Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Making Generalizations

I first published this post on 10/19/2012.  Since that day, a development happened linked to that specific incident in the post, and I thought to share it now.

So many times, I wished I could turn back the clock and revisit a situation I didn’t feel comfortable with, armed with more courage and just the right “come backs.” This was one of those situations. Once you read it, you will most likely figure out why I’m doing this.


When I was a teenager   just a few years back   I was hooked on a French television show that keeps popping in my head every now and then. Each episode showed M’sieur BuĆhar, a man in his forties, having to endure the presence of annoying characters in everyday situations. He consistently handled stressful scenarios by imagining ways to “off” the annoying person in front of him, a defense mechanism that almost everyone I know uses at some point in their lives. I know I have, many times. My favorite method? Instantaneous combustion, visualizing the offending person in front of me suddenly burst into flames, and vanishing from my personal space.

M’sieur BuĆhar blew up his boss, drowned his mother-in-law, shaved his wife’s head, stuck a gun in the mouth of the salesman who sold him a crappy car, slit the throat of a boring monotonous lecturer, knocked out a policeman before he issued him a traffic ticket. You get the point? He did that all in his head, with a smile on his face. Sometimes, when I have to suffer a situation beyond my control, I close my eyes, summon M’sieur BuĆhar behind my eyelids and let my imagination run wild.

A few days ago, I didn’t just imagine M’sieur BuĆhar; I wanted to be M’sieur BuĆhar, extending a hand to repeatedly slap the extremely pompous person talking to me. Speaking condescendingly, making assumptions about my life without asking a single question first, judging my thought process before hearing the reasons behind it, brushing away any comment I was able to articulate as unimportant. Simply, insulting. I could have spit out something to put her in her place, or simply walked away after giving her a “drop dead” kind-of-look. But I couldn’t. This person held something in her hands. I needed it back, unscathed, untarnished, and pure. A project, my dream project. So I pasted a smile on my face, nodded my head like the patient person I was trying to be, looked her straight in the eye and called M’sieur BuĆhar to the conference room.

He stormed in, kneeled behind her back and fumbled with something at the foot of her chair. Gradually, this woman started dropping inch-by-inch until only her neck and head remained visible above the table surface. She kept talking, and I found myself looking down at her. M’sieur BuĆhar’s face popped from behind, wiggled his eyebrows at me, and then left the room. The meeting was over, I got back what I needed, and left.

Do you have a M’sieur BuĆhar to come to your rescue? I bet everyone does.

You probably figured out the dream project I needed back was the manuscript to my book, Shadows of Damascus, and the woman I had an interview with was a literary agent I pitched to in a writers conference. I was naive, inexperienced, and thought I had a good book prospect in my hands. I also thought that decent agents would most likely tear my work apart (notice the stress on the word work) to point out why they are rejecting it. I did not expect the verbal attack on my person from someone I have never met before, though I’ve been subjected to many forms of it in my line of work with domestic abuse victims. But this was a professional person, in a professional setting.

That meeting stayed with me for a long, long time. I talked about it to fellow authors, and found almost every one of them had a similar demeaning experience. It didn’t help alleviate the sting much. No one should have that kind of power over me. Over the years, I have experienced racial discrimination, religious intolerance, criminal hatred from abusers for advocating on behalf of my clients, harassed for being an outspoken woman, and on occasion, shut out from certain circles for not being outspoken enough. By far, my experiences are not unique; too many have been subjected to worse. But this was the first time a complete stranger found a way to shake my core the way this agent did.

Ironically, those same experiences taught me how to persevere, how to pick up the crumbles of my pride and move forward again. And I charged! Not running away from what happened, but running toward my goal. Shadows of Damascus is a published book now (by Soul Mate Publishing, NY).

If anyone tells me I should be thankful to that agent for giving me a kick, I will scream. I wasn’t sitting on my bum, twiddling my fingers and needed for her to kick me into action. I was working hard, very, very hard on getting my manuscript into the right hands. What gave me the strongest boost was my strong relationship with the people who believed in me: my family, my editor at SMP, and fellow writers. My writers’ community has the most generous and genuine professional people I have ever met. They help each other, exchange contacts and opportunities, and channel information with ease and without strings attached or expectations. I don’t think there is a professional atmosphere that lacks personal competitiveness, at least not in most cultures. But I found that writers in general want to see each other succeed. Perhaps they were all kicked down at one point in their careers, and the memory is just too profound to brush aside, keeping them grounded and helpful. I certainly hope I get the chance to help another writer reach his or her goal someday.

For full disclosure, I belong to the Houston writers Guild . I met wonderful, supportive, and talented people there. I also had the opportunity to get to know fellow authors on line all over the world, including Soul Mate Publishing Authors. Making generalizations is something I try to avoid, but I will make an exception on this one. Every writer, author, and poet I met has been a tremendous asset to my professional and personal life. And for that, I am thankful.

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