Saturday, September 15, 2007

Writing Exercise Results

The task was to write a scene in which you are granted ten minutes of face time with an agent--an agent you find dressed like a pirate. With a parrot.


When I walked into the room, I expected to pitch my book, but I was put on the defensive immediately: "Come in, come in, sit down . . . My God, I can tell just by looking at you that you'll never make it in this business. Why don't you take up painting or knitting and save yourself a lot of grief and save me the trouble of having to break it to you that you'll never amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world? You couldn't at least dress like a professional instead of wearing that ridiculous Evil Editor shirt? Is that supposed to impress me? And now I suppose you want to pitch your truly unique novel. No! Don't tell me, let me guess, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. But with a twist. Did I get it? Wait, I know, it's about vampires! That's original. Vampires on the Titanic! They drain the captain's blood so he can't steer around the iceberg, and then while everyone's drowning, the vampires turn into bats and fly to Maine. Nice try, but vampires on the Titanic is the third most submitted plot, right behind soul mates meeting but thanks to a series of incredible misunderstandings hating each other's guts for 350 pages at which point they laugh it all off and live happily ever after, and going back in time to kill Hitler. Anyway, time's up, thanks for stopping by, and send in whoever's next."

"Listen," I said, "I came here to pitch my novel to an agent. Now would you shut your damn parrot up so I can get a word in edgewise?"

"Arrr, matey."

"And while you're at it you can tell feather-face he's way off; it's vampires on the Andrea Doria."

--Evil Editor


Ah. Oh, hello. I’m-- Oh, Johnny Depp?! No, sorry, I mean you look just like Johnny Depp in… Ah…… In the Matrix, uh, wasn’t it? Or was that…? Sorry. Mind if I…? Thank you. Gosh, this seat’s hard as a plank-- No, not a plank, a… Something very hard. You know.

So. Anyway. I guess you’d like to hear about my manuscript? It’s a real cracker, heh. Does Polly want a-- No. Sorry. But seriously, It’s got a great hook. Not as great as your hook, of course, ha ha-- Sorry. No, I suppose it isn’t all that damned funny.

Well. My, uh, my story’s an epic fantasy. You do like fantasy, right? Yes, of course you do. Obviously. No, no, I didn't really mean anything by that. I just--


Anyway. An epic fantasy set in a vast -- no, not avast -- a, uh, sweeping landscape of forests and mountains, populated by mythical creatures and wizards and pir-- Ah, you know: the usual.

The hero, Peter… Or, it could be, ah, Gavin. I’m not wedded to any particular name, really. Anyway, one day, Pe-- Gavin is asked to keep an eye -- no offense -- on his little sister, and--

What’s that ticking sound? Time up alrea-- Whoa! This your crocodile?



“Arrrrr! A teller of tales ye be.”

“RAWWWK! Teller of tales!”

“Aye, Cap’n,” I said, deciding to go with it. Maybe it’d earn me some brownie points. I extended my hand. “My name’s—“ But his parrot bit me.

“A tale of me own I have,” he said. “A tale as olllld as the sea.” I nodded politely and glanced at my watch. This clown better not waste all my time. “It be a tale of a young landlubberrr. A dreamerrr of strange and fanciful things, navigatin through the shoals of the mortal worrrld, not by compass, nor by the starrrrs, but by a blind, stumblin swaggerrrr accounted forrrr by the fog around his skulllll.”

“Wow. That’s—“

“Nary a day dawns for which the young landlubberrr desires nothin morrre than a keeeeen underrstandinnnn…” I opened my mouth to interrupt, but the jerkoff never stopped. “Yet he fails in his underrrstandin of even the most simple of terrrrrrms. Such as, mezzaninnnne.”

Thirty seconds left. Great. Fuckin-A, man! “And what’s that?” I said, casting off all semblance of professionalism. “Some kind of pi-RAT-ickal word?” He stared at my sarcastic finger quotes.

“RAWWWK! Sarcastic finger quotes!”

“No, boy. It be the deck below. Where yer congregation of tale tellerrrs be.”



I see that the agent is in pirate garb with a parrot on his shoulder. He whacks the parrot's tail and the parrot squawks, "Pitch me."

I mentally toss my practiced pitch down the toilet.

"My story is simple: a film agent, a Hollywood crybaby, is pressed for a new movie deal to save his studio. He goes to all the usual movie script suspects, but they only have script sequels for Disney cartoons and Harry Potter rip-offs. Fearing his career is at an end, he visits a literary agent friend under false pretenses and drugs his latte. The film agent rifles his friend's slush pile discards, and finds three novel treatments that are blockbuster movie candidates. The film agent produces the first movie, only to be sued for copyright infringement by the rightful owner. With the studio nearly crumbling, the literary agent negotiates a three-movie deal with the rightful author and saves the studio. A studio executive tosses the film agent out on the street like a fat actress under the age of thirty.

"The film agent sees what has become of his life and jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. The literary agent just happens to have a film crew present to film the suicide, and makes a three-movie snuff-film deal based on the film agent's life."

The agent hands me a card and thumps the parrot on the beak. "Come see me," screeches the parrot.

--Bill Highsmith


I look at the pirate with an eyepatch, a pegleg, and a parrot - a rosella - on his shoulder. I finger my manuscript and think of the twenty years it took me to put it together.

"I take it the pirate suit means you don't belong to the usual literary agent associations."

"Arrrr!" says the pirate.

"Can we get rid of the goof ball in the pirate suit and get down to business?"

