Monday, August 24, 2009

Looking for Lumber at Macy's

Looking online today for the location of a hamburger place (one which shall remain nameless as I don’t want a crowd next time I’m in the mood for a hamburger), I decided to look at the FAQ for said hamburger place. Hours later, I’m still amused by one question in particular.

Q: What options do you have for vegetarians?

This is a frequently asked question? My response, should I be the one answering the question, would go like this:

A: There’s a nice vegan restaurant close by.

What is there about the name Five Guys Burgers and Fries that would indicate it’s a happy place for vegetarians? I mean, I like vegetarians, some of my best friends are vegetarians and vegans, but do I go to a vegan restaurant and say, “I’m a carnivore. What options do you have for me?”

First they’d make fun of me and then they’d offer me a veggie burger, right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m surrounded by restaurants. Not at the moment, since I’m at home and I can’t fit any inside my house, but out there . . . in my city, and the neighboring city, and all the cities that surround us, little fiefdoms full of shopping and food.

Going to a burger place and asking for the vegetarian options is like going to a hardware store looking for shoes to go with the lovely dress you just picked up at the pharmacist’s.

(The real answer seems to have been lost in my rambling, but it went something like this: “The fries are made with potatoes. The veggie burger has veggies. However, when we say veggie burger, we mean, you can order all the veggies that normally come on a burger, and we can leave off the hamburger patties.” How much more vegetarian can you get?)

Moving on to my next subject, which is a bit related to the topic of Mysterious People, I just spent two days at a writer’s conference. I had a fabulous time, met some fascinating writers, agents, non sequiturs, editors, film people, more writers (they weren’t all fascinating, after all), and many more, though I’m not sure exactly who they are or what they did, but they were definitely there. One youngish man (by which I mean, younger than me) was there to pitch his novel. The tables were big and round and seated 8, so meals were a good time to talk to strangers.

These conferences are not terribly inexpensive. I worked my way in, volunteering for half the time I was there to get in for “free” the other half. This youngish man had paid his way in and bought several pitches, so it hadn’t been cheap. All that, and he’d failed to research the likelihood of finding an agent/publisher with a half-written novel. Like walking into a hamburger place that’s going to serve meat when you really want a salad, he thought that perhaps he could walk into a place where people were looking for completed novels and non-fiction proposals and do just fine.

Non-fiction is great to pitch when half-written. Or unwritten. It’s not necessary at all. It’s the proposal (which is much like writing a mini-version of the book) that matters. For fiction, the novel needs to be complete. What good is a half-finished novel? Most half-finished novels don’t get finished. Many novels start out strong and then sort of . . . drift . . . off to an ending that makes the entire thing useless. That’s just a fact.

We, I and another interested party, asked the youngish man to pitch his book to us, as practice. He didn’t want to talk about it anymore. That’s not a good sign as most writers won’t shut up about their books (me included), but I believe it was just conference fatigue setting in. He’ll go home and finish his novel, and then he’ll come back next year. Maybe he’ll sell it before next year, now that we’ve set him straight on how the novel industry works. We explained about the differences between non-fiction and fiction, and told him his concept was good. (I tell most everyone their concept is good because there are very few bad concepts – it’s all in the execution, after all.)

There’s nothing I can do about the vegetarians however. They don’t listen to me at all.

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