It’s frustrating for us writers when a literary agency doesn’t bother to get back to us. Having guarded our work so jealously for so long, at last we send it out and wait with bated breath, only for it to be passed around a room and laughed at by a bunch of jokers, before being unceremoniously consigned to the dustbin of history. At least this is what happens as far as we know – because nobody bothers to tell us otherwise. If my work is not good enough, then it’s not good enough. I do not think I deserve to be published end of. But I do need to know if I am below standard, in order to improve. Telling me nothing is not helpful. Below you will find a short story (500 words) that I wrote on this subject. It was written for a competition a few months ago… which I haven’t heard back from, of course. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
Sometimes It Pays To Take A Closer Look
You should have taken that chance, shouldn’t you? Maybe then you wouldn’t be standing on the Strand outside McDonalds – nose pressed, breath misting against the glass, windowed away by poverty from the golden nuggets within.
“Carry on please sir.” An anxious employee, absurdly dressed in a khaki uniform, ushers you away. You continue to traipse along your lonely path. At least he was polite – plenty of them aren’t.
It hasn’t always been like this. Six months ago you were a top dog; a fat cat, to mix the metaphors. Even working for the most powerful literary agency in the country seemed beneath your talent. But a man’s got to earn a living, and the tips weren’t bad.
It was a Friday night; you remember it because it was somebody’s birthday. A girl’s – you didn’t know her name but you knew by the way she’d pressed her breasts together when giving you the invitation that it would be worth your while. You reached for the last file in your tray, humming Loick Essien’s ‘That’s just how we roll’, (although in your mind you’d replaced the first person plural with the singular).
The file was unusually thin; it was if the author expected his work to stand by its own merits. Laughable. The synopsis wasn’t awful, so you turned to the first chapter. That wasn’t bad either. Just as you were beginning to get really involved, Doug stuck his head into your office.
“It’s five mate, you coming?”
You looked up. “Yeah I’ll be there in a bit.”
Doug nodded to the file in your hand. “Onto something?”
“I don’t know. Probably not.”
“Who’s it by?”
You searched the covering letter for the name. You didn’t recognise it. “Never heard of him,” you said.
Doug grinned. “Then bin it. Lets go!”
“Just give us a sec. I’ll meet you there.”
Doug tapped his hands on the door, one after the other in quick succession. “In a bit then,” he said.
“In a bit.”
He left and you turned again to the file. But you couldn’t concentrate anymore. Doug was right – you should bin it.You’d never heard the name before; likelihood was you’d never hear it again. Besides by then it was ten past five. You got your coat and hastened to join the celebrations.
You should have taken that chance. Next month a new book topped the charts. It was written, they said, by a nobody. Your boss soon found out that you’d been the one to let it slip through your hands. It all turned sour from there.
That’s why when I pass you now, on the way to the signing of my second book, you’re ferreting around in the mud for scraps. Seeing you, I stop, and with a generosity you would never have shown me, I take a note from out of my bulging wallet and press it into your grubby, snatching hands. “Here you are sir,” I say, “go buy yourself a meal.”