Christina Lynch

One writer's struggle to make sense of the universe, or laugh trying.

Diary of a Rural Writer

A little short fiction, some probably misguided observations on life, and maybe a recipe now and then.

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Film Festival, success!

Posted by Christina Lynch on November 11, 2014 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Here's a really nice article about the film festival that my team created, built and pulled off:

It was a ton of work, but completely worth it!

Painting the town red, blue, gray, green...

Posted by Christina Lynch on September 28, 2014 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The past three weekends I've been painting western storefronts for a film festival we're putting on to raise money for our local arts group. The first weekend it was 104 degrees, and one of us got heat stroke. The next weekend was a little cooler, and this weekend it rained and we wore long sleeves, socks and jeans. I feel like creating this "town" from scrap lumber and leftover paint has been highly metaphorical (because that's what writers do: we see metaphors everywhere). We all came together for no apparent gain (other than a free lunch). We were spirited, creative, and got to get dirty. We endured long hours, extreme temps and gave up the free time we would have spent doing a thousand other things. And now... it's all coming together, and it looks AMAZING. So what's it a metaphor for? Oh, just about everything worth doing. You have to use what you can cobble together. It's a lot easier when you have friends to help. And if you stick with it through the bad moods, the hot days, the rain, and can laugh when flies land on your handiwork, you'll end up with something you can be proud of. 

Pictures to follow...

Finding the Leopard

Posted by Christina Lynch on September 26, 2014 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

I grew up watching romantic comedies, both the black and white classics--"Bringing Up Baby," "The Awful Truth"-- and the 80s and 90s versions like "When Harry Met Sally." In many of these movies, especially the newer ones, there is the group of supportive friends from which the lovers emerge to pair off and attempt a relationship, which usually fails, but then they overcome some mental block (or find the leopard) and rush across a crowded room to be together, having realized that romantic love is the ne plus ultra of human existence and they're going to be together until they die in each other's arms.

For a lucky few, that's true. And then there's the rest of us. We put a lot of energy and good faith into long term relationships, often more than we should, but they don't last until death. Are they failures? Are they necessary painful larval stages on the way to Some Great One True Love? Is life still worth living if you never get that Great Love? Hang on. I'll come back to that.

What if those "failed" relationships are actually successes? I'm beginning to think they might be proof that we can connect with others, that we can be vulnerable, that we can be generous, and that we can recognize when the relationship is not making either of us happy anymore, or making our lives better. Let's face it, some relationships have a shelf life, and it's better to get out and move on. There is, unfortunately, often a broken heart and a lot of anger in the middle of all this, and it's very sad when there is a child or two caught in the crossfire. In those cases, I think the parents owe it to the kids to exert a gargantuan effort to make it work. But as a child of divorce myself, I know I was immensely happier when my father and his second wife split and the screaming stopped.

Breaking up sends the ex-lovers back into the pool of suppportive friends from which they originally emerged. I think for many of us, that's the happy ending. On those forms when you are asked to check a box that says married/single/widowed/divorced, what if there were another box that said "part of a thriving community of friends"? After all, we spread the love in a lot of ways in our lives--to our and others' children, to extended family, to pets, to friends, even acoss barriers of time and space to writers and artists we will never meet. What if, in the end, that's the One True Love?

That is what I pondered as I shoveled horse manure this morning.

Out Stealing Horses

Posted by Christina Lynch on September 26, 2014 at 1:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Like most days, this one began with shoveling s%$t. I'm not being euphemistic--I cleaned out the horse pasture. It's a sisyphean task, but someone has to do it.

Then I met with a friend/new client who is beginning  delightful project about country life. I'm really excited to be helping her. Started a new freelance editing project about mass transit, painted some signs for the upcoming western film festival. Read a few chapters of "Out Stealing Horses." Reread Maxine Kumin's wonderful essay "Jicama Without Expectation." This is the kind of eclectic day I enjoy--and it's about 20 degrees cooler than it has been. The synapses are firing again!

