“Let me do that for you. It’ll be easier.”

We have one goal today. Let us analyze the above emboldened title, and maybe through this analysis we can discover why getting published means so much to me.

I woke up out of a sound sleep to write this piece. It was calling to me, and if I hadn’t answered the call it would have kept badgering me until I did. So here I am… doing what I was born to do. Writing.

And now to delve deeper into the meaning of: “Let me do that for you. It’ll be easier.”

My close kinship with cerebral palsy means nothing is easy for me. Not walking up stairs at a football game. (Who doesn’t love the sensation that, with one wrong step, you could fall a long way?). Not tying my shoes (This was such a frustrating enterprise that I didn’t wear a shoe that needed to be tied after age six; that’ll show ’em. I thought). Or frying an egg, or cutting my food. Nothing is easy for me, but to complain is sort of pointless. I am who I am, with the specific set of obstacles granted to me. The same is true for you. We all have our obstacles, and I’ve just determined that, in my case, complaint gets me nowhere.

When I was a kid and wanted to learn how to do something. say tying my shoe or cutting my food, for example, I would go to an adult and ask to be shown the secret that would unlock these abilities.

The response was always the same. The adult would say, “Oh, let me do that for you. It’ll be easier.”

Kid me thought, Sounds good to me. Less work on my part.

Current me thinks, Easier? Easier for whom?

There’s so many things I want to learn how to do. Slowly, I am learning and becoming acclimated to them. They are all simple, routine things everyone knows how to do by the time they are where I am.

But one of the things I want to learn how to do goes deeper than a simple chore. The laundry. Giving my part of the house a proper vacuuming. This is deeper than that.

I want to learn how to stop hearing: “Let me do that for you. It’ll be easier.”

Because what that phrase really means is no.

“Hey, can you show me how to….?” I’d ask an adult.

“Let me do that for you. It’ll be easier.” Essentially, what I’ve always heard when someone says that is equivalent to: No, I don’t have the time to show you all the tricks. But if I do it for you, it’ll get done, and then you’ll stop bugging me.

And it would be easier…. for them. Leaving future me to deal with the reality that there are many things, to this day, that I don’t know how to do.

One of the things that does not fall into that category is writing. I know how to write. And yet, whenever I receive a rejection note from an agent or a publisher, I don’t see the form rejection into which almost no care or thought was placed. In my head, I get that the job of an agent is to find work they can sell. But my heart wins out in times like those, and I see a vision–as clear as if it were happening right in front of me. It’s a vision of someone saying, “You don’t know what you’re doing, and I don’t have the time, the patience, or the resources to help you learn.” The we’ve-all-grown-up version of: “Let me do that for you. It’ll be easier” has transformed into: “Here’s a quick, sharp, awful rejection of the thing you love most in the world. Now get out of my face, and let me get back to doing real work.”

You might say, “Maybe he should look at the business differently. It isn’t like that.”

To that, my dear friend, I would say, “It may not be like that for you. That may not be how you see agenting or publishing. But I have always lived my life with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. If someone tells me no, I want to prove them wrong. If someone shuts me out, I want to prove that I belong… and I will.

Eventually.”

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HULU Picks Up “The Interview” or: How Amy Pascal Lost Her “Balls”

A note before we start: This post is all about assumptions. But they are assumptions that aren’t too far out of the realm of possibility, and so they are worth making. Hence the title.

I am a fiction writer. That is what I do. If you ask some people, I do it quite well. I’m trying to learn not to care about those who feel otherwise. It isn’t easy. Regardless, I love making art.

I also support anyone else who finds joy in fashioning their own forms of art.

I have been a Seth Rogen/James Franco fan since their early days, the much-loved and gone-too-soon Freaks And Geeks. These two know comedy. They grew up in the school of the mighty Apatow with Jason Segel and Martin Starr. They know the kinds of movies they make, and they are paid well for making them.

I don’t remember what movie I was seeing–could it have been The Giver, or was it something else?–where I first saw a preview for Rogen and Franco’s newest vehicle, The Interview. I remember thinking at the time: Wow, that got green-lit? I’m sure it’ll be funny, in its own rogen-y way, but whoever green-lit that movie has some balls. Seth Rogen agreed with me, thanking Sony exec Amy Pascal for having the balls to make his movie.

Well, apparently Ms. Pascal misplaced her balls.

While I understand fully Sony’s decision not to release The Interview in theaters over Christmas, and really they had no choice (no one was going to show the thing), their  next decision was the one that really got to me. Sony has no plans to release The Interview… in any form. Translation: No Video-On-Demand, no DVD, etc.

