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That Call : A Soliloquy
    By Mary Ann Smyth
        November 2004

What should I do next? I asked myself. "Self," I said, "you have to get to work and get some writing done. You've goofed off long enough. This is not a professional attitude you have."

"But," self answered, "I'm waiting for THAT CALL. You know the one. The call from that AGENT who has my book. The one who suggested some revisions. She's going to call me to tell me she can't wait to represent me. No! That she's dying to represent me. That my book will surely win an Agatha, an Edgar, maybe a Dilys and possibly a Pulitzer!"

"Get to work," I said. "Start that new book you've been itching to get to. Finish the story you started about the bloody footsteps. Write an article for Belle Lettres. You have to keep writing. You can't rest on your laurels. What if she says no? Are you going to give up?"

"Never! I have faith in what I write. If she doesn't recognize that, I'll find someone who does. I'm good."

"Do you really think you're good enough to get into print?"

"You better believe it! Of course I am. Yes, I am. Sure. Well ... um ... maybe. Possibly. I try," I finished with a whine.

The phone rings and I answer with a flutter in my chest and a lump the size of Boulder Dam in my throat. Could it be HER? Oh, please let it be HER. Wait. No! I don't want it to be HER. I'm not ready for rejection. Not by human voice. The previous nine hundred and thirty-seven rejections came by mail. When I open the envelopes, I can sink to the floor into the fetal position with no one to hear my screams and shrieks about the unfairness of life in general and the publishing field in particular.

I don't want this woman who holds the rest of my life in the palm of her hand to hear my imprecations to a higher diety than HER.

Maybe I'm wrong and she does want me as a client. Of course, she does. What else could it be? Surely this is a call from HER telling me she has already showed my book to St. Martin's Press, Fawcett, Signet, Berkely, Mysterious Press (choose one) and they love it.

The tremor in my voice becomes an interesting quaver as I trill "Good afternoon," into the receiver. I'm sure whoever is on the other end of the connection doesn't realize they're speaking to someone whose muscles just went into overdrive and froze solid and will stay paralyzed for the rest of her life. They can't know that I am on my knees with my eyes raised to the ceiling. Or that my fingers are crossed and clutch the phone in a death grip so tight that I've lost all feeling in them.

Where is all the fun I tell everyone that I have in my new profession? How I just love what I'm doing. How I have discovered hidden depths in myself. That my children and grandchildren are proud of me. Would they be proud now to see the trembling wreck I have become?

That thought restores some balance and I am able to remember my name.

"Mrs. Smyth," the disembodied voice says and I realize this can't be THE CALL after all. I don't use the Mrs. anymore. Gave that up when Himself died twenty years ago. Someone trying to sell something I don't want, never did want, and never will want. Relief washes over me and my blood starts to flow again.

I can handle this, I think as I climb back on my feet. This isn't that hard. I can wait. She'll call. I know it. And she'll want me. I have a firm belief that by this time next month I can talk as familiarly about MY AGENT as I do about my lawyer, my accountant, my stock broker, my doctor, and my grocer. Soon I'll add HER name to my Rolodex.

But wait. Was that the phone? Oh God! The trembling starts again as though I had been trained with Pavlov's dogs. I can't handle this. I think I'll look into another line of work. Something easy. How does brain surgeon sound?

Related articles:
Rejection Blues   by Mary Ann Smyth, March 2004
Writers on Writing   by Hilary Williamson, March 2003
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