Do or Die

Posted by Christina Lynch on July 8, 2012 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

    Having trouble losing that extra weight? Cleaning out the garage? Finishing that novel? Writing those holiday cards? Making time for exercise? Relax, because Will Power For Hire™ is here to provide an easy solution to all your procrastination problems. Our team of trained professionals will come to your home and remain at your side until you are fit, thin and everything on your to-do list is completed.

    It sounds too good to be true! It’s not. During the initial in-home consultation with our team, you will make a list of everything you’ve been putting off, plus your desired weight and jean size. Within days, in a surprise night-time visit, our Facilitators arrive at your home and remain for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until your goals are met.

    I already tried a personal trainer and a life coach and it didn’t work. That’s where Will Power For Hire™ is different. Our team skips useless cheerleading and goes straight to what really works: physical intimidation.

    That sounds scary. Not as scary as being left out of the will when you forget to thank Aunt Agnes for that purple sweater! Not to mention the wrath you’ll feel from the IRS when you file for an extension on your extension. You know you’ll be fired if you don’t complete those employee reviews by the end of the month. And if you don’t regrout that bathroom soon, the value of your house will plummet! WPFH™ is by far the less scary proposition, when you consider the damage lack of self-control can do!

    Who will be holding me hostage? A crackdown on money laundering around the globe has left many highly-trained professional militia members and other socio-political-action types (we never use the “t” word) out of work. Every age, nationality and ethnic group is represented on our staff--we’re employing the world! All of our Facilitators are trained in mind control, light torture and the use of small arms and automatic weapons. Some have mastered blow darts as well. None of them speaks English, so don’t even try to beg for mercy. They have instructions not to release you until your tasks are completed and your weight-loss goals met.

    Will they actually hurt me? That depends. Will you finally read Remembrance of Things Past?

    Will there really be time to finish all my projects? Under our supervision, the hours you spend now surfing the net, talking or texting, pleasuring yourself, watching TV or just chillaxin’ will be repurposed to complete household chores, writing projects, compile photo albums, or learn a foreign language. You’ll be amazed at how much you can do in 24 hours when the alternative is excruciating physical pain!

    What sort of diet will I be on? No weird smoothies or placenta shakes to swallow! You will be fed high quality organic fruits and vegetables, nuts, and brown rice in a balanced vegan diet prepared in a coffee can over an open fire in your own living room. This is guilt-free eating at its best—you’ll boast to your friends about how you saved the planet from global warming, employed a former child soldier, and lost weight on our program! No cheating allowed—our Facilitators are trained to refuse bribes even from high-ranking party members and CIA agents, so don’t try to swap cash, sexual favors or movie rights for Haagen-Dasz.

     I don’t like to run. What sort of exercise will I be doing? While we’ve discovered over the years that 4-6 hours a day of almost any sustained physical activity brings about surprising weight loss and builds muscle tone in those who normally spend their lives sitting down, our dictator-designed signature program combines ditch digging to strengthen back and abs, bunker building for upper body strength, and forced marches for cardio. You’ll also be growing a lot of your own food. (Possible side effect: some of our former clients drop to their knees and tearfully thank any migrant farm workers they encounter.)

     I haven’t gone a day without wine since my first child was born. Can I drink on your plan? Our Facilitators generally use beatings/stonings to discourage alcohol consumption, so consider this a time to detox and cleanse. Got a real problem with booze, tobacco or drugs? Will Power For Hire™ is an inexpensive alternative to conventional rehab stays, hypnosis or psychotherapy. Our Facilitators will threaten to chop off your fingers if you reach for a cigarette or a Vicodin. And they mean it!

    My novel is six months overdue to the publisher. Will you actually kill me if I don’t finish it? That depends on the terms of the contract you sign with us. We’ve found that while with some people, the threat of physical violence is enough to make them put words on the page, other authors require having a loaded gun held to their heads in order to actually complete and deliver a manuscript. It’s up to you how much you want to win that Pulitzer Prize before your college roommate does!

    Will I have to drink my own urine? Not unless you want to. Clean tap water will be provided once the day’s major chores are finished, so if you’re feeling thirsty, clean out that closet!

