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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Manuscript (04/29/10)

TITLE: Exemplar
By Carol Slider


Herbert P. Elkanbury rolled the paper out of the typewriter and laid it carefully on his desk. He pushed his horn-rimmed glasses a little higher up the bridge of his nose and examined the words on the page line by line, using a magnifying glass just to make sure. Yes, all the words were sharp and clear; changing the typewriter ribbon every 40 pages or so had paid off.

Next, he measured the margins, moving a ruler around each side of the paper (20-lb. bond, the best quality available locally). Ah! One inch precisely...

He eyeballed the space between each line, and measured the indentations on each side of the words “THE END.” Yes—perfect, perfect...

And then he saw it. Second paragraph, third sentence, first word: “Definately.” How could he have missed that? All those hours spent thumbing through his well-worn dictionary, all the money he had paid to have grammar and spelling cleaned up—had all that been wasted?

But Herbert P. Elkanbury was not discouraged for long. Such setbacks had kept him from submitting his manuscript for several years. But he could retype that page tonight. Carefully.

And so he did, fearfully and slowly, knowing that a single mistake would render everything else on the page useless. He would not submit a manuscript that had a single erasure or correction. Or a single spelling mistake, of course. Not if he could help it.

Nerves took over near the end, and he typed the last paragraph with one finger. Then he scrolled the page out, examined it carefully, and was satisfied.

He had followed every criterion—he was sure of that. The placement of his contact information, the page numbers and author name on each page, the restrained use of underscoring to indicate italics...

And as for the work itself? Why, he had no qualms about that. It was a thrilling and well-written novel, the sort that would always be popular. Only the details of manuscript preparation could ruin his chances with an editor, and he had taken care of that.

He placed the manuscript (unbound, of course) into its precisely sized heavy cardboard box, enclosed the proper amount of postage for its return, and added his beautifully written cover letter.

There! He had done what he could. His story would have to do the rest.

* * *

“Hey, Joe, you gotta look at this one! You’re not gonna believe it...”

“You kidding? I’ll believe anything. I got one today, Hitler Versus the Martians...”

“Just take a look...”

Joe, the jaded book editor, sloshed coffee out of his cup as he grabbed the manuscript one-handed from his colleague and fellow cynic, Pete.

“Hey, careful there!” growled Pete, and Joe shrugged and put down the coffee.

“Okay, so what’ve we got? Revenge of the Scarlet Widow... Yep, sounds like a winner.” He flipped to a random page. “Hey, listen to this Pulitzer prose... ‘She drew me like a moth to a flame. Her smile was like rainbows and moonlight, but her kiss was like a torch. Sooner or later, she would have to know that I knew the truth about Ed and Saul and Billy and all the other moths she had incinerated. But until then, I basked in her light...’”

“I know, I know,” Pete interrupted. “I mean, I read 50 pages of it...”

“Pete, buddy, they don’t pay you enough for that...”

“Yeah... but Joe... look at it, will you? Just look...”

And after a while, Joe saw what he meant.

* * *

Herbert P. Elkanbury was surprised to get a letter with his agent’s familiar return address. He hadn’t expected to get any more royalty payments—not now, when computers had made everything so painless for aspiring writers.

But he opened the envelope and found a check in the usual small amount, something like he had gotten every now and then for the past 30 years.

He read the letter, which was also very much like the others in his files:

Dear Mr. Elkanbury:

We are pleased to inform you that Everything You Need to Know about Publishing Fiction, 18th Edition, includes three pages from your manuscript, Revenge of the Scarlet Widow, in its chapter on proper manuscript preparation...

He filed the letter and put the check with his bank deposits, sighing rather wistfully as he did. He still hoped that someday, someone would want to read his masterpiece...

But until then, the money wasn’t bad. Not bad at all.

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This article has been read 1039 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joan Campbell05/07/10
I enjoyed this. Initially thought it was set in the past - so the end was a delightful twist.
Joanne Sher 05/10/10
Very clever. Loved your characterization - what a perfect name for the guy! The twist surprised me too. Great job.
Barbara Lynn Culler05/10/10
I did not 'get' it at first reading. I liked the way the story was building - wondered what was going to happen!
Beth LaBuff 05/10/10
oh wow! :) You took me along for the ride. His careful preparation reminded me of my "manual typewriter" days when it took forever to erase mistakes, so needless to say I was holding my breath as he was retyping that page. :) What a moment you put me in. Loved his manuscript title as well as his name!
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/11/10
I enjoyed it, especially the twist at the end--clever and fun story
Jackie Wilson05/11/10
I guess you have to have experienced manual typing yourself to fully appreciate this story. I admit, I am one of those who has fearfully typed with one finger to keep from having to either start over or correct the original AND the carbon copy with correction tape. Great writing and a very creative angle on the topic. Glad you chose the "fluff" this week - it was fun!
Connie Dixon05/11/10
Great writing, but I was kind of bummed when I got to the end. All that work. I guess that's how it goes. Very creative take on the topic.
Eliza Evans 05/11/10
Love his name and wow is he faithful to the task at hand!

The dialogue between Joe and Pete is fabulous.

Very fun read. Creative.

Exemplary writing as usual.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/13/10
Congratulations, Carol, on a well-deserved placing with this excellent piece.
Noel Mitaxa 05/13/10
How much we take for granted now we have computers. You took me back to the labour-intensive days of publishing, which required so many separate and specialised skills that took years to develop but which are now obsolete.
Well done and congratulations on your placing
Jackie Wilson05/13/10
Isn't it great that "fluff" can place, too?!! Well-deserved EC placing! Congrats!
Carol Penhorwood 05/31/10
I can certainly see why this one was chosen for an EC. Great job!