Telling people you're a writer...

by Elison Alcovendaz

inevitably comes down to the "What do you write?" question and you want to scream "Words!" but instead you say "fiction," which leads to the next inevitable "what kind of fiction?" question so you say "young adult" because that's easier than explaining what "literary fiction" means since no one knows what literary fiction is anyway and you do write young adult fiction which you then explain is for teenagers and when they ask if you've been published you say "yes, in several publications," never mentioning their names because they expect you to say in The New York Times or some other publication you and everyone you know personally will never be published in, and when they ask "Have I read any of your work?" you will want to say "shouldn't you be asking yourself that question?" and "how am I supposed to know what you read?" but you just smile and shrug and say "probably not," and then there is a long silence, the kind where people check their wrists even though the watches have long been gone and then they ask, "have you written any books?" and you will say yes and before they ask something about finding it on Amazon you say that an agent is looking at it, which always sounds like a lie even though it's true, and they nod sympathetically as though they understand what getting rejection letters every other day is like, and you begin to feel sad, the inside layers of your eyes peeling away like onions, wondering when it will happen, that big break, wondering if you even want it, that big break, and then your thoughts are interrupted by "So what did you think of such and such book?" and you glance sideways, their eyes raised expectantly as though your response will validate their aesthetic compass, and you try to hide that you hate the book because it is trite and boring and formulaic, but you've learned that even though it is stupid to question doctors because they have studied medicine and it is stupid to question lawyers because they have studied law, your more informed opinion about books, which has been shaped by years and years of detailed study, is not considered expertise but instead elitist and snobby, so you say "it was great" and they smile and say something about how they loved the characterization or plot or some other word it is very easy to throw in a conversation about books, and your eyes peel back even further, tears stinging the inside of your face, because this is what it is now, this is what people think is great literature, this is the extent of your writing "career," these random conversations, and this is when you realize the world doesn't care about what you care about, so you politely say you have to go, and you drive home, greeted by the cursor on that blank screen, and when you start to crawl your fingers across that keyboard, you'll think of that conversation and wonder what kinds of funny things you can do to him in that new book you're writing that three years later will become the number one New York Times bestseller and when someone asks "What do you write?" you will have something very specific to say.