When I started this course I vented continuously to my husband about the POD: "I hate him, I can't stand him, he's a moron, he doesn't know beans, how the hell did he ever get a Ph.D., what friggin' college is giving away Ph.D.'s cause I want one, what possessed me, how am I ever going to get through this," yadda, yadda, yadda, ad nauseam. And, hubby, being hubby, let me rattle on until I was spent, not once ceasing his reading (God forbid) because, after all, the man must read his 500,000 words per day or he's not happy and because after 30 years of marriage these rants have ceased to provide amusement.
He waits for me to finish and then says, "What are you worried about? All your professors have always commented on how well you write and so will he. He just has a different method of teaching, that's all. He's testing you. He plans to break you so he can remold you. Watch." And he would go back to reading his paper or book because as if explaining this to someone who claims she's intelligent is just too much for him to deal with and at which point he undoubtedly begins to wonder how he ever married someone with the brain capacity of a gnat.
The POD was ruthless. The POD took pleasure in my discontent, inconsiderate to how I felt. The POD wanted to own my soul. I hated him. Passionately. But stronger than my hate was my back, which was up. He was not going to win. Oh, PODdy, PODdy, PODdy, you don't know me when I'm angry.
So here I was sitting in his office ready to fight him to the death for that "A" that I so rightly deserved, if not, just for the sole reason of having survived his mental and emotional abuse: a survivor's medal of honor, if you will. But the POD had been abducted and in his place was an alien in human form whom I was unfamiliar with. And he was a nice alien. A freak of nature alien, because aliens generally are not nice, now are they? Hmmm? Maybe this is all a dream. This can't be the POD. Not my meanie, insufferable POD.
He begins speaking. "First off, let me start by saying you have your A."
Huh? I wasn't ready for this. Who is this man?
"Your work, your commitment, your level of writing, your imagination - boy, you have some imagination - is all "A" material."
Hmm? Really, dude, because all along I sensed you were a wee bit dissatisfied with what I was producing; in fact, hate would be the best word used here.
This alien POD apparently read minds as well. He smiles and says, "I see."
Huh? What do you see?
"Listen," he continues, "you're a very good writer. That's always been a given, and I saw that from your first submission. But after reading a few of your stories I saw the style of writing you preferred and were comfortable in. Too comfortable, in fact. I wanted to take you out of this comfort zone and force you to try something different. I wanted you to see your potential and see for yourself that you could write something outside of what you were used to. I think it was a challenge that paid off."
He's trying to break you so he can remold you. That little know-it-all bastard I had at home was right all along.
"And you really surprised me with this science fiction story. I don't think you realize how good this is. I mean, this is really good stuff. I think you might just be a science fiction writer. How does that strike you?"
Great. I wanted to write about light and love and happy, happy people and now you're telling me that my soul is dark? Oh, PODdy, what did I ever do to you?
The rest of the meeting we talk about my submissions and how he has seen me grow as a writer and I concur that his mandatory science fiction suggestion (can you say oxymoron?) took me out of my element altogether and proved to be a good thing. I add, for dramatic purposes because after all I am a writer and can't help myself, how I found myself hitting walls left and right, pulling my hair, and eating my nails to the quick because I couldn't figure out how to do it. There were times I even considered digging my eyeballs out of their sockets with my bare hands just to see if I could birth a story from that. Then, I finally tell him, all of a sudden the doors of my imagination opened and a story began to unfold; it took a life of its own. It went through many transformations, each submission with major revisions until I finally began to understand, feel, and live the characters. They became real to me; I had gone through the wall. But, still, I had problems because even though I had these fantastic, crazy visions in my head of how I wanted the story to be told, where I wanted it to lead, how I wanted it to read, how I wanted to describe certain alien things without sounding elementary, etc., I was having difficulty translating that into words. Translating sci-fi ideas into words is not easy for this chick. It was frustrating, to say the least.
"Writing is not easy; writing shouldn't be easy. Welcome to the world of writers. And you are a natural born writer because your imagination is wild and you have no problem when it comes to words."
I turned around. Who is he speaking to? I was speechless. Natural born writer, huh? Hey, I should put that on my resume and get the hell out of Dodge and find me a better gig.
"All these stories you submitted are seeds to future books. They are all very imaginative and good and could be expanded upon. And you managed to learn what many of my students refuse to learn: to be ruthless and critical with their work and dispense with words, paragraphs, even characters that you are in love with simply because it does not work."
I'm feeling my face redden from all of these unexpected compliments.
He continues, "I find many students have a hard time doing this, they don't like to edit and feel they own those words. But we don't own our stories, now do we Rebecca? The stories own us."
*sigh* I hate it when he makes sense. "Absolutely, and thank you. But which stories should I submit?"
"All of them."
"All of them? Even Abigail Reborn? Because I have to agree with you in retrospect that that was a shitty piece of work."
"Even Abigail Reborn. Yes. It may have been shitty piece of work but the idea was fantastic." *sigh* Okay, so now you like me. Hubbie said you did. I'm the moron. It's official.
He then proceeds to tell me that for next semester he wants me to write a screenplay. I inform him I've never written one before. I've written plays, but never screenplays and wouldn't even know where to begin. He smiles. I've seen that smile before. It's the doors of Hell opening up. He goes to his bookshelf and retrieves a copy of one of his father's screenplays. His father was an Academy Award winning screenwriter.
"Here. Read this. Now go write me a screenplay."
I was floored. In my hands I held a copy of an Academy Award winning screenplay typed in one of typewriters of the 1950s. You could see the areas where the keys got jammed together to create an extra letter in a word and how it was erased delicately and with care. I was speechless. I get up and say goodbye and on my way out he thanks me for taking the course and being so involved and tells me,"it's a pleasure to have students like you in class so other students can see what good writing looks like and what commitment is all about."
Uh-huh, yeah, yeah.....but I was already floating back to my office on the cloud that held the screenplay that I was so humbled to be given. Pfft! Who needs accolades? That's for amateurs.
So I'm on a high for the rest of the day and soon liken the class to childbirth. All of a sudden I forget the pain. I have my last class with him that night and afterwards a classmate and I begin talking about our tutorials, grades and such. She informs me that the POD was always very fond of me.
"Stop it! Come on, you saw how harsh he was with me! I saw him handle many students with kid gloves, but with me he was harsh. Why, I ask you? What did I ever do to him?"
She smiles. "Listen, in the tutorials I had with him he always spoke about you and said that there were only two good writers in that class, you being one of them. And, that if I wanted to be a good writer that I should read your submissions and see how you wrote."
I thought I could not float any higher. My head got so big I could barely fit it in my car.
And to my POD, I am sorry. Oh, PODdy POD POD, what an enigma you turned out to be. To think I spoke ill of you, just one more reason why I am cursed to eternity, because I am what you call a mensa - and no that is not the bright connotation you think it implies - that's Spanish for "dumb."
Photo, courtesy of Deviant Art
December 16, 2008