Over Easy, Please
by L. Stewart Marsden
When my wife and I lived out in Portland, Oregon while she attended OHSU School of Midwifery (if-ery, not ife-ery), I visited her at school one day for lunch. The school cafeteria had a breakfast bar set up where a short-order cook would respond to special requests, such as soufflés and scrambled eggs, etc.
I slid my tray up to the cook and asked for “Two eggs over easy.” The cook looked at me, his head tilted askance, a quizzical expression on his face. He was from India, and so I took the hint and told him what that meant and how to cook them.
So, nervously, for the very first time in his life, this man attempted the order. Now I do most of the cooking in my house, and two eggs over easy takes, maybe, four minutes to complete. This guy was so nervous, and so intent on doing it right, that he went through six eggs before successfully completing the order.
Last year — November 11 to be exact — Armistice Day — I launched my WordPress blog and my very first post: “In Support of Public Education.” Just like that short order cook at the OHSU cafeteria, I was both nervous and intent on doing it right. I had never written a blog before, and hardly knew what a blog was.
And, just like that inexperienced short order cook, I stumbled along.
As I wrote my posts, in my imagination America held its breath for each new upload! I could hear the throngs cheering in my head — “Hurrah!” It was like Ralphie imagining his teacher’s response to his essay on “What I Want for Christmas.”
And, like that selfsame scene, the reality was far different.
So I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. My real intent was that writers who are out there in internet land would give me real comments, like, “I thought you were a little heavy-handed with the hero in that part of the book,” or, “I can say I knew you when!”
But I soon learned that the “Like” button in WordPress is sorta like the “Like” button on Facebook. It’s a sort of noncommittal committal, if you know what I mean.
And, I learned that a lot of people who “like” my writing, want me to “like” their writing. I learned to go on people’s blogs and actually make a comment about either their “About” page, or one of their posts. That way, people visiting those blogs would see my comment and, perhaps, come for a visit. Kind of a snowball effect.
I know you don’t do this, but I would toggle back and forth between my email and the stats page for my blog, watching to see how many people were viewing my blogs. That was a killer!
Is anybody out there? I would think to myself. Not think. Cry to myself.
Then, I got an email that someone wanted to link to a children’s story I had written and posted, “Stinky and the Night Mare!” Not just someone, but a real honest-to-god agent! I said yes, and over the next few days I got more than 30 views! (Now you know why I was crying to myself.)
I was on the cusp! The verge! The precipice!
Then, boom. That’s the sound of the door slamming shut. While the agent raved about the story, she then said I was an author without a voice. That I needed to focus and perfect one genre. That I was not a good risk.
That was around January/February of this year. I went back to the research and early drafts of my historic novel (I call it hysterical) “The Huguenots.” As a result, I took a trip to Delaware — Wilmington, to be exact — to visit and volunteer to help ready the Kalmar Nyckel, a reproduction of a 17th century tall ship. During the drive up, I decided to scrap most of what I had written so far on the novel, and take a slightly different angle. I had more than fifteen chapters written.
Also, more importantly, I threw my hat into the ring to try the National Poetry Month’s challenge: a poem a day.
I’m not a poet.
But that experience of writing every day and posting resulted in two very important things: a dedication and discipline to write something, anything, every day. The second was I began to make blog friends, with whom I was able to get that much-needed feedback.
So things gradually continue on my blog. I have a boat-load of poems — some of which are ok. I have a surprising number of short stories, which have a kind of dark and macabre tone.
As a result, I’ve decided to publish my short stories in a collection I call “The Shadow Pool.”
I met a really terrific artist, Ray Ferrer, who is illustrating both my short stories and the cover for the book. His blog is urbanwallart. He’s listed under my favorite blogs and you can link to his web page there.
I have recently completed uploading a series of six articles that were written thirty years ago. I wrote them when my then two year old son, Graham, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. The response to those articles has been gratifying and overwhelming. Graham and I are planning to write a followup in the next few months. I’ll post it, of course.
Well, this seems to be a whole lot about me. But really, I’m wondering if you have experienced any of the above? I visit blogs where the authors say “I don’t know how to ______________ (fill in the blank)” and I think, like Nike, “Just Do It!”
Probably a mantra by which many could benefit.
And, Over Easy, Please.