David Dodd 1:48 a.m., May 18
We were supposed to only meet for coffee, but then the coffee became a peach smoothie and a chocolate shake. Then we ordered french fries and onion rings, and she rounded out the meal with a steak sandwich.
Emstermom and I had such a good time when we met on June 13, we just couldn't stop talking. We first became aware of each other while blogging on the Escondido page, and we've kept in touch through e-mail. For the first time ever, I had someone to "talk shop" with--to frown at all the ups and downs of the writing life and to celebrate the victories. For the most part, people in the writing groups we've attended haven't got a clue, even though they consider themselves "serious writers," a sure-fire sign that they don't know anything.
Emstermom feels as I do, that she's kind of stuck in-between. We've both been published frequently so we aren't beginners, but we aren't the top dogs either. I dropped a bomb that I've never told anyone--that four years ago, I had an affair with a guy whose mom had been the housekeeper for one of the biggest writers in Hollywood. Just as I was gearing up to ask him if I could talk to the guy about the business, the writer dropped dead so I lost my chance.
She told me not to worry that my secret was safe with her and I cracked up. "The whole world knows," I said, "including my husband." The Reader printed a story about it and he found out when he picked up a copy at 7-11. He had gotten laid off and THEN told me that he had blown through our savings 'years ago.' I was desperate because my daughter couldn't get a job and needed to pay on her school loans. If he had been a real man--a concept that has eluded him for twelve years--I wouldn't have had to resort to such desperate measures, so I don't feel bad at all.
Emstermom seemed a little incredulous. I went on to tell her all of the gossip I know about the Reader. I've stayed in touch with several other bloggers and comment posters, including Pistol Pete, Nan, and Surfpuppy. They keep me up-to-date on everything.
For four hours, we mostly complained about unprofessionalism in writer's groups and associations, and exchanged our publishing sources. She said that she wrote one story and someone interviewed her and aired the tape on Channel 13. She also gave me the names of websites that pay $75 for only ten minutes of work, which stopped me short.
Until the Great Recession and e-book revolution, I'd never written for anything less than $500-$1,000 for ten to thirty minutes worth of work. I did write a few stringer stories back in the day, but made more than $75 when I included a picture. Seventy-five dollars isn't worth getting up in the morning for.
I'd still be making that much and more, but Dorchester Media, the oldest trade paperback company in America, the company that published confession magazines that got our passions stirring when we were teenagers, the very company that gave Stephen King his start, that had offices on Madison Avenue, went belly-up last September. Gone, finito, no mas. I've made contact with many of their authors who were picked up by St Martin's Press. But because I only wrote short stories and was in the middle of working on my first novel for their book line, I can't get an agent to represent me at the current time.
I have been left dressed up with no place to go, so to speak. But I guess the situation was worse for the people who worked for the family-owned operation. A cover artist said that after a round of lay-offs, the remaining staff members were working out of their homes. I know it was tough because it took me five months to get my last check which was only $100. But I will give the owner credit for paying it. I told Emstermom that I was not about to hop on a plane to sue him in New York, so he could have easily chosen not to meet his obligation.
Emstermom doesn't tweet or facebook but does do a lot of freelance work that her front-page stories in The Paper have gotten her. She types and ghost writes and works full-time as well, even with bad knees. I feel a bit guilty that I only have to write and I don't do as much of that as I should. I guess I'm not doggedly motivated which is my dad's fault 'cause he made my life too easy.
At the end of the evening, we were standing by my car, saying a long good-bye when her husband called. "Where are you?" I could hear him say. She explained that we were still talking and he seemed utterly befuddled without her. He'd even fed the dogs again after she had stopped off before coming to the restaurant to feed them.
"They were crying because they were outside, not because they were hungry," she explained.
The people I enjoy talking to are few and far between, so I'm really glad I got the chance to finally meet emstermom. She is what I call "a real writer," born to do it and not a contestant that merely shows up in a chicken suit, hoping to get on TV. We both love dogs, both have grown daughters, both have been or are married to Mezzicans, and we both wore red to our meeting--sure signs that a forever friendship lies ahead.