“… Swear to God if you come one step closer, I will tear your heart out with these scissors and then I kill myself to end this torturous life once and forever.”
“Taimor stopped and starred in her eyes. The destiny of both lovers was in hands of fate. Mahnaz was clutching the scissors so tightly that a drop of sweat was running through her fingers like melted steel. The sound of her heartbeats that were about to stop at any moment echoed in her ears. Life and death were blended in split seconds.
“Taimor felt indecisiveness in her eyes and suddenly jumped to grab her wrist and remove the scissors, but Mahnaz who was serious about her threat, moved very quickly, turned her hand a half a circle and stabbed him in the chest with no hesitation.
“In a matter of seconds everything was over. Everything turned red. Blood began to spew out of her lover. Mahnaz was mesmerized by the cold and dreadful look on her lover’s face. The sharp edge of the scissors cut the life line of the two lovers. Taimor collapsed on his blood and Mahnaz cried tears of blood for her lost love. This was the shocking ending of a very tender love that turned to ashes by the flame of jealousy.”
What you just read was the final paragraph of my romance novel. The novel I had so much hope for and proud of. A novel full of love, betrayal and crime. I had created a modern era masterpiece, a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet that was going to place my name among literary legends. I felt like I gave birth to a literary phenomenon which would live forever.
First I gave my story with a great deal of pride to my wife and asked her to read my story and tell me her opinion. She put down the TV Guide. While polishing her nails, she grabbed the manuscript as if she was holding a dirty rat by the tail, and started reading. I needed unconditional support from my life partner in my endeavor. She was glancing through pages as indifferent and cheerless as a lazy elementary school student who was forced to do her homework by her parents.
After finishing the novel, she looked at me, took a deep breath, moved her lips in a funny way and said “Honey you wrote a cheap melodrama. Do you have to become a writer? Can’t you make money like everyone else?” I was shocked and speechless and didn’t know how to escape the room. Fortunately as she got back to polishing her nails, she forgot my presence and I grabbed the manuscript and left the room without saying a word. Then I thought, “What the hell does she know about literature?”
Later on I gave my novel to some of our intellectual friends to read. One of my good friends said,”The artistic value of your novel is below zero.” The other one said: “Did you type all these by yourself? You must have a lot of free time.” He walked away before I could get a chance to ask his opinion. Another friend read the book and said with a very meaningful smile, “Don’t worry if you don’t get noticed because most writers became famous after their death.”
Not even one positive comment.
I turned a deaf ear to all unkind reviews of people around me because I was determined to become a writer no matter what. I kept in mind what one of my colleagues Ernie (I mean Earnest Hemingway) once said “50% of all writers quit writing when they hear first criticisms.” The math was simple, if I had thick skin and didn’t give up; I would be ahead of half of the writers. And that was a great accomplishment for me.
More determined than before, I started thinking of new ways to present my work to the public. I made several copies of the manuscript and sent them to publishers with hope of getting it published. Several months passed without hearing back from anyone. At first I got a little worried about the literary value of my novel but after reading it again I felt even more in love with it. I could not let my novel be forgotten that easily. One day I picked up the phone and called one of the publishers.
He asked my name. I replied. Asked about my previous works and published books which I skillfully avoided answering. When he found out that I was not a published writer he spoke to me like a teacher talking to a very slow student.
“You know,” he said, “I am a published writer myself and I have several writer friends. As a matter fact every Wednesday night we get together and discuss our works. I am telling you this because I am an expert in this field. Frankly speaking, I have received your story but we can not jeopardize our reputation by publishing your it. Capitalizing on something like that is definitely out of the question. Let’s put it this way: We have too many writers and no readers. We can’t publish everything we get, can we?”
He was going on and on. I could not tolerate it anymore. I slammed the phone down without saying a word.
The only publisher who showed interest in the story was the one who asked me for a $25,000 non-refundable security deposit before he could publish it. When I asked him why such an unheard-of amount was required, he kindly explained: “You see, your story is so powerful. If we publish it and a reader under the influence of your novel commits a crime of passion we may get sued and this $25,000 is insurance for possible litigation costs. We only require such deposits from powerful writers.”
Wow. At that moment I was filled with joy and pride. A publisher had told me himself that my story could really change people’s lives dramatically. I never thought of this aspect of my work before. The bottom line was I could not get published. But the more rejection I was subjected to, the more determined I became to pursue my dreams.
A few days later I sent several copies of my novel to literary magazines. A few months passed and I did not hear from any of them. It was absolutely inconceivable to me that not even one publisher showed interest in my story. Again, I picked up the phone and called them. One publisher totally denied receiving anything from me. Another said his journal was on the brink of bankruptcy and was going to open a strip bar instead.
In a couple of instances, right after I introduced myself, the telephone got disconnected. The most interesting conversation I had was with a publisher who after I introduced myself said ” Sir, your story stinks!” In a state of shock I politely asked, “Excuse me? What do you mean by that?” He continued,” Your story stinks like a rat. It is politically slanted and since we are an independent publisher and are not associated with any political organization we can not publish it.”
