This Fresh and Delightful guest post was submitted by Kristen Lippert-Martin on behalf of Jemima McNally, an 103-year old former intern for Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer (Random House, 1925). Kristen's blog is here. Jemima doesn't care much for computers, but she agreed to have her account posted here because the world needs to know the truth about writers.
Look, I’m only back on the job because I’ve outlived my pension. I had no idea this was not a paying thing, but, well, I’m here now, and the bus isn’t due to pick me up for another four hours, so I might as well read some of this slush crap you people are sending in.
It’s been years since I set foot in a publishing house, but to this day, people are still mewling at me, “How can I become a published writer?”
Let me tell you something about writers. I know writers, and I know writing, and I’m telling you right now, none of you is a real writer. That’s right. Go on back to your mama if you can’t take the truth.
Here’s what it took to get published back in my day: You spent years on end in total isolation, banging out a manuscript on a typewriter, working part-time as an assistant fish monger to earn enough money for paper and typewriter ribbons. You sweated a book out of you like yesterday’s gin, and you were only done with it the day you killed yourself. And maybe, just maybe, once you were dead, somebody felt sorry enough for you to pick your manuscript off the floor in your flophouse room, stick it in a box, and send it off to a publisher. Then and only then did you have a shot at success.
Oh, and also, before you wrote your book and killed yourself, you got married a bunch of times and were an ardent, committed alcoholic. Or maybe you were married TO an alcoholic who was bleeding you dry and telling you to go out to Hollywood and make some real money writing scripts instead of wasting yours, hers and everyone else’s best years.
Let me tell you, if people knew you had a son who was a writer, they used to say, “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Henderson. I had no idea. Our prayers will be with you.” And then they’d go right to church and light votive candles. Better you were homosexual or a draft dodger than a writer. To be a writer was a desperate, shameful thing.
But now all this internet business has ruined writing forever. You’ve got too much contact with others of your kind. How are you supposed to toil in obscurity when you can just email people whenever it strikes your fancy? And don’t even get me going on blogs. AND! You’ve also got liver transplants. We didn’t have liver transplants back in the day. If you couldn’t work up the courage to put that belt around your neck and hang yourself in the furnace room at your boarding house, you at least had the decency to drink yourself to death.
Also, I don’t understand these younger girls nowadays. Back in my day, the interns were a dating pool for the editorial staff and for the unpublished writers who were trying to pump us for information. We knew it. We accepted it. I slept with loads of writers. One was William Maxwell, and if you don’t know who he is, then you’re an undereducated moron. That man was a real writer. He could make you cry just saying gesundheit, and by God, he could go all night. And I tell you, never once did I feel sexually harassed. Heck, no. I felt honored to slink around with him behind his alcoholic wife’s back. Jesus H. Nobody has any damned discretion nowadays. Where do people find mistresses anymore if not the damned intern pool?
So that’s my advice to you people. If you want to be a real writer, go off by yourself, get rid of your phones and your televisions and your internets, take a few years to write a book, and then when you’re done with it, put it in a padded envelope with a cover letter/suicide note and then go kill yourself.
That’s it. That’s how you get published. You asked and I’m telling you the same thing I’ve told countless writers before you. I’m not here to make you feel good. I’ve been telling it like it is since 1907 and I ain’t gonna stop now.