Lessons at Lunch
“I am so tired of bra-busting, crotch opening stories about young, beautiful couples. I’m over 70 years old and I don’t want to read that stuff. So, I wrote a romance mystery novel with people my age in it. Agents keep asking me what other books are like it, ones they can compare it to. I just look at them and say, ‘none, mine’s the first.’”
Marge continued, “I think my next book will be about true stories of Chicago firefighters. My husband is the oldest member of the Chicago Fire Department. Oh, I have some stories. Trust me. One day, they called my husband and his 300 pound partner to check on a man on the sixth floor of a building in Roger’s Park. The guy had already died. Can you imagine carrying a dead man on a stretcher down 6 flights of stairs? Especially if you were over 300 lbs? They looked out at the huge snowdrifts that had amassed that winter and threw the body out the window.”
My lunch plan was to find a nice, quiet restaurant, put my ear buds in and tune the world out. That is my M.O. Go to a conference, don’t make eye contact and hide when I can, especially during the breaks. The universe had other plans for me. Laura and I ended up at the hotel restaurant with Kathy, Marge and Wayne, all three of whom were in their 70s. Laura much closer to my age.
I met Laura in line registering for the Chicago’s Writers Day Workshop. She introduced herself and asked me what I was working on and why I was at this conference. Her friend, Kathy, wondering too. It wasn’t intrusive. It was, I learned, what you did there. You come out of your introverted shell and find out why people are there. Where are they in their “projects?” Are they published? Are they pitching to an agent? Are they confused about life?
I didn’t know what to tell them. A novel? A memoir? A book on education? Nothing? I then told them I wasn’t sure, but that was why I was there. I was there to knock on the door of writing so I could see what lies behind.
They both assured me I had come to the right place. “You’ll learn a lot here.”
They were right; I learned a lot, the most at that hotel lunch table.
Laura was a professional and certified ghostwriter that charges between 25 and 75 thousand dollars per project. Yes, you read that correctly. Kathy was pitching her second book, this one on nursing. Wayne was also a ghostwriter, and a book cover designer, a musician, a veteran, and a published novelist (buy his book here). Marge, not yet published, was hellbent on convincing an agent to take her on as a client. I sat and listened, amazed.
If someone with a crystal ball would have told me I would eat lunch with complete strangers who were significantly older than me and that I would hear from the mouth of not a babe, but of a 70-plus-year-old the words: bra-busting, crotch opening, and the tale of a dead man being tossed out a 6th floor window, I would have asked for my money back, thinking the crystal ball person was crazy.
I signed up for the conference because I hoped I might learn a thing or two and find “my people” there: humans who don’t understand why this life?, and who write because they can’t seem to stop.
I think I found them.
What did I learn? Not only that 70-plus-year olds don’t want to read young romance novels, but that they are the ones I can turn to when I want to give up. If they haven’t quit, I shouldn’t either. So, I won’t.
23,270 words and counting... (only about 40,000 - 70,000 more, and why I haven’t been around here lately).
Until the next day like this. Thanks for reading.
*I changed all the names, except for Wayne’s because it’s on the cover of his book. I have no association with Amazon, so if you buy his book, I get nothing but the warm feeling that comes with helping to promote another’s writing. So please, buy his book here. I could use some warm feelings, and I’m not talking about the ones that come when reading a bra-busting romance novel.