    How long is the program? As long as it takes you to shape up and finish your to-do list. When you sign up for auto-renew, your Facilitator will continue to keep you prisoner until every chore is done, or you can be kidnapped for a pre-set amount of time, two-week minimum. We offer holiday specials, where you can be forced at gunpoint to finish your shopping and card-writing.

    How much does it cost? We work on a sliding scale, from a million dollars up.

    That’s expensive! Not really, when you calculate the benefits. Our clients include movie stars, Nobel Prize Winners, heads of state, and construction companies. Did you think Boston’s Big Dig just completed itself after forty years of delays?

    Will you kidnap my spouse or adult child? One of our most popular requests, and we do it all the time.

    What about brainwashing? I’ve spent 47 years sharing the same headspace with myself, and frankly, I’m ready for a change. We have the latest innovative brainwashing and personality-altering techniques—if you liked Manchurian Candidate you’ll love us! Using the latest CIA-approved, perfectly safe technology, we can make you more disciplined, use fewer parenthetical expressions, or less prone to cry after sex. And we can customize: one of our clients said, “Go ahead and pull my fingernails out—I’m not doing one more pushup.” So we did, and now she’s got a whole new look!

    What if I have ADHD? Will your program work for me? We can make you focus as you have never focused before! You will be off your meds in no time as you are forced to do one task for 20 hours straight or risk electric shock.

    Is this illegal? Thanks to recent loosening of gun control laws, everything we do is perfectly legal. We can even kidnap you and take you to a National Park at gunpoint, if you’ve been meaning to hike the Grand Canyon or climb Mt. Whitney but have been putting it off. Bring the kids and make it a mandatory family vacation!

    It sounds like the answer to my prayers. Is there a downside? None that we’ve found. We have an astounding 100% success rate.* And several of our clients have married their captors! If your yard is unmowed, your PhD thesis unwritten, or your attic overflowing, call us now. You provide the way, we provide the Will.™

*Success rate based on both the "do" and "die" clauses in our contract.

Pulitzer Three-Way

Posted by Christina Lynch on April 18, 2012 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Ann Patchett's got a great editorial about how the Pulitzer committee blew it this year:

The Casting Couch

Posted by Christina Lynch on October 7, 2010 at 2:13 PM Comments comments (0)

The comment that kicks off this piece is the only true thing about it. My ex-shrink really did describe me as "Toto."

The Casting Couch

Lately my ex-shrink has been calling me with free advice, which is pretty cool. The other day she asked me why I didn’t ask this guy Roy for a job. I said that I was pretty sure Roy didn’t like me. “That’s absurd,” she snorted. “That’s like thinking someone could watch The Wizard of Oz and not like Toto.” 

It was true. Since age six I had imagined myself as Dorothy, desperately seeking her way back home, but also kind of enjoying being out and about having adventures and wearing great shoes. But now I realized my ex-shrink was right. I was not the heroine of the story, I was just a little dog, blithely trotting out ahead on the yellow brick road, getting carried away by flying monkeys, and being imprisoned by the bad witch (I will leave it to my family members to decide which of them is the monkey, and which is the witch).

This led me to wonder what other movie favorites I had misinterpreted, and how they might help me better understand who I really am.

Out of Africa -- I had always identified with Meryl Streep, finding her way in a new land, bringing provisions to her man over rough country and fighting off lions while winning Robert Redford’s heart. But I watched the movie again, hoping at least I was Iman, the gorgeous silent mistress of Robert Redford’s dying best friend. But my ex-shrink told me I was actually the set of china that Meryl brings all the way from Denmark. “But don’t worry,” she said. “We can work on that when you have money to continue therapy. Pass the popcorn,” she added, “and do you have any of those flavored salts?”

