Posts Tagged ‘GenX’

The Agent Rejection

Posted: September 8, 2015 in GenX
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I’m about to begin querying my GenX novel After December to a small press. I made the decision over the weekend after considering, again, the response I received from an agent last spring.

Agent: Nobody wants to read about the 90’s. It’s too recent to be considered historic and too long ago to be considered relevant.

Fair enough. To be honest, I don’t remember that much about the 90’s. We have Trivial Pursuit: The 90’s Edition and it’s ridiculously hard. I spent most of the decade wrapped up in my own personal dramas related to high school, boys, college, and my parents’ divorce.

Also there was a lot of drinking and smoking weed.

But the next part of the agent conversation is what made me question why I was even interviewing agents:

Agent: Why can’t the main character just be 22 now?
Me: Like, a Millennial?
Agent: Yeah.
Me: But there’d be social media and a big part of the story is his detachment from his friends.
Agent: Maybe he’s just not into social media.
Me: A Millennial?

I know some Millenials and they’re basically good kids. But come on. They’re value system is very very different from ours. Stripping GenX from Brian Listo is like making Elizabeth Bennett a lesbian. While it might be a doable version of the story, it would be a very different story.

Finally, the agent asked who would read my novel. I said book clubs — you know, those GenX moms who drink wine and remember their high school boyfriends? Possibly college kids now — I read Ethan Hawke’s college-kid-finds-love-and-loses-it novel The Hottest State when I was in college and it resonated.

Agent: So Millenials are a target audience?

As if to prove her point about aging Brian into the now.

The Millenials I know think DiCaprio originated the role of Jay Gatsby. They don’t need modern-era novels. They just need something that confirms their own interests in self, fame, and partying.

So, okay, one agent who doesn’t get it is just a single strike out. Get back up there and keep swinging. What I realized, though, was that agents reflect what the publishers say they want. So I need to find a publisher who will buy my pitch.

Next blog: The Pitch.

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20th Reunion

Posted: June 22, 2015 in GenX
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The consensus at our 20-year high school reunion seemed to be that none of us really feel like adults. We all feel like we’re adulting, like it’s some kind of game we’re in or role we’ve got.

This from a real estate attorney, a police officer, and two people who own their own companies.

We all have kids.

And we’re all just faking it.

There’s a side of me that blames the grey ceiling for this pretense. Those Baby Boomer bosses who won’t retire so we can advance, those grand-parenting enthusiasts who seem a little possessive over our children, those 5K 10K charity fundraising junkies who assign every activity a cause and promise to pray for us.

They’re omnipresent and we’ve been told we could trust them and so we do. But they don’t trust us. They’d still hang the house key around our necks if they could.

We don’t believe in our own adultness because we’re not treated like responsible parties.

We’re building careers and companies, inventing technology and processes, enacting laws and enforcing them. Quietly running the place like the grown ups we are pretending to be.

There’s a humility to thinking we’re faking it. To forgetting we’re the ones in the room with the most experience, knowledge, and ability.

I catch myself sometimes reminding myself of my own credentials and my classmates admitted they do the same thing. We’re so often pressed between Boomer bragging and Millennial preening that it’s humiliating to attempt distinction. There’s something cheap and insincere about naming ourselves experts.

Even when we are the best at what we do, we’re always dismissed as slackers.

It’s especially hard in a room full of people who knew you when you were 17 to remember that you’re now almost 40. Even looking at these people’s children doesn’t stop me from thinking about them as the kids we were back then.

Probably because I perpetually think of myself that way.

It’s not an obsession with youth or denial over the aging process. It’s an honest-to-goodness belief that I have more to learn.

I may not be ready for Hollie to be a teenager right now, but I will be when it’s time. My classmates with teens told me so.

I may not be prepared to retire right now, but I’m putting together the right portfolio to manage that when it’s time.

In the same way I was ready when I finished my PhD, when I started my company, when I decided to lead in a project where following would have been easier.

After a weekend of looking back, I’m ready to focus on now.

Now is the most interesting part of my story. I’m mid-career and my own boss. I’m mom to a kid learning to read, write, swim, and ride a bike. She doesn’t know everything yet and neither do I.

What’s even better is this sense that I’m living my life my way and that while that may be a little scary and unpredictable, it’s going to turn out okay.

It may turn out we’re pretty good at this adult thing. Maybe the slacker generation is exactly the image we need to hide our super hero antics.

Packing

Posted: April 17, 2013 in Short Story
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The Just Write Short Story Challenge of 2013 continues with this offering. I broke my own rule and edited one I’d drafted some time ago. I think it’s appropriate, though, since my friend who inspired the story has now returned from Liberia. Your comments are appreciated. Please let me know what you think.

_________________________________________________________

“Packing”

Dominique laid another tightly folded shirt into the suitcase. “Twenty-two,” she said softly to herself.

“Here,” Roman said, hoisting a full basket of dried laundry onto the bed next to the suitcase. The covers fell away from the pillows, created lumps, made the basket lean unevenly as though it might spill. He held the basket’s rims tightly, shimmied it to flatten the folds of comforter beneath it. Then released his grip and stepped back.

