The Write Stuff
November 15th, 2009

Does ANYTHING ever go according to plan? Not for me it doesn’t. If my career path was a building, it would resemble the Winchester House. Stairways and hallways that lead to dead ends, windows that open up to reveal blank walls. That’s because I’m basically a dreamer, and dreams only occasionally come true. My biggest dream when I was growing up was to one day sell a story to a magazine, see my name in print, and win the heart of a certain young lady. Here is an excerpt from a short story I was working on, late one dark and stormy night over fifty years ago.last_trap

Clearly, I came into this world with no literary talent whatsoever. But I suppose that’s not the main thing. I mean, just look at Sarah Palin. Here is a woman who, when pressed by Katie Couric to name a single publication that she has ever read, drew a blank. Here is a woman who has delivered a hundred speeches, not one of which contains even one grammatically complete sentence expressing a single coherent thought. And yet today her book is a best seller and she is collecting millions—while here I sit gloomily in my study contemplating a crate of unsold books and a royalty check from my publisher in the amount of four cents.

Am I bitter? Of course not. Like me, Sarah had a dream. She envisioned a world where beauty contestants wouldn’t merely be asked to expound on government policy—they would be empowered to actually MAKE government policy. They would be not merely beauty queens but actual QUEENS, with the authority to round up troublesome dissidents and even execute cheeky interviewers who ask “inappropriate” questions. And if things continue to go her way, Sarah’s dream may very likely come true, and certain television talking heads will become rolling heads—literally.

So, no, I’m not bitter. Just a wee bit envious, that’s all. And disappointed that the crappy short story I wrote half a century ago never found its way into print. Why? Because I made the fatal mistake of READING it! Writers who aspire to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey would be well advised not to read their own first drafts, because if you do, you might come to the conclusion that your writing sucks. And speaking of sucking, if I had it to do over again, I would have made the wolf in my story a vampire, and David Vance a teenaged girl instead of a government trapper. I’d have followed a tried and true formula: man meets girl, man bites girl, author poses in a cape for dust jacket photo. Because nowadays it seems that’s the only way to get the attention of teenaged girls—who don’t much care for literary types and who won’t be smitten until they’re bitten.

-Richard Menzies