I’m a writer. But deeper than that, it should be clear I consider myself an artist who finds value in the art of others. Rogen’s intention was to make a funny, crude comedy that has at its heart a provocative premise. But the time to nix the concept was at the pitch meeting, Ms. Pascal. Not after you’ve poured $42-44 million into the making of the movie and much more into promotion. You should have cut your losses and released your big Christmas movie on video. Or, at least you could sell it to Hulu or something. The public deserves to see it without having to resort to the kind of shady downloading your industry calls theft.

What happens the next time someone cries out against a film of yours? “No problem. We’ll just pull it. Problem solved.” That scares us artists, because, in America, the people say what we want to say as a right, and our fellow Americans have the right to partake of it/agree/disagree with it–or not.

I recently finished a novel in which I believe, with all my heart. It’s a great book I have worked extremely hard to make great. I’m in search of the agent/publisher who will do the same. Both love it and make it even better. I understand that books/movies/entertainment  are big business, and you’re completely covering your butts here, but shouldn’t loyalty count for something? Where I come from, if you say you’re going to do something, you do it.

Even if it’s through Video-On-Demand. Or Hulu.

One Gone Home

This piece sat silently in my archives until I found it tucked away in a little-used folder on my computer’s desktop. It’s one of my favorite pieces from an earlier time in my life, when everything was changing, and not all the changes were for the better, and I had to find a way to make sense of all of that.

My way was to write.

A few pre-post notes for context:

-A friend of mine advised me recently not to worry about “writing everything right”. What I needed to do, she said, was write everything ME. Every writer has a voice. I needed to commit to mine. Interesting that one of the pieces that so clearly demonstrates this is one I wrote almost twelve years ago.

-My grandfather, the subject of the piece, passed away just weeks after a late Easter. That year, the holiday came in April.

-He always had jellybeans and tums in the right pocket of any coat he wore. At least it seemed that way to me.

One Gone Home

Tonight, when I went to a baseball game, I wore papa’s coat. Having received it as a gift on Easter Sunday, he had hardly had the opportunity to wear it himself.

And yet, it still had jellybeans and Tums in the right pocket, just as it should have. And it still smelled like him, too. Faintly of cologne, faintly of something else not quite recognizable, but clearly papa.

As I exited the car to head into the stadium, the wind picked up, and he was there. The cologne, the something else not quite recognizable but clearly papa played softly on the breeze.

I thanked God.

I sat in the stands being a little greedy, perhaps; every inning or so, I’d lean down and sniff at the coat, get his scent in my nose, and he’d be there again. In the seat next to me, or in his kitchen singing songs or deep-frying chicken strips.

Or reading stories to me late into the night.

Or telling me to get off my fat butt.

Or calling me “The Bear”.

I’ve heard it said that when you come close to death, your life flashes before your eyes, and I think that’s true, in a sense, when someone you love passes on, too. That all the memories we have of our dearly departed flash right there for us to see in our mind’s eye for a brilliant and bittersweet half-second.

Which causes those of us left living to engage in fruitless searches for an article that will slow the flashing. So that it becomes constant. So that the person is forever with us. We forage and we mine, and we hope to slow the flashing, knowing full well that it just isn’t to be.

But if we’re lucky, on cool nights at a baseball stadium, we’ll get to wear coats that still have jellybeans and Tums in the right pocket, that give us one more treasured memory, and still smell faintly of one gone home.

My Favorite Season!

I preface this blog with the following:

I am not a religious man. I believe in a higher power. I have to hope there’s one out there. Sometimes, I call Him/Her/It God. Sometimes, we talk. Sometimes, I pray.

That’s about as far as it goes.

This isn’t one of my favorite seasons because I find comfort in the community a church provides, though I know people who do, and for them that comfort is real, and it works magic at points. No judgement from me.

This (Thanksgiving to Christmas) is my favorite season because it reminds me that a great man lived a great life. He was my grandpa, or Papa. He was a cook. A bongo drummer. A marine in Korea. A bartender. One of Santa’s helpers, who didn’t need to be given extra padding for his Santa suit, because he already had the right amount of padding. A reader of stories from The Hardy Boys to The Boxcar Children to Crichton to The Great Gatsby to my own offerings. Which he always read with a twinkle in his eye.

He was my first reader. He believed in me always. When he was lying, short of breath, in his bed near the end of his life, he took my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “My writer.”

I am his writer. It’s my job to preserve his memory. To tell you that he made his own turkey gravy, and in my dreams I can still taste it around this time of year. He made two kinds of pie every holiday, apple and pumpkin. I always ate both kinds every holiday, because I could.

I miss you, Pop. I will always miss you. Somewhere up there, in the Afterlife, where you’ve defeated the cancer that took you from us, you’re preparing for a Christmas to come, and you’re saying, “I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, kid. We had a big turkey up here. And we thought of you.”

Same here.