You’ve got mail … but, from whom?

January 16, 2009 § 12 Comments

I burst through the back door, greeted the dogs and shouted into the house, “Hi, love! Did I get any mail?” (I just go right to the mail issue cuz mail is an old ritual that doesn’t go away even in the face of email and technics. Also, I’m excited when he’s home first from the office because that often means he intends to cook dinner and I could smell lasagna or something sauce-y and hot and cheese-y and it was 1 degree farenheit outside, so anything at all that smacked of comfort was high on my list right now).

“Yes. Check the counter. You have a package!”

I stopped short and turned back into the kitchen, shedding my coat, my scarf , my jacket and my vest – ah, the many layers of winter sartorial splendor. The chair on which I tossed them was nearly tipping over now with the weight of them.  

And there on the counter, in all its manila magnificence, was a fat envelope, the size of a 200-page manuscript.
According to the return address, it was from my niece. 
No, she’s not a writer.
Yes, it was a manuscript.
Inside that thick yellow encumbrance, taped on all the corners so it wouldn’t tear, was a  manuscript, held together at the top by a t-clip.
About 200 pages.
But that was it.
No note. Not from my niece. And not from the writer.

The top page was in red. It looked photocopied, a little smeary. I bent to read it in the half-light.

“You need more light,” HM said, walking into the kitchen and flicking on the overhead. “So, what have you got there?”

“I dunno. It appears to be a manuscript.”
“Mmmm …”
“You don’t sound thrilled.”
“It’s odd, that’s all.”
“From whom?”
“I dunno.  My niece sent it to me but this isn’t her stuff. It must be someone she knows. It’s her handwriting on the envelope.”

Our niece lives in Rhode Island.
Also, the smeary cover letter gave the writer’s address as being in Rhode Island. So, likely they knew one another.
Sherlock would be proud of me.

I read over the first two pages of the ms. that were in fact not the manuscript but first, a copy of an article (in red ink, as I mentioned) about the writer’s life  and his wife’s dismissal of his hobby/profession. There were  errors but it wasn’t a complete horror show. The text itself had something to it,  it was kinda folk-sy, a bit o’humor, it had a voice. Overall, it could use some help.  Apparently a newspaper in Rhode Island had run the article though actually, it was difficult to tell.

Beneath this 2-page essay was a 2-page cover letter of sorts. It began with “Sirs or madames.”
It then jumped  into an explanation of the (enclosed) book and ended with a few paragraphs on the author’s background, his education and the jobs he’s held for the past 30 years or so (high school English teacher and ferry boat captain).

It did not include a phone number or email.
I noticed, upon checking the envelope again, that he had spent $7.80 to mail the chunky ms. to me.

Beneath the cover letter was the title page of the manuscript. It was, thankfully, in black ink.
I riffled the pages. I seriously wondered what the writer wanted. Why didn’t he state clearly anywhere, anywhere at all, what he wanted and why he was sending it to me? 
(Reminder: I’m a tech writer/doc prod director by day and freelance (and fiction) writer by night). 

Given the appearance of  and the salutation on the cover letter, I assume he had sent it plenty of other places. I only hope it was to someone titled “agent” or “editor.”
However, that “Sirs or Madames” is going to slam a few doors shut; and, so is the general  appearance of the thing. 
Did I mention there was no email address, no phone number?

Perhaps I’ve been away from the northeast for so long that I’ve forgotten how they do things there. Perhaps they’re still mailing 5-pound manuscripts to strangers and hoping for something to happen. I believe, however, that it was and still is appropriate to tell people what you want done with your heart-and-soul once you’ve  put it all down on  200 sheets of paper and readied it to send to them.

