She’d been looking forward to her writers' support group all week. These people were her writing buddies – honest, yet gentle with their critiques; specific with their comments, encouragement and advice. Tonight Marge was the hostess.
Katie knocked on the front door. It swung open and there was … not Marge, but a handsome thirty-something guy in a gray suit.
“Why hello, you must be Katie! Welcome! I’m Ryan Seacrest and will be your host for this evening. Come on in and show some love to our judges!”
“Judges? Um, where’s Marge?”
“She couldn’t make it tonight, sorry,” Ryan mumbled uncomfortably.
Katie entered the living room. Four strangers sat before her, each with a red Coca-Cola cup in front of them on the coffee table.
Ryan said, “Let’s skip the small talk and get right down to business. Katie, are you ready to hear what the judges have to say about your story?”
“Well, yeah…I guess.” What in the world?
Ryan smoothed back his mannequin hair with his manicured hands, straightened his tie, and said, “Randy, let’s start with you. What did you think of Katie’s story?”
Randy laughed and said, “Yo! Yo! Yo! I was worried about you, man, because you’re so young. But you did a really good job! You threw down the gauntlet this week. It was the bomb! I tell you what, man, you held your own with it, dawg. You worked it out.”
Katie stared at him, confused. “Well, what do you mean? Can you be more specific?”
“No, man, look. You can write, I mean really, really, really write. Dawg, you can write your face off! Check it out, baby, I thought I was readin’ Hemingway or something. Another hot one from you, Katie! You’re definitely in the star zone.”
Randy suddenly grabbed his large plastic Coke cup, turned to the judge sitting next to him and said, “Ellen?”
“Well, first of all, Katie, let me say that you’ve never looked cuter. You’ve never looked more beautiful. You keep getting more and more beautiful and you keep evolving and growing.”
“Thanks, Ellen, but what about the writing?”
“I feel that you really pulled it off. There are so many different sides to you, it’s so impressive. I actually think it was your best performance you've done to date.”
“But in what ways was it my best performance?” Katie asked, feeling more and more frustrated.
“Katie, you are why I love writing. You’ve got pure raw natural talent. You’ve got IT.”
“IT?” Katie started to protest, but Ryan interrupted her.
“Okay, moving along now, the clock is ticking. Kara, any helpful advice for Katie?”
Kara flipped her long brown hair away from her eyes and said, “It was good, but not as good as last week. You took us on a journey, but you didn’t lose yourself in the story. You took us up, you took us down, you did everything right.”
“But exactly what did I do right? And what did I do wrong?”
“Sweetie, you didn’t do anything wrong. You found the drama in this story. You didn’t hide. You were vulnerable, you were raw, and that's what you need to do. If you keep doing it you'll be at the front of this competition.”
“Excuse me? What competition? I thought this was a writers’ support group, not a competition.”
The judges each looked at one another and rolled their collective eyes as if to say, "She’s obviously out of touch with reality and is not in this to win."
Ryan quickly filled in the uncomfortable silence, “Simon Cowell. Any words of wisdom for this young lady?”
“Katie, look, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. It was completely and utterly pointless and silly. There was no originality so I actually thought it was lazy. It was like a Chihuahua trying to be a tiger. I simply struggled with the believability of the story. I felt like I was taking a spaniel for a walk. It didn’t have the conviction for me, and it was corny toward the end. Frankly, it was indulgent rubbish, and I think you may be in trouble after this. Sorry.”
Katie’s eyes filled with tears. She was on the verge of breaking down.
Ryan stepped over and turned the dimmer switch on the wall. He put his arm around Katie’s shoulder and said, “Dim the lights and here we go. America has voted and…”
“Nooooo!” screamed Katie, and sat up in bed.
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