“A great victory, my Queen.”
They had added another shining jewel to their empire: a country of millions. When he presented the Queen with the treaty, she had been pleased, though she had kept her countenance grave in line with the occasion.
“We shall be fair and just rulers,” she had said, “as we have throughout the centuries.”
He had bowed. Throughout the centuries the kings and queens of the realm had burned, boiled, and ripped people apart when they displeased the crown, yet this woman believed without question in the righteousness of her empire. Only the royals could afford to be so ignorant and arrogant. So be it.
Later he stared at the cartoon from the local paper and recognized his depiction: the manipulator, the power-seeker, the eternal Jew who pulled the strings of his benevolent and innocent queen. He crumpled the paper in his fist. Let the little people believe what they would.
Whatever he did was for his country, even when his country despised him for it.
When summer comes, I help my family by picking berries. It’s outside work, so I make a game of it. I scramble through the rows of ripe strawberries and pluck the fat red fruit quick as I can. I don’t mind picking, though my arms get sore after a few hours, and I wish I had shoes. But at least I have decent clothes and a hat.
Mr. Bigalowe says I’m the fastest worker he’s got. Sometimes Mrs. Bigalowe watches from the porch. She always smiles at me and asks how I’m doing, and I say, “Quite well, thank you, Ma’am,” just like Mama taught me. She offers me lemonade, and it’s cool and tart and sweet all at the same time. I don’t gulp it though. I always thank her. She smiles, and says we’re friends. Though if we were real friends, I guess she’d let me come inside instead of standing on the porch.
On the last day of berry season, Mrs. Bigalowe calls me over. She says she hopes I’ll come visit and gives me a heart-shaped strawberry tart with a golden crust. It looks like something from a storybook.
“Don’t forget to visit,” she says.
I nod and thank her. On the way home I sell the tart for five whole cents.
The 66th Philadelphia Writers Conference, the oldest writers’ conference in the country concluded on Sunday. This was my second year attending, and overall had a very satisfying experience. I gained some insight from the workshops, met some new people, and learned (to paraphrase Dickens) that this is both the best and worst of times to be a writer.
Sound confusing? Not really. It’s the best of times because writers have options, meaning there are many pathways to getting our words into print: self publishing, indie publishing, e-publishing. The problem with this method is, the writer will be on the hook for a large chunk (or all) of the costs and the publicity. And please get your work professionally edited because most self-published books need it.
So the writer still has the option of traditional publishing, but of course, one needs to find an agent. The writer doesn’t have any hope of finding an agent unless his/her work is totally polished, professionally edited, and perfect; however, if the writer does all this, there is a small chance the writer will get picked up.
By the way 95% of published books don’t make back their advances.
Am I discouraged? Hell, no. I’m a writer. That’s what I do. If I wanted predictable, I’d have picked another profession (though I’m not sure any profession is predictable today).
Writers conferences are good to attend if only to remind us that we do not labor alone in our bat caves. It’s important to see that others struggle with the same issues. We may not all reach The New York Times best seller list, but we are all part of a larger community.