I sat still, head bowed, hoping my agent would overlook me in the crowded dining car. I stared at the greasy table as she passed, led by her pair of promenading poodles in their matching pink tams.
We were on our way to New York to meet my editor, and I was frightened. Mostly I was scared of my agent, a giant terrapin of a woman, with snapping lips, beady eyes, and a snarky disposition.
I'm afraid of many things, and always had been. My mom, rest her rocky heart, called me her little Will of the Wisp, because my strength of character was wilted.
Naturally, I am afraid of flying, and of traveling alone, and of leaving my home. And of criticism. And of being pressured to write before the Muse is ready. This list of fears had not endeared me to my new agent.
I found her the traditional way, through querying the entire population of New York agents. Of the 236 letters I mailed out, only Penelope Penpincher offered me representation. But, now that I had an agent, I was in a muddle as to what to do with her. So far, hiding from her in the dining car was working well.
I received her summons to New York only last week. I demurred, of course, citing an infected bunion as my excuse. I'm afraid of New York, and I was terrified to meet my agent face-to-face. She frightened me quite thoroughly by e-mail, and I knew she and my editor in combination would be more than I could bear.
She called my bluff, however.
"Margaret!" She screeched. "I've sold this book of yours for a princely sum, and the editor wants to meet you this week to discuss changes."
"Your mother wears Army boots," I muttered, sotto voce.
"I heard that!" she said. "I might be a human shark primero, but with hearing like mine, I assure you I am a bat segundo. Show respect, understand?"
I found Miss Penpincher on my doorstep the next day, two train tickets to New York clutched in her claws.
"There you are!" Miss Penpincher's voice jolted me out of my reverie. "I want you to drop everything and give me ten ... books."
I jumped, startling the galleycat. That beast took one look at the Penpincher poodles and scurried away.
I began to write.
"Very good," she said, stopping my work. "Just ensuring you would obey my command."
She slid into the opposite seat. "I have very good news, but I'll require an additional 35% commission. Agreed?"
I nodded. What could I do? Agents were impossible to come by.
"Now, imagine the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."
I cocked my head, confused.
"I've sold your book to Broadway! And George Clooney has agreed to star!"
I fainted. The only person who frightened me more than Miss Penpincher was George Clooney.
Miss Snark, the human shark! I see a new tag line on the biz cards.
This is wonderful!
Scoring to come!