“So, what’s it about?” HM leaned over my shoulder, curious.
“Well,” I began, “it seems to be a sci-fi piece modeled on the Odyssey.”
HM didn’t say anything.
“I’ll just leave it here on the counter for now. I don’t really know what to do with it.” I set it on the end of the counter where we put outgoing mail, car keys, coupons.
“Read it,” HM said.
“Yeah, read it. See what’s what.”
“Yeah, but – ”
“But what? You’d want someone to read your book.”
“But I’d send it to an agent or editor who wanted it. I’d – ”
“Maybe this guy has no connection at all and your niece offered…”
“Yeah.” I eyed it and left it there.

That was two days ago.
What to do? I’ve got to do something with it or HM will begin using it for a hot plate when he takes the chicken parmigiana from the oven or I will set my coffee on it while emptying the dishwasher or we will move it to the stairs on its way to the second floor office where it might get … forgotten.

I could ignore it for now.

I could just call my niece and ask her what’s what.

I could write back to the guy and ask what he wanted, what he expected, what he was hoping for when he bundled it off to me.

But I already know. 

(to be continued)

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§ 12 Responses to You’ve got mail … but, from whom?

  • anno says:

    Wow. This is eye-opening… It’s hard to imagine how somebody — a writer especially — could lack so much empathy for what his reader might need. So, in TBC, will we learn what you’re going to do?

  • qugrainne says:

    hmmmmmmmm, Sounds like a fellow not to savvy to the modern day query letter writing thingy. We know how much hard work and late nights went into those 200 pages…… what did you do with it? I want to know NOW!

  • oh says:

    Called my brother; obtained neice’s (new) phone number. Will call her today, just for some backstory. Then …

  • Bobbi says:

    A manuscript mystery – intriguing. My first thought was maybe HM had written it and then had your niece mail it to throw you off the track. Just a theory …

  • eBookGuru says:

    “HM will begin using it for a hot plate when he takes the chicken parmigiana from the oven or I will set my coffee on it while emptying the dishwasher or we will move it to the stairs on its way to the second floor office where it might get”

    I’m all for that idea.

    The sad thing is that many of these people who don’t take the time to really query, end up frustrated when their manuscript doesn’t get accepted, and they never bother to ask why.

    I can’t believe that he didn’t at least give an email address and/or phone #


  • shoreacres says:

    Ahem. Allow me to quote:

    “What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will?

    “Mystery. I cannot build to it, cannot think that way. Which is why I am delighted by a mystery though I don’t read a lot of them unless someone hands me one and says “Here, read this.”

    I am DYING over here! Either this is your set up of us, someone’s set up of you, or incontrovertible evidence that your Muse has quite a sense of humor – but no more telling us you can’t “build to it, cannot think that way”!

    I’m heading off to the bathtub laughing my head off. This is wonderful!

  • Kim L says:

    Wow… that is just odd. But at least it makes for a great story. I look forward to hearing the ultimate fate of the ms.

  • jeanie says:

    I love Bobbi’s idea — or Linda (Shoreacres). What a fascinating idea!

    I’ve always found it surprising when someone with enough patience and determination to actually write something with the intent of sending it out doesn’t take the comparatively short amount of time required to send it in a way that will yield the best results. I’m sure he/she doesn’t know how, but it still amazes me.

    For a woman who reads not writes mysteries, you have found yourself in one! (Go, Sherlock!). Can’t wait to hear chapter two!

  • oh says:

    All – I put it in a call to my niece. Not home. Left a message. No call back yet …

  • Becca says:

    Well, how fascinating on all levels. Imagine taking the time to package a manuscript and send it to a virutal stranger without any cover letter or explanation. Amazing! A bit like those people who audition for American Idol and think they’re the next Celine Dion but in reality can’t even stay on pitch. Reality check please!

    Anyway, this mysterious manuscript has certainloy piqued a lot of interest. Perhaps you should rethink the mystery writing gig…

  • shoreacres says:

    And it just occurred to me – look how much interest and attention our anonymous author is getting. This may be a literary version of the old adage: “It’s easier to get forgiveness after, than permission before!”

    Now, class – a show of hands. How many here would like to get a peek at that manuscript?

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