July 1, 2014

A Room without a Roof

I rang the doorbell and waited. And waited. I pressed my ear up against the door and listened for the sound of voices or footsteps. Nothing. I held the doorbell down, longer this time. Still nothing.

"What the fuck, Richard," I muttered under my breath. I'd driven out to his friend's place the second I'd received Howie's email, informing me of Denise's new offer (Thank you, Nina, and Google Maps, for helping decipher the address. If I lose my job maybe I can go work for TMZ and stalk celebrities out here.). Agents are supposed to keep their clients abreast of every single offer—and even every rejection—as they come in, and I wanted to be the one to deliver the good news that the initial offer had more than doubled. On the the drive over, I'd called Frank.

"This manuscript is a hot commodity," I'd said, brightly. "And what do you know? Your offer generated even more heat!" I held on to my perkiness even as a tricked out Rolls swerved into my lane and cut me off. I leaned on the horn and flicked the driver off. He actually smirked at me in his rearview mirror, and the rage was so great I saw spots.

"Josie!" Frank said, sounding exasperated. "Did you hear me? I asked how much more heat?"

"Frank!" I laughed lightly, pinning the phone between my cheek and shoulder so I could give that motherfucker the double finger. He gave me a snotty little wave before peeling off. It took every ounce of strength I had not to go on an expletive ridden tirade and instead say, with dignity, "You know I'm not allowed to say." When you have a pre-empt offer, like Richard did from Little, Brown, you’re technically not supposed to shop that offer by telling other publishers explicitly what you have and who gave it to you. It's okay to be vague and indicate the level a competing publisher needs to be at in order to play in the game, but it's strongly frowned upon to talk numbers.

Frank sighed. "I might be able to dig up another 50K more. Will that do it?"

"Dig deeper," I said, hoping I sounded like I was doing him a favor, and not the other way around. I needed Frank to believe that I had gotten the better offer, not a colleague of mine who was vying for my job, and that I just really wanted him, my old boss, my gruff, reluctant former mentor, to be the one to get this book. Yes, it was true that I did want Frank to have it, and I genuinely did believe he was the better editor for it over Denise, but my job also hinged on it.

This was my rough plan: If I could get Frank to 600,000, this thing would go to a bidding war. Frank and Denise would have to come back with an even better number than $600,000—and it wouldn't have to be much more, even thirty thousand would do it. Because once you're in bidding war territory, it's not necessarily about the number anymore. It becomes a sort of beauty contest between warring editors. I'd set up a time for Richard to speak to Frank, and Howie would set up a time for him to speak to Denise. Both editors would try and sell him on why they were the right man (or woman) for the job. As long as both Denise and Frank came in with comparable offers, the decision would ultimately fall to Richard, based on who he connected with more. The writer doesn't necessarily always go with the highest bid—sometimes the lower-bidding editor has a better marketing team or strategy, has netted a certain number of New York Times book reviews for his list of writers, or just gets the characters in a way the higher-bidding editor doesn't. I felt strongly that Frank, or an editor at Literatti, which boasted a more literary list of authors than Denise did at Little, Brown, was the right place for The Five. But because Little, Brown is so much more commercial than Literatti, they have deeper pockets. And if Richard connected with both Denise and Frank, the deciding factor would be who offered him the higher bid, which would likely be Little, Brown.

I was just about to give up and drive back to the office when I heard a laughter from behind the house. Curious, I crept along the edge of the property, which sloped down steeply before leveling out into the backyard, a small pool anchoring its center. Richard was sitting in a lounge chair, next to a woman who looked vaguely familiar but who I couldn't immediately place. She had a short, peroxide blonde pixie and she was wearing Dr. Marten boots even though it was almost ninety degrees out.

"Richard!" I called, so startled to see him that it came out ear-piercingly shrill.

Both Richard and the peroxide pixie chick swiveled in their chairs to look at me. Richard shielded his eyes with his hand and squinted. "Josie?"

"Where the hell have you been?" I demanded, starting down the steep incline to the backyard and realizing, too late, that it wasn't really walkable. I stumbled a few feet, caught myself while shrieking some gibberish combination of "Holy shit" and "Oh my God" (result: "Holy my shit." Brilliant.), then lost my footing again. My legs shot out straight in front of me, and I slid the rest of the way down the hill on my ass.

"Josie!" Richard half exclaimed, half laughed, jumping up from his the lounge chair and hurrying over to me. His face was pink from trying not to laugh too hard and mine was purple with humiliation. "You need to go through the house to get out here," he said, giving me his hand to help me up.

"Well, you weren't answering the door," I huffed as I stood, brushing dirt and leaves off my ass. I strained to look over my shoulder and saw that my favorite black work "slacks," as Nance always calls them, were caked in mud.

"Sorry," Richard said, "I didn't realize you wouldn't be able to hear the doorbell from out here. What are you doing here? How did you even find me all the way out"—he stopped and laughed. "Nina."

"Nina," I confirmed. I pinned my shoulder blades together and tried to recover my agent cool. "Anyway. I need to talk to you! You are never going to believe the offer that"—

"Wait," Richard said, sharply. "I want you to meet my friend first."

Richard led me over to the manic pixie looking girl and gestured to her. "Josie, this is Allison Emerson."

"Hi, Josie," Allison smiled, and I instantly knew who she was, because everywhere from Time to Variety to Forbes has profiled her over the last year. She was the daughter of Gary Emerson, billionaire studio exec, who, at twenty-eight years old, had started her own production company that has produced some of the most daringly visionary films of the last few years: Her, True Grit, and Zero Dark Thirty.

