’t think I’ve got it in me. I’m just not an author. She sat down on the floor, head in her hands as her words lay down in her graveyard heart. That small but clear voice spoke again.
She had started where it all began – with that half-finished manuscript that made her feel alive. Her heart and soul poured onto each page with the zeal of a hungry teen at a buffet, and the words had rushed to her, eager to join the story, ready to reveal their value and meaning.
She did not need The Big Wigs to validate her words. She would publish her way, in her time, on her terms.
With her heart and mind finally in sync, the graveyard emptied of her near-dead words had been brought back to life.
A little while later, and many cups of coffee, a half eaten bowl of pasta and a rubbish bin full of paper and tissues, the draft was complete. As she pulled the final page free from the platen, she knew she was an author.
She had entered her room just a few days before as a ‘hopeful writer’ – the only admission she felt she could utter – but had come out this day as an author.
(c) 2020 Miriam E. Miles. All rights reserved.