When Harry Met Sally – Sometimes when watching this movie I felt like Harry, who was deeply in love with his best friend, and sometimes like Sally, who was better at imitating orgasms than having them. “Don’t be ridiculous,” said my ex-shrink, snorting at my foolishness as she stuck her head into my refrigerator in search of cream for her Kahlua. “You’re the wagon wheel coffee table Sally’s friends fought over when they moved in together, and ultimately left sitting by the curb.” Then she shamed me for buying non-cage-free eggs. Apparently her ex-husband had always sprung for the humane kind. When I said they cost twice as much, she said, “How would you like to be the chicken of the person who thinks that way?” I wondered if what she was really saying was that I already was. I made a mental note to ask her that when we resumed therapy some day.

Star Wars – Since I generally wear my hair in elaborate braids and favor white robes, I felt I had a lock on this one. Leia! She shook her head, reaching for my last aspirin. I tried again: Luke Skywalker, also brave and true? Nope. Apparently I was C3PO, but with a little extra girth around the middle. “That’s why people are always taking you apart and leaving you in the desert,” she said. “That’s very helpful,” I said. I had been stranded in the desert once by someone I thought was a friend, but who turned out to be just a hitchhiker-turned-car thief. “Your pull-out sofa hurts my back,” said my ex-shrink. “And you’re out of Kleenex.” I pointed to a brand new box. “You’re out of the kind with aloe,” she said.

Debbie Does Dallas – My ex-shrink wanted to watch this one because apparently the woman her husband left her for is named Debbie, and is from Dallas. Since it was my first time watching it, I was eager to see whom I would identify with. You know what? I couldn’t tell who I was. But my shrink laughed every time Debbie got it in the ass.

Titanic-- By now I felt I was one step ahead of my ex-shrink, and really had a handle on my true self. “The boat,” I said, “full of hope and promise, but ultimately ending up in pieces on the ocean floor.” My ex-shrink laughed at my hubris. “Get over yourself,” she said. “My marriage is the Titanic. Debbie is the iceberg. You’re the deck chair floating on the water.” At least I was in the movie, I thought. And in kind of a pivotal role!

Gone with the Wind – I’ll give you a hint: I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin no babies. Apparently Debbie is the pony who threw Bonnie Blue and was shot for his trouble; my ex-shrink’s husband is Rhett, and her college boyfriend is Ashley. She’s out with him tonight, so at my ex-shrink’s suggestion I stayed in to watch…

Casablanca – When my ex-shrink got back from her date with her college boyfriend, she told me that he was the moody outsider Rick, and that she was the lovely Ilsa, which kind of left me out of things. Her ex-husband was Laszlo, and Debbie was the Resistance movement, but with better underwear. She had already shut my bedroom door by the time I managed to ask if I was the charming and unscrupulous Captain Renaud. “It’s so obvious,” she called out angrily. “You’re the letters of transit.” That felt like a breakthrough, really, because the letters of transit are what everyone wants. I was settling happily onto the loveseat, arranging my feet to hang just so off the end when the bedroom door opened a crack.  “No wait,” she said. I noticed she was wearing my silk robe. “I’m sorry, my divorce is the letters of transit. You’re the fat man who buys the bar.” I couldn’t wait for therapy to resume so that she would explain that one.

Alien – Yeah, Debbie’s the monster, my ex-shrink is Sigourney Weaver and her husband is the spaceship. I must be space itself, because it’s been weeks and I don’t seem to be changing, expanding, or even visible to the naked eye. I casually mentioned to my shrink that the rent was due and she said don’t worry about it, she would take it off my bill when she felt up to resuming treating people. And then she sent me out for more bourbon.

All About Eve – Debbie is Eve, my ex-shrink is Bette Davis. By this time I felt confident that I was the playwright, but when I told this to my ex-shrink, she laughed in my face. “You don’t have the moxie to be the playwright,” she said, “you’re that actress who everyone recognizes but no one knows her name who played the maid both here and in Rear Window.” That gave me something to think about as I scrubbed our bathroom. I had never realized that my ex-shrink was such a stickler for a clean tub.

