This last summer, I was working on a new project and hit a snag. I wasn’t sure where the plot should go next. My characters had started rebelling against the roles I’d assigned them; I wasn’t sure what their motivations had become.
The best thing to do was turn the computer off and get out of my office. I needed a respite from the electronic screen, from the relentless buzz of electricity. I needed some fresh air. I needed to stretch my legs, to drift.
A cuppa java, extra bold and straight up, at Café Talia sounded perfect.
I packed my Ghurka shoulder bag with a moleskin notebook and a couple of sharpened Blackfeet Indian pencils. I no longer take a laptop out to the cafés ever since I witnessed a street thug grab the strap of a laptop bag off the shoulder of a pedestrian and knock her to the pavement. Carry a phone or mobile device? Forget it. Street robberies were on the rise last summer, even in a cool neighborhood like mine.
A light drizzle dampened the streets, so I pulled on my L.L. Bean parka, pulled the hood over my head. I love walking in the rain. I set out on the four-block trek, strolling on the park side of the avenue where squirrels scampered across the unkempt lawns and birds flitted in the tall, old oaks.
Café Talia is a small, woodsy, locally owned café, not a franchise, and always smells deliciously of freshly ground coffee. Hardly anyone was there. I took my favorite seat in a secluded corner by the big front window and filled my mouth with a sip of delicious coffee.
As I settled down, daydreaming, a woman walked in. Tall and slim in jeans and a leather jacket, a laptop bag slung over her shoulder tangling with her long, wavy hair, the woman looked angry and troubled, and I recognized a well-regarded professional writer friend of mine. We hadn’t spoken or emailed in a long time. She bought a coffee at the counter and looked around for a seat.
I called to her and waved her over. “I haven’t seen you in a blue moon! How the hell are you?”
“Not so good,” my friend said—I’ll call her Elle Emerson (not her real name).
“What’s up?” I said innocently. I loved Elle like a sister and felt bad we hadn’t kept in touch. I admired her books and stories. She’d gotten published before me, and we’d workshopped together briefly, but neither of us had kept up with it. She was fiercely independent as, I suppose, am I.
“You really want to hear this?”
Now I wasn’t at all sure, given her tone and expression, but I said, “Sure.”
She sat and sighed heavily, slinging her bag over the back of the chair. “How can I say this?” she began. “I’ve been abused. For years.”
I felt shock ripple through me. I mean, this was my attractive, confident friend who had accomplished a lot in life. We had much in common; we both had professional degrees, both had worked hard and seen some success in those professions, both had left our professions to pursue the quixotic dream of writing and publishing. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. I just looked at her. She didn’t meet my eyes.
“My mother was a classic toxic parent as defined by the great Dr. Susan Forward in her amazing book, Toxic Parents,” she said, “but family abuse was just the start.”
“The start?” I mumbled. Now I really wasn’t sure I wanted to hear her story. But let’s face it, I was also curious the way we human beings are endlessly curious about other people’s troubles. “The start of what?”
“I’ve been abused for years by the publishing business,” Elle said. “The publishing business is just like a toxic parent.”
Next week: Elle’s Tales of Woe 2
I can’t tell you Elle Emerson’s website or Facebook page or any other identifying presence she’s got in the public. I made a solemn vow to keep her anonymous as a condition of her telling me her story. So there you have it, my friends.
As for me, I’ve got urban fantasy, science fiction, fantasy, romantic suspense, humor, and a screenplay on the Virtual Bookstore! All Lisa Mason Titles, All Links, All Readers, Worldwide. NYT Notable Book Author https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2013/08/31/virtual-bookstore-fantasy-science-fiction-urban-fantasy-romantic-suspense-literary-screenplay-sfwapro/
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