QUIBBLES & BITS
Since today is the first day of Passover, I thought I'd focus on chutzpah, a Yiddish word that (loosely) means "supreme self-confidence," along with "nerve" or "gall." And it seems to have crept into our vocabulary to such an extent that it no longer needs to be italicized.
My dad oozed chutzpah. When I was a kid, growing up in NYC, he and I would dress to the teeth and "attend" movie premieres. We never actually had an invitation, you understand, and inevitably a security guy (usually NY's finest) would stop us and ask Dad who he was. "Bill Dietz," he'd say in a voice that suggested the cop should know. If the cop still held us back, my dad would add, "A friend of_____ (film's star or co-star). "Oh," the cop would say, "sorry Mr. Dietz."
I'd be this close -- extending arms and hands as far as they'll go -- to the movie stars I idolized (I wasn't allowed to ask for autographs, though).
Sometimes my dad and I even saw the movie :-)
A few years later (now college age), my friend Evvy and I would find out the dates of Broadway openings. We'd wait outside Sardi's (for those who don't know, or are too young, Sardi's is a Manhattan restaurant near the theatre district) until the cast and crew arrived. Then we'd mingle (the cast parties were held upstairs, on the second floor), eat some terrific food, wait for reviews, and say goodnight). Nobody ever asked who we were; they assumed we were members of the crew. It's all in the attitude.
So, what does that have to do with writing? (you ask)
Colorado Springs, where I lived before moving to Vancouver Island, hosts an annual writers conference. Even though I didn't have to pay for airfare or a hotel room, I usually couldn't afford the registration fee (or get time off from waiting tables). One year I joined a friend there early Sunday morning, for breakfast. My friend told me she'd met an editor who was starting a new romance line...
A few days later, I called the editor.
I'm a terrible liar. I mean, really terrible. In person my face turns crimson; on the phone I stammer. So, telling only the truth, I said, "I was at last weekend's conference, but you probably don't remember me" (especially since she'd never met me). I said I had a book that would fit her new line, and told her about it. I used an "elevator pitch" -- 30 words or less. She said to send 3 chapters and a proposal. I asked for her FedEx number. After a brief pause, she gave it to me - I could hear the smile in her voice. Exactly 10 days later (the fastest response I've ever had), she called and offered me a contract.
In honor of that occasion, I named one of my book characters Chutzpah (I'm not making this up).
And, I once told my daughter that the definition of chutzpah was getting in touch with Johnny Depp and asking him to escort her to the prom.
She "walked the dog" on that one!
Quote of the week: "Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions." Edward R. Murrow
[writing as Denise Dietz and Mary Ellen Dennis]