With the return to Standard Time behind us, (finally adjusted,
thank you) we get to be in “real time” for a few months. That is, before we get
back to fooling our clocks again.
It’s a sort of mind trick we play, this one we do
together. But it got me thinking about the many such fool-oneself-even-as-I-acknowledge-it-and-it-still-works
sort of tricks we have come to accept.
See what I mean?^
Decorators call it trompe l‘oeil, or “deceive the eye”
in French. Decorators must have figured that if you say it in French it sounds
fancier and not quite as shady. An example of trompe l’oeil
is when you paint a visual of a rug onto a wood floor, thus giving the feel
that there is a rug exuding its beautiful pattern there. You tell yourself it
is better than a real rug, because it will never crinkle or need moth
We all have our known illusions. Such as putting
artificial sweeteners in our coffee, telling ourselves we are better without
the calories and future diabetes, but hoping our tongues don’t notice. We celebrate
various ribbons and trophies for our kids even when many are nothing more than
participation awards. Writers have this peculiar habit of celebrating the
oxymoron we call “a good rejection,” (that’s a personal praising of our writing
replete with specific glowing comments about the enclosed story) but, alas, it’s
But perhaps the greatest illusion is that what is will
always be. We know death is inevitable, but we pretend it isn't.
This is not a call to strip all illusions. I actually
feel like celebrating them. I need mine.
Years ago, when I first began writing with the hope to
eventually get published, but had yet to tell anyone about it, a package arrived in the
It was addressed to me, and had no return address.
The package was posted after that fateful September 11th 2001, and after the postal service announced
it will no longer accept packages without a clear return address. It must have slipped by, because it had no return address.
I didn't have a bomb-sniffing dog, or any dog for that
matter. I stared at it for only ten seconds. My curiosity and love of mystery-presents
got the better of me. I tore the brown wrapper open.
Inside was a bomb. Not the kind that explodes and
shreds the receiver to bits, but it might as well have been. It was a book.
“SHUT UP!” the title said.
The subtitle was A Writer’s Guide
to the Uses and Misuses of Dialogue.
Who sent it? I examined the book. It was a used hardcover.
I examined the postal stamp- it had been mailed from a small town in Iowa. I
don’t know anyone in Iowa. Never have.
Who knew I was writing? And writing fiction? And using
or misusing dialogue? Not even DH.
I tried asking loved ones near and far who might have
thought to send me an anonymous gift. Or was it an insult? To this day I don’t
I got a resounding round of denials.
“Nope, I didn't send you anything, nor had asked
anyone else send you anything. And what was it anyway?”
I found the title offensive enough that I buried the
book somewhere and forgot about it. I also made a mental note never to send
gifts anonymously, even if the titles spoke softly of appreciation. It was just
The other day, while plowing through my books and
making what could be called some semblance of order, this mystery present
And just in time. I’m deep in using and abusing
dialogue in my WIP.
Will the old Gifter stand up? I don’t expect them to.
It wouldn't be much of a story if they do. I’ll chuck it to Ms. Universe.
So thank you. And I’d still hope you don’t send anonymous