What was he talking about? What I had just heard was making me go nuts. How could my romance novel that was filled with love, get such a poor review? How in heaven’s name was my story politically slanted? I was pounding my head to find a reason. Then suddenly I remembered that in one paragraph I mentioned that the scissors Mahnaz used to stab her lover was made in China. That must have been the reason why the publisher thought the novel was politically biased. Finally I had heard the first logical criticism.
Fortunately it was easy to fix. I could simply change the scissors and use one made in the U.S.. I had no problem with that. It would cost Mahnaz a little more but poor Taimor for sure wouldn’t mind what kind of scissors was ripping his heart out. I could not see any reason why this simple change would affect my story. But before I could get a chance to make this compromise, the publisher called me a “Communist bastard” and slammed the phone down. Again I lost a chance of being published.
The disappointing truth was that for very odd reasons I was not getting any favorable reviews and my novel was yet to be published. The only consolation was the fact that I was not alone; that there were many other unpublished writers out there desperately looking for readers. For months I was thinking about a way out of this misery until one day a very ingenious idea came to my mind.
I thought of establishing an underground organization for unpublished writers, one that could organize thousands of unknown writers and make their dreams come true. Why not? Such a secret society could use the collective efforts of these writers and distribute their work to among the people. They could use any means to get noticed.
The most logical name that came to my mind was the “Mediocre Writers Society”. Such a group could be the perfect answer to the pressing needs of writers like me. The only requirement for joining was proof of complete failure due to mediocre talent. They must prove that they have fewer readers than fingers on both hands.
The sole purpose of the society would be to utilize all means to get noticed. I knew that the mental state of fellow members — after repeated failure — would make them do anything to achieve their goals. It was stipulated that if the writings of any member became popular, he/she would be expelled due to questionable talent.
One of the main activities of the group was to raise money from members (since they could not count on readers’ support) and offer their novels for free. If that didn’t work, members would force them on the people.
After a great deal of thought, I came up with these tactics:
A. Peaceful means: Members of the Mediocre Writers Society would stand on street corners, even in freezing weather, and beg people to read their novels. They could also get a job at their local supermarket and inconspicuously paste single-page stories onto grocery bags. The society was even willing to give cash and prizes to readers who did not toss the stories in the trash before finishing them.
B. Violent means were to be adopted only if peaceful tactics did not work. One ingenious idea was for totally obscure writers to occupy radio and television stations during prime time and read romantic novels on the air before the police showed up.
After thinking about every detail, I began promoting my ideas and asking fellow obscure writers to join. Unfortunately, the process was very slow and painful. For reasons unknown to me, everyone rejected the invitation with a very negative attitude. No one joined. I lost all of my friends and created new enemies.
The failures adversely affected my marriage. My wife, who could not face our friends anymore, did not leave the house for months. Finally, one day she left the house to go to the cleaners and never returned.
I felt I had explored every possible avenue to get my romance novel published and the fact that no one showed interest in it made me very depressed. The emptiness of my life was indescribable. I lost my part time job in the supermarket. I could not sleep at night and I was emotionally wreck.
Why? This was the question I kept asking myself. I was on the brink of an emotional breakdown when I remembered what my friend had told me once. After reading my novel he had said to me: “Don’t worry if you don’t get noticed. Most of writers become famous after their death.”
All of a sudden everything became so clear to me. Finally I realized why I was going through what I was going through. Yes! That was the only reason no one was reading my novel. What else could it be? Wasn’t it true that many famous writers, musicians and painters lived in misery and died in poverty but became famous after they died?
So, obviously people were anxiously waiting for me to die and then read my novel. The critics were just waiting for me to drop dead before praising my work. Literary magazines were planning to publish my work over and over again — posthumously. That was the only logical explanation. Why should I be an exception to the rule? History was repeating itself and who was I to stand in its way? Who was I to hold people back from reading a masterpiece by prolonging my miserable life?
My exhilaration was indescribable. What was I waiting for? I had no other reason to live anyway. All my friends had turned into enemies, I had lost my job and spent all of my money on promoting my novel. My life was a complete mess. Lately I had received a couple of death threats in the mail from writer friends and I was too scared to get out of the house. I didn’t have anything to lose and every good thing to gain, including happiness, joy and fame.
My mind was racing. I thought I could not leave this world just like that. I had to write my life story for future generations of writers. I had to tell the world how a talented writer died in despair. So I wrote “CONFESSIONS OF A WRITER” and departed this world…
Ashes to ashes dust to dust…
I was standing in a long line to enter Hell when I saw one of my writer friends who had recently died in a car accident. He seemed anxious to see me. He opened The Inferno Times and showed me something unbelievable. In the Mortal World News section, there was a large picture of my wife along with her profile. In an elaborate review, she was praised as a brilliant writer. According to my friend, my wife had published “Confessions of a Writer” after my death and received very good reviews. The first page reads, “To the sweet memories of my late husband.”
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