It’s A Wonderful Life – What with my lack of a job or a boyfriend, I was feeling pretty down and wishing I could afford a session with my ex-shrink, especially since she was so conveniently located in my clean bathtub taking a bubble bath with the special salts my mom gave me before she died. But I had no health insurance or cash for therapy, so instead I watched this old classic which always cheers me up. I thought maybe I was the happy-go-lucky Martini family, or the raven who hops around on Uncle Billy’s shoulder. After all, Debbie got to be the despair that drives George and Mary apart. “You’re Clarence the idiotic guardian angel,” chortled my shrink from the bathroom. I guess while I was watching the movie her husband had called and asked her to meet him, and now she was choosing which of my favorite lacy bras to don. “You’re just wonderful,” she cooed. That was nice of her to say, and not charge me for.

Grapes of Wrath -- Apparently things didn’t go as she hoped. I guess it turned out her ex had asked to meet so they could settle who would get their apartment. I had to feel that if she were George and not Lennie, she would never have signed that pre-nup. She snapped at me that that was Of Mice and Men, and guess who was the mouse?

Thelma & Louise -- I guess I should have been concerned when she asked for the keys to my car, then reminded me that she didn’t know how to drive. 

Taxi Driver – There was a Robert DeNiro marathon on one of the cable channels in our motel room outside Pittsburgh. I was trying to talk my ex-shrink out of having me drive her to Dallas to meet Debbie face to face, but she said that duh, she was a shrink and who better to talk to someone who was clearly a psychotic house wrecker. She seemed certain that she could convince Debbie to leave the husband alone and if not, well, then she could always “drop a house on her.” I noticed she was holding a brand new shotgun that she purchased at a sporting goods store. “Whatchu you looking at?” she said.

My ex-shrink went to use the bathroom somewhere outside Omaha and I drove off without her. But not before tapping my red sparkly pumps together three times. When I got home there was a phone call from Roy offering me a job. Gee I hope my ex-shrink gets back to the city soon so we can resume therapy. I have so much I want to ask her. And it would be nice to have someone to go to the movies with.

The Bat

Posted by Christina Lynch on October 7, 2010 at 2:07 PM Comments comments (0)

I wrote this while at the Stone House writer's retreat on Naushon, an island off Martha's Vineyard. There actually was a bat in the house the week we were there, but there was no rhyming dictionary or internet access, so I had to do things the old fashioned way. This was for the cabaret on the last night.

The Bat

With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I labored blocked and weary,

Over my quaint and curious novel at the Stone House on the moor,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

`'Tis some writer,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -

In search of a place to plug in her Mac, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak September,

And each separate dying ember brought its smoke to the third floor.

How I feared the coming morrow; no more days now could I borrow

‘Cause my book was due tomorrow  - or the publisher would be sore -

O that twig thin Prada clad maven would be well and truly dour -

A deadline missed for evermore.

And the silken sad and fleece-ish rustling of slippered feet upon the floor

Thrilled me - filled me with excitement that there might be latenight s’mores;

Though the pudding still was thudding and my waistline it was budding.

Might be a chef now lugging food up to my chamber door -

Knowing writers on a deadline hunger like a wild boar; -

It’s a chef, and nothing more,'

Presently my wit grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

`Ari,' said I, `or dear Adam, truly your distraction I can’t ignore;

And I swear I wasn’t napping, at the bowl of genius I was lapping,

When so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,

But I can always take a break - here I opened wide the door; -

Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep in Stone House blackness peering, long I stood there procrastinating, fearing,

Doubting, daydreaming and procrastinating a little more;

But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Don’t snore!'

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Really, don’t snore!'

Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, knowing my novel was good only for burning,

Soon again I heard a tapping quite a good bit louder than before.

`if you care to please me, bring me Hemingway, Welty, Kesey, Fitzgerald, or even someone sleazy

Because I could really use some help with this colossal bore -

The general reading public this book will certainly abhor; -

And I don’t want to spend the rest of my life poor!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with a loud fart and stutter,

In there stepped a stately bat right out of a movie horror.