“Thanks,” Dominique said. Folded another shirt, pressed it into the suitcase. “Twenty-three.”

He lingered at her elbow. Waited.

She scratched 23 on the page next to the line item “30 shirts.” Then she turned to him. “What?”

He shrugged, but it wasn’t real. He didn’t really not know what to say. So much simmering beyond his tight lips, sizzling on his tongue. He swallowed.

Their eyes met. Large, brown, wide eyes on her narrow face. Squinting, lid-shaded green ones on his own face.

“What?” she asked again.

He looked away, his posture resigned.

“Thanks,” she said, clasping the laundry basket’s edge and shifting it. Reached inside, she pulled out another shirt, folded it tightly, laid it into the suitcase.

He hadn’t moved. Hadn’t left.

Another shirt. Folded. Laid. “Twenty four,” she said softly.

She could hear him breathing, not huffing or grunting, just breathing. Sharing the air with her. The room felt warm, late-day light streaming through the blinds, heating the carpet. The cat laid under the window, stretched luxuriously in the heat.

Dominique looked up at the ceiling fan, its blades still. She leaned toward the wall behind her, flipped the switch up. The blades began to rotate, a low whir as the fan came to life. The wind between them muted the sound of his breathing.

He sat on the edge of the bed, next to the basket. Out of her peripheral view now, forcing her to look at him as she reached into the basket for another shirt. Shake. Fold. Press into the suitcase. Twenty-five.

“I’m reconsidering,” he said.

“You’re sad,” she said.

“Yes,” he said. “Aren’t you?”

She stopped, looked at him, said, “no.”

Another shirt.

“Okay. I get it. Huge opportunity. Big deal.”

Really big deal,” she said.

“Yes,” he agreed, “it’s a really big deal. It’s just…”

“A year.”

“It’s just a year.”

“Yes,” she said, and smiled. The smile pulled her lips away from her teeth, stretched across the entire bottom half of her face, made her look like a child. “I like it said that way.”

“It’s just a year,” he repeated. But he didn’t smile.

There’s a life here. Work and friends and afternoons at the beach and nights on the boat. There’s a life here. Her life is here. He didn’t say these things. He’d been repeating them silently since he said them three days ago. She knew them.

Another shirt. Folded, pressed into the suitcase. “Twenty-six.”

He folded his arms over his stomach, hugged himself. Watched her moving. Those long, thin arms, long skinny fingers, elbow bones, wrist bones, the slight jingle of a bracelet, brown skin freckled and aged by the sun, thick blondish hair on her forearm. She reached into the basket. He caught her hand.

“It’s just a year,” he said.

She looked at him. He was looking at her hand: pulling it toward him, turning it over, palm up. He laid his cheek in her palm. She closed it around the curve of his face, tilted her head.

“They’re lucky to have you,” he murmured, kissing her hand.

“It’s Liberia. They’re not lucky at all.”

“It’s hot there.”

“So fucking hot.” She had rehearsed that phrase, knew it, meant to prepare for it.

“What are you packing?”

“Two shirts a day. Pretty sure my deodorant won’t help.”

He laughed, still holding her hand against his face.

She tugged gently and he released it. She took another shirt out of the basket. Folded. Pressed into the suitcase. Twenty-seven.

No questions. When the opportunity came up she had no questions. Didn’t ask where she would live, who she would know, how she would eat or send bills to the States. Didn’t ask if she needed to know French or if there was wifi. Didn’t ask if he could come.

Still sitting, slumping now, next to the basket, he was in her way a bit. She kept on with the shirts, expected him to move when she needed the space for folding pants. She didn’t push him away.

“Not sad,” he said.

“No, it’s only a year.”

“Not sad,” he said again, “gonna be great. You’re great.”

She grinned again. He didn’t. “Thanks,” she said.

“You’re welcome,” Roman replied, softly.

Another shirt. Folded, pressed into the suitcase, the stack rose over the edge now. “Twenty-eight,” she said.

He moved behind her, trailed his hand against her hip, across her back, stepped into the sunlight streaming through the blinds. Reached his hands over his head, bending at the elbow to avoid touching the fan. Arched his back, stretched. A yawn. A grunt.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he said, “just stiff.”

She arched a brow, glanced at his pants, “yeah?” Stuck her thumb under the strap of her tank top like she’d pull it off. Just tell her to.

He shook his head, laughed a bit, “no.”

A shrug, hands back to folding. Pushing the desire away. “Too bad. Gonna be a while.”

“Only a year,” he said.

“Should it be?” she asked suddenly.

“What?”

“You could, you know, with someone.” She had rehearsed those words, too. But they still hurt.

“No,” Roman replied, then again, looking her in the eye, “no.”

“It’s okay. I’d understand.” She looked away.

“No, okay?”

She looked up. Their eyes met. Hers brown, wide, brave. His narrow, glazed with tears. “Okay,” she said, “Good to know.”

