Wednesday, 3 March 2010
who do you think I am?
Funny thing came over the email yesterday. No, not the video of the barking baby or the bear driving the tractor. This was an offer sent out of the blue to be -- get this -- my assistant. I am not making it up. A young guy wanted to intern for me, that is, to work for me for free.
Isn't that great? His name wasn't Steve, but that's what I'll call him. Steve told me he was an English major, interested in writing for children. He thought he'd be able to learn from me, watching what I did, helping me with back-up work for the next six months. I laughed heartily, then emailed him back asking him to outline what he conceived to be his duties. I was fascinated at what he thought authors like me needed by way of an assistant. (Maybe I subconsciously pictured him like Ann there in the TV show I have never heard of.)
Opening mail, he replied. Answering letters. Mailing manuscripts, faxing replies to speaking engagements. That sort of thing.
Wonderful, Steve! I wrote back. But working for me, those duties would take you until lunch on the first day. The rest of the six months would pass awfully slowly.
I was being facetious, but only partly. A writing life involves frowning at the screen for much of the day. Typing a page or two or three. Worrying. Drinking lots of coffee. That's the bread and butter of it. Steve couldn't really do that for me. He wanted the jam of the writing life -- the bits that get you out of the house. I love visiting the post office and the fax place. Hey, I love buying groceries. It's a break from the darn computer.
So I turned Steve down -- not without regret, because he seemed like a nice guy, and I was sure we'd get along. I suggested he find a successful kids' writer. The kind who gets a hundred fan letters a day. Who has a publicist and a lawyer and a collection of snuff boxes. Who puts on a dinner jacket or long gown to speak to people a few times a week. I'm not that guy, I said. You want Rowling or Snickett, the Wimpy Kid or Lightning Thief. I already have one employee working pretty much for free, I said. I can't afford another one.