Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Lunch with Neal

In the olden days, when my writing career began, I had a number of NYC lunches with editors. Always exciting. Always looked forward to.

But things changed when the 21st century arrived and in the past decade the lunches disappeared, and then my sales with them. You can read about my 7 year long drought and how the brilliant editor Neal Porter brought rain to my parched land at http://bit.ly/16klDhe.  The drought part isn’t pretty, but the rain dance was celebratory and one we can all hold onto.

Soon after Neal ended my drought, I had the opportunity to fly to NYC to visit my son and to have My Lunch with Neal.  I was certain this event would be far more exciting than My Dinner with Andre, and the conversation even more enlightening. When my agent Karen Grencik heard about this upcoming affair she made me promise to write about it. My Lunch with Neal would become a lunch for the ages. (For all you young’uns out there, you can learn about Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory’s unusual movie here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Dinner_with_Andre.)

It’s been a month since My Lunch with Neal. I realize now I should have played spy and had a voice recorder going as Neal spoke to me.  How could I forget the details of such a singular event? I could blame it on jet lag. I could blame it on old age (mine). Instead I blame it on the fact that there I was in a fancy New York restaurant sitting across from Neal Porter having lunch. It was a miracle I remembered to breathe, let alone remember what he was saying to me.

I know there were words of wisdom spoken. But what were they?

Neal told my agent he’d given me directions on the second manuscript I’m to write for him. Good grief! I should at least have taken a notepad.

What do I remember of this magical event?

1) For such a big star, Neal Porter’s office is small. Sometimes I think that’s how it works. The bigger the star, the smaller the office. Neal says it’s about the same size as the area he works in at his home and that home is where he prefers to work. His office is in the Flatiron Building. It’s so appropriate that the iconic Neal Porter has his office within this iconic triangular building on Fifth Avenue.

2) The name outside Neal’s door says “Neal ‘Rock Star’ Porter.” He says there’s a story that goes with the name plaque and he’ll share it with me one day. I suspect the sign was a gift as Neal said it makes him blush; he’s far too gracious to refer to himself that way.

3) The gift exchange.  When my agent suggested a gift, I knew immediately that a cashmere red scarf would be perfect, even if I did present it in the heat of a New York summer. My first story for Neal is about a red scarf that’s lost and eventually found. It took some diligence to find that perfect red scarf. I had it packaged with the note: “May all your treasures be easily found.” Neal seemed happy, but surprised by my gift; he wanted to give me something in return. On his bookshelf in the Flatiron Building were several copies of If you want to see a whale. Now one of those copies is on my bookshelf in California, signed by an editor extraordinaire.

That’s mostly what I remember and it’s all prior to the actual lunch. 

What shall you do when you find yourself in New York or Boston or some other literary spot having lunch with your dream editor? My advice is to not worry about the voice recorder or the notepad or even what to wear.  Just bask in the glow of Your Lunch with your Editor.

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