“Here’s the pitch.”
He glanced at his watch. “I’m waiting.” His voice sounded dead, like a bass drum with a hand held against it.
“We have aspiring authors write something each week and read for an audience and a panel of judges.”
“Like a writing competition.”
“Right. We can even start out by having contestants send stuff in or submit on the internet. We can save the cost of those regional eliminations.”
“What do they write?”
“Short stories, novel excerpts, poetry. Well, maybe not poetry. Those are a different breed. We could have theme weeks. Mystery, romance, adventure. You know, just to keep the interest up.”
He shifted in his chair and looked at his watch again. “I don’t know. It seems to me most writers aren’t that versatile. A mystery writer might not be very good at romance.” He stared blankly at me. I went blank. We stared at each other.
He looked down at his notepad and scribbled something. “What about the judges?” I breathed again.
“People in the business. A literary agent, maybe an editor from one of the big publishing houses…” I was ticking them off on my fingers. “…a movie or TV producer or director, a published author. At least one of them should be famous. Or at least used to be famous.”
We spent a few more eternal ticks of his watch looking at each other. I breathed the silence as long as I could.
“And of course Simon.”
“You mean Simon…?”
“I don’t think he would do it.”
“We could ask.”
“Writing is not his area of expertise. I don’t think that would work.”
“Well we would need somebody like that, somebody…” I paused, searching for the right word. “…Acerbic.”
“Somebody blunt, outspoken, tell it like it is. Somebody to stir things up, to fire up the audience.”
He looked around the room in frustration. Then he looked back at me with a grim I’m going to be honest with you expression. “I think you would need something to stir up the audience. Sitting there listening to somebody reading sounds excruciating. Like watching paint dry.”
“People do it all the time at coffeehouses. Open mic night. Poetry readings.” I couldn’t keep the hurt out of my voice.
“People who go to those things aren’t there to hear somebody else’s work. They’re just there trying to get up the nerve to read their own stuff.”
I was stunned. I had never thought of it that way. I thought all those people were there to hear me.
“This isn’t going to work. I can picture an audience, if we could talk anybody into coming, sitting there in dead silence listening to some self absorbed guy sitting on a stool reading second rate prose. What comes to mind is one of those CSpan readings in some bookstore where a small audience listens to a guy hold forth on his book about Hitler’s gardener. This isn’t going to work.”
He was putting his pen in his shirt pocket as he spoke. He got up and headed for the door. “Maybe you should try Bravo or WE, one of the cable channels.”
He grabbed the door knob and looked over his shoulder. “Thanks for coming in.”
He opened the door. As he left the room I could here him chuckle dryly and mumble to himself, “American Author.”