July 16, 2016: The Day I Danced with a Vampire (Part 1)

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After three months of radio silence, my agent finally responded to me! Hallelujah! Break out the champagne and Godiva bonbons--the person who's supposedly working for me deigned to send me a two-sentence email!

The first sentence conveyed that she finished reading my manuscript, and the second asked me to call her on Monday morning to talk. After being ignored for a quarter of a year, I would have appreciated a third sentence explaining why it took her so long to get back to me. Something like, "Sorry, I've been traveling to conferences nonstop...," or "Sorry, I've been dealing with a death in the family...," or even "Sorry, my dog ate my email account."

The lack of any explanation at all makes me suspect she's been avoiding me. But that's just me being a hypersensitive artist. You know how we writers are, Diary--so needy and unreasonably demanding, we expect to command our agents' full attention for whole minutes every single month or two.

I wish I had spent the last week writing my next book, so I'd have some progress to report on Monday morning. Unfortunately, my responsibilities as a mentor temporarily eclipsed my goals as a writer.

Late Tuesday night George Wickham emailed me the draft of his book. Thanks to my ghostly agent, I know how nerve-wracking it is for a writer to wait (and wait, and wait) for feedback. So I dropped everything else to respond to my first student as soon as possible.

Because George is young and this is presumably his first book, I went in with low expectations. I assumed his work would be like the mediocre stories I concocted at his age: imaginative and ambitious, but melodramatic and riddled with clichés.

My assumption was incorrect. G. Wickham's postmodernist epic poem is not mediocre.

It's horrendous.

Oh, my word, Diary. How can I begin to describe this "poem"?

Take Catcher in the Rye and Ulysses, strip them of all voice and nuance, and smash together the meager remains. Then rip up a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey and sprinkle the pages liberally throughout. Finally, skim through this grotesque mélange of erotica and coffee shop philosophy and insert line breaks

at random for

no reason,


...and you have this book.

The story, such as it is, follows a nameless teenage hero who is unjustly exiled from his dreary Oregon hometown after a jealous classmate exposes the hero's affair with their sultry 12th-grade English teacher. The hero sets off on a surreal backpacking tour of the world, in which he...

1) Stares at mountains and lakes in Thailand, brooding about mortality.

2) Stares at lagers in London pubs, brooding about the superficiality of mankind.

3) Beds sultry women of all nationalities, brooding about the absurdity and pointlessness of sex. (While having lots of it. Lots and lots of it.)

Had the book been mediocre, I could have responded to George within a day, offering key suggestions for improvements and some peppy cheerleading. But because the book is horrendous, I had to spend the better half of a week carefully composing my feedback.

How on earth am I supposed to tell a nice kid like George that his writing is horrendous, without hurting his feelings?

How can I break it to him gently that every female in his book appears to have walked straight out of a 1930s pulp mystery, all legs and breasts and histrionic coquetry?

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