Not a “hi how are ya” made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;

But, as if he were a Forbesish lady, perched above my chamber door -

Perched upon a curl of wallpaper just above my chamber door -

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Pausing my writerly styling, gazing upon the ebony mammal I was smiling,

So serious an expression that it wore,

You’ve a pig nose, tummy fat, and your fur is like the rat.

Ghastly grim and ancient bat wandering o’er the Naushon shore -

Tell me what thy lordly name is on this Isle’s Idyllic shore!'

Quoth the bat, `Bangalore.'

Much I marveled yes insanely at this birdish dog which spoke so plainly,

Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Ever yet was blessed with seeing bat above his chamber door -

Bird or beast on the peeling paper above his chamber door,

With such a name as `Bangalore.'

So the bat, growing tired of my stupidity, did pour forth with some acidity,

More words, as if his soul itself he would outpour.

You writers are all sauced and useless, taking years to channel your fickle muses

Better prose has been produced by mongooses carrying papooses who less themselves did whore.

We’ve checked out tax hole loopses, crunched some numbers, focus groupses,

The news is you’re unhorsed, unemployed, outdone, outsourc’d

Your novel will be written by a team of Indians in Bangalore.

Startled by his frankness spoken, my spirit did feel slightly broken,

Sure,' said I, `they could churn out many pages more

Of snappy banter at a veritable canter but the iambs and trochanters!

And my signature barrage of clever reportage and Wikipedia garbage is not something to ignore -

It can’t be churned out like some Bollywood score

By a team of tech support in Bangalore.

But the bat he still insisted, all the hours he never desisted,

Talked the night straight through like a beady eyed Al Gore;

Til the dawn I saw was breaking, and my knees they started quaking

On his words I saw publishers staking futures and kicking writers out the door -

This terrible bat who bore the odoeur of albacore

Was telling the truth about all American fiction being outsourced to Bangalore.'

Of my future there was no guessing, and I wanted to start depressing

But instead I called to Wayne to start French pressing coffee—More!

Instead of napping I started writing, suddenly my characters were fighting

Laughing, loving, joking, lighting Havana stogies from a humidor 

There was fencing, there was dancing, there was kissing, there was hissing,

There were chapters bright and brilliant but could they match the roar

Of the scribblers in Bangalore?

As I typed the pithy ender and hit send from sender and the email dinged and then Der

Bat I turned and spat to “take that you winged rat from Elsinore

An entire novel tender I have finished and sent to editor, agent, friends and various lenders

Try and get such genius from even Wizard Dumbledore!

Try try I cried and beat them senseless but you‘ll have not such lovely sentences of amor

From your prose slaves in Bangalore.

Profit!' said I, `The sales will be sky high, a record so sublime

At Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Powells, in store and –yea- online.

Fondled on the Kindle, on Apple’s I-Pad dandled, and yes by candle handled.

This book will sell a million units, be Oprah’s favorite and Itune-its and don’t forget the author tour

I will go to Fresno, Phoenix, Fargo, Philly, Boston and Bangor.

But I will never never never go to darkest Bangalore.

The bat he started laughing, his mirth unchecked, his wings a flapping

His little eyes did run with tears, the winged rat of dear Naushon.

“Now your book you have completed, deadline met and future seeded

Thanks to a prank by a bug-eyed crank at the Stone House attic door 

Did you really think you could be replaced in all your glor-y

By a team of techies in Bangalore?”

`Be that word our sign of parting, bat or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -

`Get thee back into the tempest and the Isle’s Idyllic shores!

Leave no bat poops as thy token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

Leave my fury here unbroken! - quit peel of paper ‘bove my door!

Take thy teeth from out my heart, and take thy form from off third floor!'

Quoth the bat, `Nevermore.'

And the bat, never flitting, still is sitting, still is shitting

On the pallid pic of Edith just outside my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the scheming of an agent’s who is dreaming,

Of the profits that’ll be streaming from my next book and one more.

And so I am caged, trapped and really quite enraged not to mention now I’m aged here upon the highest floor

Leaving Stone House - nevermore!

