For Joseph Campbell’s literary agent
Our story begins in a coffee shop, a land where nothing special has happened for quite some time. In walks our hero, a Writer. Sitting down with her cortado, the Writer finds a form-letter rejection in her inbox. Worse, upon checking Facebook, the Writer sees other writerly friends being published and honored. This is unjust, and it must change.
Call to Adventure
The Writer courageously opens Microsoft Word. She might be summoned by a voice, a vivid image, an egotistical urge to exclaim, “Fuck my writer friends! Screw the media conglomerate I work for! All I need is an imagination and love of language to achieve universal praise.” Words flow from caffeinated fingers. A journey into the unknown has begun.
Refusal of the Call
The Writer stops. It all seems so trite. Short or long, this work will take a silly amount of time. The idea probably exists. Over at the media conglomerate, Phoebe has just blown up the Writer’s phone with meeting invites.
That night, a mentor appears. Booze. Blessed, delicious, life-giving booze. Along with its magic companion, Adderall. Perfect, centering, almighty Adderall.
Crossing the First Threshold
The Writer now embarks in earnest on her quest. Scenes, characters, and dialogue emerge from an unbounded source. She’s all the way up to page 23, and with additional Adderall, there’s no turning back.
Tests, Allies and Enemies
Here the Writer faces a series of trials that often occur in threes. She enrolls in Ponzi-scheme workshops and an MFA program. Innocence is destroyed when she attends AWP and hooks up with an Instagram poet sporting a Samuel Beckett tattoo. Family members turn villainous, questioning the Writer’s mental stability. In the most daunting trial, literary agents are queried. “I found much to admire in these pages,” they say. “Unfortunately, I struggled to connect with the characters.”
Approach to the Innermost Cave
At a literary reading, the Writer meets a Goddess Agent who knows everyone and has read everything. She wears a sleeveless tunic and smells like caramelized sage. After emailing and following up weeks later with a nudge, the Goddess Agent finally reads the manuscript. She calls the prose “phenomenal” and says that with minor edits and a better ending, she will sign the writer, tempting her with visions of publication. “You remind me of a post-ironic Lorrie Moore,” the Goddess Agent says. “You could win a Whiting.”
The Writer faces her greatest challenge yet: editing without having a nervous breakdown, knowing the outside world will actually read this material. What was the agent thinking? It’s not even coherent! She stets questionable edits, gets reality-shamed by fact-checkers and endures scores of fugly book covers. Time passes in a montage of dandruff falling on a keyboard.
Galleys arrive. Kirkus gives a starred review. A reading is held. The Writer fields “more of a comment than a question,” and signs her work. Rather than starting on her next project, the Writer arranges still lifes for #bookstagram posts, because marketing is a cruel mistress.
The Road Back
While most coworkers mispronounce her book’s title, Phoebe’s a huge fan. An aunt discovers several spelling errors. Reviews appear, some charitable, some that seem to review another book entirely. The Writer schemes about quitting her day job, but she’s spent most of her advance on MFA loans. “We need a sales spike,” the Goddess Agent says. “Know any influencers?”
Due to the Goddess Agent knowing Natalie Morales’ personal trainer, the Writer lands a spot on the Today Show. Jittery and dry-mouthed, she threads talking points into a remarkable display of coherency. For a moment, the Writer is bathed in media’s cleansing fire. Sales jump a bit. Ultimately, however, the Writer sees publication is not all it’s cracked up to be. She’s passed by major and minor awards, and comes to understand the literary world is full of glad-handing committees conferring bullshit plaudits on flimsy works.
Back at the fateful coffee shop, the Writer hears another call to adventure. This next work will be sharper, more relevant. The Writer hardly knew what she was getting into before! With some Adderall, and Phoebe’s notifications on mute, a new journey begins. Because the world is still unjust, and supple writing will restore peace to the land.