Once upon a time, I was in theater. You name it, I did it: writing, directing, acting, stage managing, various crew positions…I was a Jill of all trades. I learned an immense amount of skills in my ten years walking the boards, and while I don’t do it anymore, I don’t regret a second.
My favorite thing, besides writing, is acting. I loved acting. I had the ability to slip into a character with incredible ease, and often thought I must be doing something wrong when I saw my fellow thespians struggle to do what came naturally to me. My only problem was line memorization. I usually got it by opening night but I would have a script in my hand right up until then, terrified that I would flub a line. I was often comforted by the fact that as a stage manager I knew that audiences rarely pick up on dropped lines if you’ve got the chemistry to cover it. Chemistry, I always had.
Anyway, one time I got it into my head that I should try to make a career of this, and I applied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. I was all set to go, had my pieces memorized perfectly, and disaster struck. My friend Rick, who was to take me to my audition, couldn’t drive me because his mother was wary of the situation. This led to a massive three-hour panic attack where I screamed and sobbed to my father, while Rick tried to persuade his mother. Eventually, we were on the road, but this was a time before my correct medications so that panic attack stuck around all day. We got to the hotel and settled in, and I went to sleep, finally calm and dreaming of my audition.
The next day, I opened my eyes to see Rick lacing his sneakers and humming a Green Day song. There was a pain in my throat and chest. I was shivering, but my head was on fire, and in a fair amount of pain as well. I stumbled to the shower, forced myself to get dressed and ready, and then we were on the way to the train station. I felt like death. I felt like I could collapse at any moment. Rick felt like a kid at Disney World because it was his first time in the Big Apple. His merriment was nauseating.
First, we went to Jamba Juice, where I had never been, and I discovered a menu item called “The Flu Buster.” I almost cried from joy and ordered a large, which I drank so fast I got a brain freeze. I don’t know what they put in that thing but it gave me a high for maybe two hours, just long enough to get to my audition and do my monologues and get out of there.
The rest of the day was spent walking around looking for an arcade because for some reason Rick thought it would be cool to play Dance Dance Revolution in NYC. Then, finally, blessedly, we headed back to the hotel. I slept like a baby. When I awoke in the morning, I was well.
Cut to about a week and a half later.
I am sitting in my living room watching TV when I hear the mailbox open and close. I run to it. I have run to it every day for a week. There in my hands is the letter I have been waiting for. And it is thin.
I’ve already been through college acceptances, so I know what that means. I sigh, I open it, I read its caustic form-letter tone, and I go back in the house, dejected. In about a week, I am my old self. In about a week, I get a call about a stage-managing position. In about a week, it doesn’t matter. Because I am really good at rejection. What I suck at is the waiting period.
That week and a half was the longest of my life. Until now.
A few days ago, I got an email from a publisher. They asked me to send along my manuscript. They said it typically takes three weeks for them to make a decision. Now, usually when I send out a submission, I log it and forget about it until I receive word back. Just like I did when I sent a query to the publisher that I most want for my chapbook. I didn’t even know if they published chapbooks, I was just inquiring, and mentioned my chapbook, and he asked to read it. I was flabbergasted. Half of me thought that this was the miracle I’d been waiting for. The other half was like kid, it’s just an audition.
My theater background really helps me with my writing life. I handle rejection better because of it. I understand the process of selection. I know the behind-the-scenes struggles of putting a project together. Still, it’s the wait that gets you. In this case I am going with the “no news is good news” philosophy right now. I mean, if he read it and hated it I would have already been rejected. And if I get rejected, that’s fine, on to the next adventure. But the waiting?
That’ll kill you.