Pride and Prejudice and Publication

Posted by Christina Lynch on October 7, 2010 at 2:01 PM Comments comments (1)
I wrote this after having lunch with my book agent, during which I offered to rob a bank if it would help her sell my novel.

Pride and Prejudice and Publication

From Publisher’s Weekly’s deals page:
"Jersey Shore" star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi's A SHORE THING, about a girl looking for love on the boardwalk (one full of big hair, dark tans, and fights galore), to Jeremie Ruby-Strauss at Gallery, with Lauren McKenna editing, for publication in January 2011, by Scott Miller at Trident Media Group (world).

After getting my forty-seventh rejection from New York’s three surviving publishing houses, I received an invitation from my book agent. This time it wasn’t to lunch at fancy Five Points on Great Jones St., where we had met excitedly over truffled potato pizza and local escarole to choose the forty-seven elite, skeletal, Prada-clad editors we would send my manuscript to. This time the invitation was to stand in the rain outside Gristedes eating red hot Cheetos and talking about “our next step.”
“I’m happy to rewrite it,” I said, lying through my teeth. The book had taken me ten years to finish, and cost me an engagement, my youth, my waistline, and a favorite hog I’d had to barter for printer ink.
“No, Jane, your book is brilliant,” she said. “Definitely Pulitzer and possibly Mann Booker material. Every single rejection describes you as the love child of Nabokov and Eudora Welty after a particularly passionate night of exchanged verbiage. That’s not the problem. Although your title ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is a little seventeen-nineties. You might think about calling it ‘The Taxonomy of Porcupines Eating Freedom Cake While Racing Calamity Physics in the Rain.’”
I began licking the spicy red cheese-ish powder off my fingers, then noticed all the other unpublished writers standing around begging for alms from passersby. I felt selfish and offered my fingers to Emily Bronte to suck on. “I’ll take that under consideration,” I told my agent after shooing Em along. “But if the writing is not the problem, what is the problem?”
“You’re the problem.”
She asked me to describe myself.
“Well,” I said, “I guess I’d say I’m a simple country girl of good sense and sensibility.” That’s how I’d described myself on
“Mmmmmmm yes,” she said cryptically, gently chewing the straw of her pumpkin latte. That was about the response I’d gotten on, too, where only one man, who had the rare good fortune of actually having three arms, had been my only suitor.
I didn’t want to seem desperate, so I swallowed the universally acknowledged truth that if I didn’t publish something soon, the Bank of America would be exercising their entailment of my little farm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. I had ended up in rural California after giving Hollywood a try. My Two and a Half Men spec script got me a round of meetings and sixteen small bottles of water but no jobs. I had hung around for a while, waitressing at Drago and selling silky unmentionables at Fred Segal, hoping to option a romantic comedy idea I’d worked on called “Emma,” which I’d felt inspired to write after seeing “Clueless.” Then a bout of consumption I got from a bad shrimp at Spago sidelined me for a couple of years, and when my WGA health care coverage ran out, I had turned 40. That’s the age when you drive your pony cart out of Hollywood and they raise up one of those tire-shredding spiky things behind you. There was no going back.
My agent sighed. “Jane, Jane, Jane. In the old days, getting a book published was a simple matter. You needed only to be born with a smidgen of talent, attend an Ivy League school, write two or three hundred pages with at least one repressed emotion per paragraph, throw in a bear riding a bicycle, and then casually mention the manuscript while riding horses or sailing with the scion of a prominent publishing dynasty. Sometimes the writing itself was optional.”
A skeletal woman in thigh-high plaid boots walked by. Seeing us, she averted her eyes, whispering into her iphone: “Writers, they’re everywhere, hollow-eyed, gaunt, cluttering up the sidewalks. Pestilence.” 
“I don’t have a bear in mine, but there are some carriage horses and a rather silly younger sister,” I said to my agent, trying to seem like a team player. “Do you want me to make her a bear?”
My agent said, “Nah, but a zombie or two wouldn’t hurt.” 