"How did you know it was me?" asks the parrot.

"A rosella is an Australian bird, not Caribbean. Besides, I've read about you in the Australian trade magazines and on the net. A parrot; a rosella; a pirate: a little obvious, don't you think?"

The parrot glowers at me, which is kind of hard when your eyes are on the opposite sides of your head. Her head bobs up and down and she craps on the pirate, who takes the clue and wanders off while the parrot steps on one side of the table.

"Don't bother with the manuscript. No one wants your great Australian novel, it'll never be commercial. Even if it were, you live in Western Australia, not Sydney. You have to live in Sydney to be readily available to the media that counts."

Then she looks at my shirt. She's finally smart enough to know what the clue "KFP" printed on my front is about.

--D Jason Cooper


The door flew open and a tearful woman rushed past me. As I caught the knob, I wondered if I too would be reduced to tears after ten minutes with one of New York’s hottest literary agents.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Gloat,” my voice rose to a squeak as I noticed his attire. He looked every inch the pirate in a blue velvet doublet, complete with crimson sash; perched upon his shoulder was a chartreuse parrot.

“Pretty wench! Show us yer tits!”

“Uh, Mr. Gloat?”

“Aye, and a mighty fine booty, to boot.”

I realized it was the parrot, not the agent speaking, and tried to gather my thoughts.

“I’m Alicia —” I began, only to be interrupted by the parrot.

“Come a little closer, lassie, while I straighten me cutlass, Arghh.”

My eyes jumped from the agent to the parrot. Confusion, embarrassment, and anger slowed my reactions, but I was finally able to speak.

“Mr. Gloat, I am Alicia Lockheed. We have an appointment to discuss my manuscript.” The parrot ruffled his feathers. “I have a partial—”

“Spread yer legs wench, or be gone wit ye.”

Fury and despair vied for control of my brain; fury won out as I pursed my lips and let out a low whistle. “Sic ‘em, Boy!” I whispered as 125 lbs. of faithful rottweiler bounded across the room. Moments later, I placed my manuscript on the small pile of bloody feathers and smiled sweetly at Mr. Gloat. “And I thank you for your time, sir,” I said grabbing Boy’s collar.



Once upon a noontime dreary,
While I wandered lost and weary
Searching for that agent most respected,
I came upon my doom when I came upon the room
Where my appointment was expected;
Where I hoped my work would be selected,
Sweet novel now perfected.

With no further hesitation,
I went in with aspiration
Eager to confirm what I suspected.
When with a flirt and flutter, the agent moved to utter,
"Sit yer arse down and let's be 'earin' yer suggested."
Though her dress and mien were unexpected
I quickly did as she directed.

I marvelled at her breeches velvet,
Leather sash and satin jacket --
A pirate captain? So her clothes suggested.
But what struck my fancy fair was the bird upon her chair,
A parrot poised, and by my presence unaffected.
"Well, hello there!" I ejected.
Quoth the parrot, "You're rejected."

Still I'd come to make a deal,
So I plunged into my spiel,
Determined that my talent be detected.
"Aargghh," the agent scritched, when I finished up my pitch.
"That there book should be quartered and dissected."
"But if you'd just read it," I quickly interjected.
Quoth the parrot, "You're rejected."

"Time's up!" The agent swore, pointing cutlass at the door.
I felt trod down, unworthy and dejected,
She'd rammed my life's boat and left my dreams afloat,
So from that wretched room I fast defected.
And in my soul it echoes still, the judgment thus inflected:
That cruel refrain, that oft-heard strain, "Author, you're rejected."



Anonymous said...

Nice work, all. ril is my favorite!


Bernita said...

Absolutely brilliant.
~sobs quietly~

Robin S. said...

These are really well done.

This was such fun morning reading. Thanks!

Robin S. said...

Forgot to say, phoenix-
amazing job with Poe!

I'm also wondering if EE is to his scribe what the parrot is to his agent. (Some of what that parrot said echoes in my head from time to time.)

Dave said...

I have seven favorites. All of them.
Very well done.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful way to wake up! Great job. Loved them all though I must confess to morning denseness. "KFP"? Can someone spare me a clue?

Loved the Poe - Phoenix. I'm partial to poetry.


ME said...

Ahoy, mateys!! Avast and away,these here tales are right fine. Arghhh, and there's no doubt in me hed o'that! I be takin the time to mention me parrot and meself had a hearty chuckle, Garrrr, upon hearin' that one a ye fools had mistaken that landlubber, Johnny Depp, fer a bonafide pirate!! Blimey, but that ril do be havin a way with the words. By Neptune, if there be any truth to the matter of miss phoenix bein'a right-true firebird, me avian companion wishes it to be known he be seekin some face and feather time with her, Arggghhh! (Squawk!)

Anonymous said...

Like KFC.
Kentucky Fried Parrot - finger lickin' gud!

Church Lady said...

These are all fantastic!

Ril's made me laugh out loud.

Phoenix, I bow to thee. That was amazing! Truly.

AmyB said...

Love them all. So funny! I think EE's was my favorite.

Phoenix said...

Too fun, all! Makes me want a parrot...

~Nancy said...

They were ALL funny as hell! :-) Phoenix's was esp. well done (channeling Poe was quite clever).

Then she looks at my shirt. She's finally smart enough to know what the clue "KFP" printed on my front is about.

What the heck is KFP? I assume that something specific to living in Australia?

Kentucky Fried Parrot! Yearrgh!! ;-)