Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Editor (05/27/10)
TITLE: Query Letter
By Ashley Nicole
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“Bring it here.”
In trim black slacks and a gray silk shirt, Jan strode across the Persian rug and set the unbound manuscript on the Editor’s desk. With unusual reluctance, he still held the query letter.
“The letter, too, Jan.”
Jan nodded, aware that the Editor was mainly interested in the query letter. He wasn’t Editor with a capital “E” by reading every manuscript from first to last page to determine its acceptability. He had the ability to discern a writer’s quality and the story’s strength by just a few paragraphs in the query. The man could cut through volumes of submissions a day. The ones that didn’t meet his standards he handed back to Jan to shred.
Awkwardly, Jan put the letter on the desk. Heat spiraled up his body.
“Why put the letter there and not on the manuscript as instructed?” The Editor’s voice was calm, unperturbed, but curious.
In a nervous gesture he’d managed to control for fifteen years, Jan rolled his shoulders forward. “I thought you might want to read this one.” He could not look the Editor in the eye.
“And why is that?”
Jan knew his suggestion went completely against procedure. “I know some of what’s written. It’s good.”
The Editor rolled his desk chair back and rested his arms on the armrests. He’d already rolled his sleeves up to the elbow, the only sign of the stress the Editor felt in making his decisions. But the best is what he wanted.
Jan understood and admired that, and loved working under such prestige, but the writer of this manuscript was his little sister. . . .who tried so hard. Glancing up at the Editor, who watched him intently, Jan worried he’d just risked his job. Then he felt shame to worry about himself when his sister’s future was at stake, her very heart and soul. The rejection would be unbearable, the reason he normally tried not to see names as he shredded.
“I enjoy a rest now and again. Go ahead, read me the parts you want me to hear.”
“Really?” Jan croaked. Picking up the stack of paper, he flipped through until he found the good parts. “Here’s one.” He cleared his throat.
Bethany returned home from her humanitarian trip simply exhausted. She unwound her long, blond hair from its chignon and splayed her locks like a silk throw over the couch. Her arms lay gracefully limp and she let her head fall back, smiling at all she’d done.
She’d taught music for two years at the Afghan School for Girls under constant threat of bombardment.
She’d spent two more years helping the widowed women regain financial security during wartime. She even learned to shoot a pistol like a sharpshooter!
“She’s quite the character,” the Editor injected.
“Quite,” Jan agreed, taking his comment as encouragement.
She succeeded in raising two thousand dollars for the campaign to Go Green in Blaine, Idaho.
In the blistering heat of the African desert, she and four others fed two thousand people in one day.
Jan looked up to gauge the Editor’s reaction, but there was deep sadness etched in the lines around his eyes, and grief tightened around his mouth.
“She’s my sister,” Jan said at last.
The Editor reached for the query letter, held it, and then looked at Jan. “There’s only one way to be the best, and that’s by the endorsement of my perfect Son who turns every manuscript into a glorious novel. Without this transformation, every manuscript falls incredibly short of my high standards.”
The Editor nudged the stack of paper toward Jan.
“But consider the hard work. Her manuscript is a monument to good deeds.”
“Without My Son’s name on her manuscript, written with the ink of blood on one’s heart, building a monument of good deeds is like building the tower of Babel to reach heaven.”
Jan snatched up his sister’s manuscript and stalked down the long carpet. When he got to the doors, two men emerged from the sides and crossed shining spears, blocking him.
“I caused you to notice her name,” the Editor spoke. “You need to shred her manuscript because it’s not finished, and you’re due for a vacation.”
“I’m not the ogre it seems at times. Meditate on this, Jan, before you return to serve Me.”
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