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The Book I Will Write by John Henry Fleming is a serial novel-in-emails about a would-be writer named John Henry Fleming who is desperate to publish a book. The Book I Will Write is a work in progress; readers are invited to make comments and influence the outcome. Up to this point, Fleming has been trying to establish a dialogue with a publisher to help him write his book. Now he gets a breakthrough personal email from Mary Ann Lankowski, the assistant to Senior Editor Roberta Hollymore at Knopf.

 

 

ANNOYING PERSISTENCE STRIKES A CHORD

Dear John Henry,

We’ve been contacted by many annoying, persistent would-be writers before, but there’s something about your annoying persistence that strikes a chord with me. Ms. Hollymore doesn’t know I’m writing this. She called me into her office and I stood over her shoulder and read your email in pretty much the pose you described. Except if anyone was repulsed, it wasn’t me, exactly.

You have to understand, Ms. Hollymore doesn’t really like writers. She’s annoyed by their calls and emails and usually by their books. When she reads for pleasure, it’s usually the books of a certain male writer she published early in her career who has since died. Sometimes I wonder if the main reason she likes this writer is because he’s dead.

By the way, she doesn’t like dogs, either, but she keeps the one you left her (was it you?) as a kind of trophy dog after she kicked her husband out for cheating eight years ago. The dog matches her purse. Am I being unkind?

I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this, except maybe there’s something I like about your voice. It’s expansive and irrepressible. I admire its boldness. Or maybe it’s your boldness I admire, but I don’t know you personally, so I can’t say that for sure. I guess I want to write to tell you not to be discouraged, even though you don’t seem like someone who ever gets discouraged—even when it’s probably in your best interest to get discouraged.

Anyway, I connect. I empathize. I wouldn’t mind seeing some of your novel sometime, and if there’s a way I can slip it onto Ms. Hollymore’s desk (assuming she doesn’t fire me first), I’ll do it.

Sincerely,

Annie Lankowski (Annie is what people call me, but Ms. Hollymore insists I use Mary Ann because she thinks it sounds more professional. She’s kind of an old-school feminist, more vigilant in these things than I could ever be. I respect that, but still.)