My youngest daughter had been having some problems. I’d been dealing with school counselors, teachers, and other individuals, attempting to find solutions that made sense for all concerned. Learning, once again, that help doesn’t help if it goes unaccepted or ignored. It was a frustrating time period, filled with teen-age angst and rough sledding for all of us.
When J told me about the phone message, my first thought was, “Now, what?” I picked up the phone and listened to the beginning of the message. A woman’s voice saying, “I’m Sandra Martz and I’d like to speak to Elizabeth…” and ending with a request that I call back, while leaving a phone number.
I walked back into the living room after hanging up the phone, not listening to the entire message. J was sitting on the couch, still wearing that funny little grin, “Okay, the name is sort of familiar, but I just can’t place who she is.”
J’s grin got a bit wider, “You didn’t listen to the whole message, did you?” she asked.
“No, I just heard the name and wanted to figure out who it was. Is she one of Alyssa’s counselor, do you think? Her name is so familiar.” My mind was obviously not computing at optimum speed. J stood up from the couch, now grinning fiercely and said, “Maybe you should go and listen to the message again?” She followed me into the kitchen and took a seat at the table, still wearing that silly grin.
I reached for the phone and again, listened to the woman’s unfamiliar voice telling me that familiar name. Something about the name was trying to come to the surface of my attention, and again, before listening to the full message, I turned to J and said, “I know I should know who this is, but I can’t figure it out.” I was tired and frustration had become a pretty constant companion.
J looked down at the table, then back up at me, barely able to contain her very apparent delighted glee at my incomprehension. “Elizabeth, just listen to the whole message, why don’t you?”
“Because if it’s another person calling to complain about Alyssa’s behavior, I’d like to put it off for a bit, if I could. The voice doesn’t sound familiar, but I know that I know that name.”
Before I could continue, J reached around me, grabbed the phone, put it in my hand and said, “Listen,” and then clicked the button for the message.
I listened and finally heard the end of the message, “I’m calling from Paper Mache Press and would really like to speak to you about your poem.”
Oh, that Sandra Martz. The Editor of the books I had been suggesting to my customers and selling for years. The Editor of the book, When I Am Old, I Shall Wear Purple. That Sandra Martz, and she had called me to talk to me about my poem, the one I had submitted over a year ago. Oh! OOOHHH!!
Obviously my eyes had gone wide, and my mouth was hanging open, as I looked at J and she began to laugh out loud in total delight at my final comprehension. “Do you know who that is?” I asked foolishly. J nodded vigorously, still laughing at my response. “Why would Sandra Martz call me at home? Do you think they actually want the poem?”
She continued to grin and answered my very silly question, “I guess you’ll have to call her back and find out, won’t you?” She was trying for serious, but the toothy grin ruined her attempt.
Eventually, I did settle down and taking a very deep breath, I dialed the number in California. Ms. Martz answered and I told her who I was. “Oh, yes,” she said, “I’m so glad to speak to you Elizabeth. We definitely want your poem for the Anthology. It’s taken a while because we received close to seven thousand submissions for the Anthology and had to wade through each and every one.”
“That’s an awful lot of poems.” I said and thought, “How lame can you get, Elizabeth?”
“Well, there’s something else I would like to discuss with you. We would like to use your poem as the anchor piece for the book. How do you feel about that?”
I had no idea what an “anchor” piece was, but thought it might be the last page of the book. That was just fine with me, last place was still IN the book. I kind of hesitated and then said, “I guess that’s okay.”
I could hear her smiling when she asked, “You don’t know what I mean by anchor piece, do you?”
“No,” I admitted, “probably a fancy way of saying last place, but that’s just fine with me.”
She laughed out loud and continued, “There are two coveted places in any anthology, Elizabeth. The front piece, which is, of course, the very first and introductory piece that sets the stage for the rest of what is essentially an exploration of an issue or subject. But, the final anchor piece, the one that goes on the very last page, has to have certain elements about it. It is usually a short piece, easily retained, but sort of gathers up and contains the whole essence of the book itself. It is what we editors want the book buyer and reader to take away from the reading, remember about the book and what it has to say, long after the reading is done.”
At which point, I jumped in and asked, “And you want my poem for that?” I really was having a hard time taking all of this in.
“Yes,” she said, “we’ve known for a while, but had to get all the middle pieces in place. I’m calling to ask you if that would be okay with you.”
“Of course it is, but are you sure we are talking about the same poem?”
She laughed again and said, “Yes, Front Porch Partners is the exact image we want people to take away with them after reading our book.”
We finished our conversation and she told me that I would be receiving contracts in the mail shortly. I had just moved into an entirely new league. “Oh, my,” was right.
(to be continued…)