“There isn’t anyone else,” he said, suddenly angry, he hadn’t rehearsed that conversation. Hadn’t thought about that conversation. Didn’t like it.  “It’s only you. I’ll wait.”

“And you’ll come for Christmas,” she said.

He laughed, “multiple times hopefully,” he said and now he grinned.

She laughed, too, threw a balled-up pair of socks at him. He caught it, tossed it back into the pile.

Roman flopped onto the bed, stepping over the cat, but startling her anyway, the bed shambles puffing around him, letting out the air they’d trapped with the laundry basket shifting. He climbed up to the pillow, tucked his hand under it. Snuggled into it, breathed in deeply.

“A bed to yourself,” she said.

“For a whole year,” he said.

“You’ll forget how to share.”

“Yep.”

He pressed his face into her pillow.

She folded shirts and counted.

There are criminals here. Sex crimes here. Victims here. They needed her as much as those people in Liberia. There was work to do here. She had been making a difference. She had been changing peoples’ lives. She was needed. He didn’t say these things again. But their echoes filled his head.

It didn’t matter how many criminals she got off the street, more arrived. No matter how many victims she found justice for, another young girl came in the next day and the next and the next. She was swimming against the tide and she was tired. It didn’t feel like progress. At least she didn’t think it did. She couldn’t remember what progress felt like.

Another shirt. Fold. Press. “Thirty,” she said softly. The stack leaned a little. She broke it halfway, positioned the top half in a second pile next to the first. Pushed them both against the edge of the suitcase. She pulled the laundry basket toward her.

“Didn’t know you had thirty shirts,” he said.

“Me neither.”

“Work shirts?”

“Mostly.”

The ceiling fan tinked and wobbled above them. He turned onto his back to watch it. The blades spun, the air washed over the room. The fan’s two chains shivered, clinking together occasionally, but mostly gyrating in separate orbits.

Roman put his hands behind his head. His elbows made butterfly wings and he pressed them in and out, shifting, getting comfortable.

She glanced at him, stretched the length of their bed. She imagined climbing on top of him, one leg on either side of his hips. She imagined sitting back into his crotch. She smiled to herself.

He turned as if he’d heard her lips part.

“Naughty thoughts?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“Oh, come on, I’m here. I’m laid out. Love me,” he said.

Roman turned onto his side, propped his head on his palm and ran the other hand down the length of his leg, finger tips extended. His shorts bunched on his thighs, his knees stacked, his legs tanned with days of sailing, the hair bleached from the sun.

She looked back to his face, his eyes closed, his lips kissed toward her. Then he opened one eye to see if she was looking. Closed it quickly and kissed again.

She laughed. “Very sexy.”

“How can you resist?” he agreed, “how can you leave?”

Huge opportunity. Important work. Break the rut. We’re not moving forward. This will make my resume. People need help. I’m the perfect candidate. No strings, remember? Unsaid already said things floating like pasta to the top of the boiling water. Done. Cooked through.

She reached into the basket, pulled a pair of pants toward her. Looked back at him.

He was still looking at her. The question had been real.

“Why are you doing that?”

“Doing what?”

“Pouting,” she said.

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

He fell onto his back again, stared at the ceiling fan, hands folded on his belly. She couldn’t see herself straddling him now. The question had taken the air out of the room. She reached up and tugged on one of the fan’s chains, three pulls, slow, stop, high. The fan whirred to a higher speed.

She glanced at the cat who had resumed her languorous stretch in the light. Turned to the legal pad, scratched through “30 Shirts.” Finished folding the first pair of pants, rolled them tightly, laid them in. “One.”

The tinkling of the fan’s chains. The rock of it against its base. The sound of linen, then rayon folded, rolled, stacked in the suitcase. The rattle of the suitcase’s zipper.  Making room. Making it fit.

After a while he got bored, sat up, dropped his legs over the other side of the bed. She glanced up, saw his back, shoulders hunched. Wondered if he was crying. Waited.

He stood, turned back around, reached for the basket, pulled a pair of pants out of the basket.

“You should take skirts,” he said. “Cooler.”

“So my legs can sweat easier? Slide against each other?”

“That slick slapping sound when you walk?” he asked. “Sure.”

“No thanks.”

He smiled at her.

“Is it hot all year?”

“Yes,” she said. Then, quieter, “yes.”

She stacked another pair of pants. He stretched the pair he’d rolled out to her. She took it, met his eyes. Green behind the crinkles of thirty five years, squints like he was laughing, thick lashes she had always expected to peel off whole like falsies.

The right thing to do. A chance to make a difference. A chance to build her resume. A chance for them to see how they would survive. If they would survive. He had work here. Things to do. No other women. Not for him. Just her. They were only 35. They had plenty of time for suburbs and minivans. He would wait.

“Thanks,” she said.

“I’m proud of you,” he said.

“I know,” she said.

He took another pair of pants. She did, too. Fold, roll, place in the suitcase. Push to the side. Make room.