I couldn’t believe she was serious. “I’m not adding zombies,” I said. “Or vampires,” I added quickly, seeing where her thoughts were going. “My storytelling does not need cheap tricks to make it palatable.”
“Well,” she went on, muttering “diff-i-cult” under her breath, “then there was a rather dull period where talent rose to the surface, which was tiresome for everyone, especially readers, who would certainly rather read about masturbation, bears on bicycles, and boarding schools than about people hanging up laundry in trailer parks while not talking about--” she whispered-- “you know.”
“Death?” I asked. 
“Aging,” she sighed, crossing herself and spritzing with seawater. “Now things have shifted yet again. With Snookie’s sale of her debut novel to Gallery, a new paradigm has been established. You need to be famous. Can you do that? Can you be famous?”
I frowned. “I was thinking that if my novel sold well that would make me famous.” The truth was, I didn’t want to be famous. At all. On my Facebook page I still had the spiky headed silhouette in lieu of a photo. I was thinking of publishing my novels anonymously, just to avoid the fame thing. All I wanted was to support myself as a writer. It didn’t seem like it should be this hard. I had been told my whole life I was extremely talented, and I had written six and a half witty, highly-entertaining novels. Longhand.
“No, you need to already be famous to publish a novel.” The phrase “chicken and the egg” crossed my mind. “Have you ever robbed a bank?” she queried. 
I said no, although I once took an extra crumpet at tea with Lady Snodgrass and wrapped it up in my hankie for later. 
“What about a tawdry affaire de coeur with a political figure?”
I thought for a moment. “I carved ‘JA + anyone’ into a tree trunk once.”
She sighed. “Do you think you could safely land a disabled plane?”
“I survived bovine tuberculosis,” I said. “I was supposed to die at 42. That’s sort of a Lance Armstrong angle, isn’t it?” 
She moaned softly and shook her head, and I could see it was my literary career that was dying before it began. I thought fast. 
“Does The Bachelor take 45-year-old women with muffin tops?” I asked.
“Good thinking,” she said, “I’ll find out.”
The first night was tough. The other girls, or should I say, the girls, unpacked their rolling bags of beauty products and began bad mouthing each other. I felt like I was back at Groothampton Grange for Lord Bluntbottom’s annual mobbing by the local wenches. I had my hair in a fetching bun and was unfailingly polite. The cameramen kept mistaking me for the mum of one of the contestants.
“No, no, I said heartily. “I’m here to win this thing!” Actually, I was just there to make an ass of myself and get my face on TV so I could get my novel published. I tossed back a snootful of tequila and vowed to get my game on.
For the opening cocktail, the other girls applied their makeup with a trowel, donned mini dresses with plunging necklines, festooned themselves with bijoux which drew eyes downward to fleshy crevasses so deep even spray-on tan couldn’t plumb their depths, and ironed their flowing manes into veritable tsunamis of, well, hair. I wore my usual men’s khakis held up with baling twine, crewneck Shetland sweater with holes at the elbows, with just a touch of Jack Russell saliva at the hem. I had brought a simple cotton Empire waist dress, but felt that somehow that might seem like I was trying.
“I like to read by the fire and take long walks,” I told the Bachelor, whose name I didn’t quite catch. “I’m fond of country dances and cutting out paper silhouettes, but mostly I just like to write.”
“Oh,” he said, as one of the other girls slipped her hand into his trousers. I knew at this point I should jump her and scratch her face and call her Chaucerian epithets, but, dear reader, I am sorry to say that good taste got the better of ambition. I merely headed back to the tequila bar, and downed shots with Emily Dickinson, who had just been kicked off Survivor. After eating a sea slug.
I was eliminated unanimously by four million cell phone texters in round one. This was impressive considering I had had only one second of air time, leaning into the background of two girls talking trash in the hot tub, stuffing a bok choy canapé in my mouth while shouting something about iambs and trochanters.
The next day I met with my agent on the Christopher Street subway platform. She was playing a violin and gathering change, trying to drown out Edith Wharton and her pernicious accordion. I was coughing blood into a crumpet-crumbed hankie.
“How many zombies do you want?” I asked.