This morning I spoke at the high school’s annual Career Day. It’s a good morning. The kids are bright and curious, though unaware; to most ninth graders, “job” means Dad or Mom drives away and comes back nine hours later. Terms like “rent” and “groceries” make their eyes go as blank as computer hard drives erased with a giant magnet. They don’t know from jobs. This naivete is why my husband has been able to convince our children that he’s a spy.
My nametag said “Author” to distinguish me from the chef and DEA agent. That’s good – I’ve done Career Day before, when the school needed a lawyer, and that wasn’t so much fun. What with my warnings that they might as well go on and get the tattoo that says “drone” because they’ll be billing 90 hours a week at the law firm, and all my talk of planning their escape from the legal profession – which should include a map showing the location of all guards and attack dogs – I think I sent half of them out of the room crying.
It’s much better to talk about lying for a living. The thrills, the disappointments, the need for imagination and a thick skin. They didn’t fall asleep. I even got a “Good job, Mrs. G.”
Afterward, another Career Person caught up with me by the coffee. He read my nametag and gave me a look that told me he was dividing the suits from the non-suits.
“Author. How nice. What do you write?” he said.
I got the feeling he wanted to add, “little gal.” Maybe he thought I wrote Betty Crocker recipes.
“Crime fiction,” I said.
His eyes popped. “No. Seriously?”
He nodded. “That’s nice. Good for you.”
Now I knew I wasn’t imagining it. He wanted to pat me on the head.
“Have you ever had any of these books published?” he said.
No. They’re all in my head. I’m here for Career Day because I make popsicle stick sculptures that I sell out of the trunk of my car.
No, that’s not what I said. Fortunately I’d brought props. I hauled out a copy of Kill Chain and laid him out flat.
I didn’t. But I wanted to. However, I thought about the kids, and the great questions they’d asked me. Should I copyright my short story before I send it out? Will publishers take material from a seventeen-year-old? How about collaborating on a novel with my brother, is that okay? And from a ninth grader: I’m writing a trilogy. How long will that take?
I loved it.
And I didn’t snark.