The first day of writing class at New York University, my professor told us, “Only one of you will make it as a published author. Please change your major.”
I sized up the other kids in my class. None of them had the drive, life experiences or alcohol tolerance that I did — all things necessary for a great writer.
I appreciated that our professor tried to talk us out of wasting time, money and effort on dreams of becoming the next Stephen King, but I didn’t listen to her. I knew that once I found some free time, publishers would be knocking on my dorm room begging for me to sign with them. Then I’d go on tours and read at bookstores. Girls would ask me to sign their well-thumbed copies of my books as well as their boobs. Marvel Comics would ask me to revive their little-known character Deadpool (this was a few years ago).
I remember in one of my classes, a girl wrote a short story called “Blueberry Bridesmaids.” I thought it was a decent story, despite it not being about zombies, ninjas or guys chugging beers together. Some of my stories combined all three. This class taught me that short stories are really hard to write — mostly because they’re short. I’m used to writing as long as I want — aside from these weekly columns. On top of that, not everybody is interested in reading about awesome dudes feeling bad about being single.
Over four years of undergrad, I grew as an author. I interned at Marvel Comics, wrote a blog and worked at a public relations firm.
After graduation, I had more free time to write and was on my way to being the next great American novelist — no doubt about it. I stopped by the new fiction section at a bookstore to see my competition and get something new to read. I saw the title “Blueberry Bridesmaids.”
I picked up the book. It was a collection. I paged through until I found the title story. “Oh my!” I shouted, not sure of my emotions. “That girl copied her story from this book!”
My grades were mostly B’s in all my writing classes. “Blueberry Bridesmaid” girl for sure received an A, but she didn’t earn it. She stole it! I started paging though the rest of the book wondering what else she looted. Then I found the author’s page.
Oh dear me. That gal in my class didn’t plagiarize “Blueberry Bridesmaids,” she wrote it — along with an entire book’s worth of material. She was the one person who would succeed, not me and my stories about drunken ninjas fighting zombies. My 22-year-old heart was broken.
Well, I haven’t quit yet. None of my ninja stories have been published, but plenty of my other writings have. My craft is more polished now, and hopefully I can offer the world something worth reading.
I guess things may not work out the way you like, but they could work out in ways you don’t expect.
Read more Freeman: coloradodaily.com/columns. Stalk him: comfyconfines.wordpress.com