Don’t be intimidated by the most intimidating man in the room, I was told. Make sure you make time to introduce yourself, they said. I had no intention of doing any such thing.
I’m the submarine, unnoticed by the great and large working and boasting on the surface, the big guns and large ships carrying cargo to destinations on deadline. I will get there, too, just as great and powerful, though making fewer waves. So to walk up to the Man and blow my cover? Not going to happen. Until it did.
It was December, 2012. I had worked for the company less than two months. I didn’t know anybody, and barely had a clue about the work I had agreed to do when they agreed I was the one to do it. I got through my interview on a cloud of confidence I had manufactured as I walked through the door.
My boss was sitting next to the owner of the company. The sole owner of a successful company. There was an empty chair with the pair. I took that seat and introduced myself.
We didn’t talk about work, or qualifications, or experience. I wasn’t grilled on education, past work, five-year plans. No. He asked me, “who is your favorite author?”
Who the what?
“Hemingway,” I answered. Hemingway? Are you kidding me? I hadn’t thought to put Hemingway anywhere near my list, much less at the top. But still, that was the name that came out of my mouth.
I spent a great deal of my early reading life hating Hemingway. He’s a man’s writer, I insisted. Men’s stories about men for men by a man. Nick Adams? Please. He can carry however many damn cans of pork and beans wherever the hell he wants, I don’t care if he eats them just because he carried them. Except that I do care. Not because they are pork and beans, or that he carried them, but how Hemingway made that can of pork and beans say so much and matter so infinitely that I still remember it decades later. Hemingway can say more in ten words than most can in one-hundred.
I’ve met a lot of new people since my move ten months ago. When I answer that I am a Writer, capital W, it’s inevitable that I’m asked about a novel.
No, I have not written a novel. Well, once, but it was miserable and I never want to do it again. I want to write, and I want to write short stories. So that’s what I’m going to do. It’ll be fine. I can stop reaching for a goal I don’t want. I don’t want to be a novelist.