Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Love and Play-Doh

GUEST BLOG BY MONIKA BASILE. AUTHOR OF QUIETLY CRAZY

When I was a little girl, it was much easier to weed out potential mates. There were certain things, ideas, and situations that would knock someone out of the ball park in moments. There would be no wasting of time, no meandering over what the right thing was—no unending thoughts of “well everything is perfect but something just isn’t right but it could change, improve, or go away”. I seemed to be so much smarter as a little girl than the grown up woman I have become. And I realize, I need to go back to my beginnings and relearn it all again with grown up eyes but still retain the little girl common sense.

In the first grade I had a boyfriend. His name was Raymond and I adored him. He had four older brothers and a Dalmatian dog; he had a huge house that had stairs which was something I found most impressive. In Raymond’s house there were always two different flavors of Kool-Aide to choose from and your choice of Oreo’s, Chips A-Hoy or Nutter Butters. He was the ideal mate for me I was very sure. My mother still remembers how Raymond and I would sit at the table clipping out coupons for all the items we would need when we grew up and had our own house and family. And I can remember my father getting upset when he would pretend to be Gomez from the Adam’s Family and run slobbery kisses down my arm. He was perfect, right? He was what every little girl dreams of in a boyfriend when they are merely six going on seven. And everything became an awful imperfect, never going back to it, nightmare with one single incident when I knew he was not right for me. If I could only have been this smart in my later years things might have been much easier.

It was my seventh birthday. I invited all of my best girlfriends and my beloved Raymond. I had been telling Raymond about the new Play-Doh set I would be getting for my birthday. It had twelve colors, a rolled out map of the zoo and a neighborhood. You could mold your own animals and people and walk down the plastic streets. There were shapes to be made and spaghetti hair, and long snake chains and I was in absolute heaven at the thought of it. You see, I had only ever had your basic Play-Doh pack, three colors—red, blue and yellow. I had never enjoyed the pinks, and powder blues, the greens and orange, the brown and even the black to make real Play-Doh eye balls on my characters or olives on my pizzas. I talked of nothing else until the big day, the big birthday party day. And when I opened my giant heaven sent Play-Doh set, I danced around the room shouting, “I knew it! I knew it! It’s everything I ever wanted!”

I set everything up on the kitchen table; the other girls went and played with the Barbies I got and other games. Raymond was with me in the kitchen and I told him how much I loved each color and I opened each little can and smelled them to see if the colors smelled different. Then I left to go to the bathroom. This was when true tragedy struck.

Upon entering the kitchen, I noticed right away. The most awful thing I could imagine—a giant, multi colored almost resembling vomit ball of Play-Doh sitting in the middle of my plastic mat neighborhood. And Raymond sitting and smiling with all the little plastic cans turned over around him. “I do not like you anymore Raymond!” I growled through clenched teeth. “You will never be my boyfriend again.” And in that moment of first spying that horrible ball of yuck, I knew we were done.

Of course Raymond didn’t have any idea why I was so mad. He even begged me to forgive him and I refused. At seven years old I somehow knew what I wanted in a man though I wasn’t even old enough to articulate it then. I knew what he had done wrong; I knew what I could never live with. He did not listen to me and he ruined my colors.

How did I know that at seven, and failed to remember it through my adult life?

Raymond eventually moved away and I still refused to even speak to him to tell him good bye. He moved back to the area when we were in high school. He remembered me right away and said hello. And all I was able to get out was, “You ruined my colors.” I never spoke to him again and of course he thought me quite odd.

There is a point to all of this. Really, there is.

I have been wondering why this has been such a prominent thought in my head lately. Why has this memory become so important again when I look back on the adult years of my life? I have realized it is because as a young girl I was smart enough to say “Enough, no more! I don’t need to keep trying here because this will never work. We can’t play together anymore.” And as a grown up woman I became much quieter, more forgiving, more understanding of imperfections. And in doing so, I allowed others to mix my colors up into one big ball of nasty puke colored Play-Doh.

There comes a time in everyone’s life, when they realize what truly can be lived with and what truly can not be lived with. As an adult, I allowed the time frame to grow much too long and we are not here long enough to do so.

I am not looking for perfection. I never intend to find that as I will never be able to offer anyone else perfection. I am looking for perfect for me, two things—someone to listen and someone who will never ruin my colors just because they know how important they are to me.

If ever there comes a time when I find myself to be on the verge of sharing a life again. I am giving a pop quiz. I am breaking open the cans of Play-Doh and saying, “Here sir, let’s see what you do with this…” and I will watch closely to see what happens. I am not against mixing up the colors a bit to create a new color I have never seen before or one I could never have imagined. I just don’t want anyone to hand me a ball of Play-Doh crap.

It worked at seven—it might work now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What is...and what ain't.

It all comes down to a matter of definitions and conceptions of what is and what isn’t in the writing world.

Take the term P.O.D. It stands for Print On Demand. Boys and girls, I am here to tell you that every book in the professional publishing world is P.O.D. I say that because if there is no demand for your work IT WON’T GET PUBLISHED. No publishing house out there wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I will accept a book that nobody wants to read.” So, how do the powers that be decide who gets a rejection notice and why?

Money. It’s all about pieces of paper with pictures of deceased presidents on them. When I get a letter of inquiry in and a manuscript, I could give a damn less about grammar, size and format. That is what the editor is for…they will decide what is competent. What you won’t see on a rejection slip is where I sat down with it first and said, “Will this sell and make a buck?” Most writers have a strike against them because…no one knows who you are.

Few readers give a damn, or could even tell you who the publisher was on the last book they bought. Nine times out of ten they bought the author and not the title, let alone because of who was the publisher. That is one of the main reasons you see a publisher, large or small, printing the same authors work over and over again. It’s like a horse race, if one horse has won for you five times why bet on the one with long-shot odds you have never heard of?

This does not apply to e-zines. I love them, but will never publish another. People often complain that “they will accept anything and don’t pay.” True enough in many cases. You want to see an e-zine die in one week’s time? Let them ask for their reader’s to pay to read it.

Sorry. Do I make it sound mercenary and all about money? Look up the definitions of professional - courtesy of Webster’s:

“participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs”
“engaged in by persons receiving financial return”

Sigh…right now there is undoubtedly some one frantically going through our list of titles yelling, “Bullshit! You couldn’t have believed some of those would be profitable.” You are right. Some we played a hunch on, or did because…well, just because we wanted to do so. We have been known to bet on an inside straight.

Sometimes lady luck deals customers.