I mumbled a tortured hello, wishing I could melt into the earth. I couldn't believe freaking Allison Emerson had just witnessed me bite it down the hill, shrieking like a banshee, the picture of elegance and grace.

"Well," Allison said, and reached for her vintage Goyard tote slumped on the lounge chair, "I should be going. I've taken up enough of your time already."

"I'll walk you out," Richard said, and Allison shooed him away.

"I can see myself out," she said, and stood up on her tip toes to kiss Richard on the cheek. "Good to see you. I'm so proud of you."

Richard and I waited for her to climb the stairs to the back entrance of the house and shut the door behind her before speaking.

"How do you know"—I started at the same time Richard said, "I know Allison from..." We both stopped and laughed, awkwardly. I gestured at him to go on.

"I know Allison from high school," Richard said. "Her father is a friend of mine. Fortunately, she knows my father is an asshole so she doesn't base her opinion of me on what he says about me."

I brushed more dirt off my ass. "I can't believe you're friends with Allison Emerson."

"Well, I haven't spoken to her in almost ten years. But I just thought, why not send her the manuscript? See if she would be interested in buying the film rights?"

"Richard!" I said. "That's your agent's job."

Richard glanced out at the pool, winking turquoise beneath the mid-afternoon sun. "I'm not really sure who my agent is, Josie. Is it you? Is it William? Is it this Howie girl?"

"I know it's a little confusing right now," I said. "But who your agent is depends on who gets you the deal that makes you the most happy. So it could be Howie or me, it's up to you."

"Do you even want to be my agent?" Richard had been wearing sunglasses, but now he slid them on top of his head to study me closely. "It's like you can barely stand to be around me."

"I could put our personal differences aside to"—

Richard rolled his head back and groaned. "Fuck that. Don't agent me like this. Just talk to me like I'm Richard, and you're Josie."

"I want what's best for your book," I said, quietly, "I think I'm it."

Richard regarded me quietly. "I think you are too."

We stared at each other, meaningfully, for a few seconds before it became too much for me to handle. I cleared my throat and smiled. "Can I finally tell you why I'm here now?"

Richard reached out and picked a twig out of my hair. "Besides to make the grandest entrance I've ever seen?"

I gave him a little push on the chest. "Don't make fun or I won't tell you."

"Tell me what?" Richard asked.

"I think your book is going to go to a bidding war. The pot is up to $600,000 right now."

Richard didn't blink for so long I waved a hand in front of his face. "Did you hear what I said?"

Instead of answering, Richard scooped me up in his arms and let out a loud whoop. Everything happened so fast that I didn't even have time to scream—Richard's foot caught on the leg of the lounge chair and he stumbled closer to the pool. He teetered on the edge for what felt like a moment frozen in time before he fell in, taking me with him.

I didn't know what Frank would come back with, or if I'd end up as Richard's agent after all. All I knew is that I'd never seen Richard so happy, and it made me so happy it scared me.



Just a note: Thursday's post is probably going to go up a few hours late. I'm headed to Nantucket for the holiday weekend, and it takes a series of planes, trains, and automobiles to get there, during which I will be writing but will likely not have Internet access. I'll post and also tweet out as soon as I get out to the house and hooked up to the Wifi!

44 comments:

  1. Can I just say that I hate the Josie went to Richard with all this info? She said in the last post she didn't want him to bail her out but there she is. And of course Nina knows exactly where he is all that info but he couldn't talk to Josie in all these months. Not a text, email or anything. I wanted Josie to get this deal on her own, not by reaching out to Richard.

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    1. Seriously? Good grief.

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    2. Hey when the gloves come off the only way out is to fight dirty like this. She's in the do or die spot for her job.

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    3. I actually just put a line in there to clarify—agents are supposed to keep their clients abreast of every single offer or even rejection, so it have been a case of Josie not doing her job if she hadn't looped Richard in.

      Happy to say that I am speaking from personal experience!

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    4. Yes seriously. Can this girl do anything on her own or does she always need a man bailing her out? I liked it better when Josie was a strong, independent woman doing things on her own.

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    5. Thank you for adding that line. However, I don't feel Josie went to see Richard because it was a part of her job. She went there to plead her case and try to get him to sign with Literatti and save her job. There was no motive on her part. Josie started out as this strong woman who had the drive and motivation to achieve greatness on her own. However these past few posts have shown that she didn't get laid off because Richard sacrificed himself for her (which doesn't go with the storyline or previous posts but whatever), is careless (leaving a manuscript that she knew had potential in a common area), will use someone to get what she wants (getting Peter to have the IT people break into Howie's email) and now going to talk to Richard. Her motive wasn't work related but to get him to go with her deal. I feel that Josie has been taken from being an independent woman to becoming like another poster said dependent and weak. I'm all for her career flourishing but it has to be because of her personal achievement and work not by falling back on others. I know the blog is ending but let's not make Josie into someone weak that's dependent on a man, in this case Richard for her job.

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    6. When I wrote this it was coming from a place of Josie being excited to deliver the good news that Richard's MS had fetched $600,000 (which, btw, isn't even Josie's deal...if anything she's getting him excited about a deal that could get her offed). She's been careful to be neutral—to not tell Richard about the competition and friction between her and Howie or that if he goes with a deal that Howie secures she could be out of a job—because she wants Richard to choose the deal and the editor that is best for him. Interesting that you read it differently, but I just don't see that as being dependent on him. If that were the case she would air everything to him and capitalize on the fact that if he knew that her job is riding on his decision, he would obviously go with Josie. If she becomes his agent, she wants it to because she got the better deal and the better editor for him.

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    7. There's a few people who complain every time now since your hiatus. I think they have self loathing for being so rude and yet coming back to still read every new post. They're really mad at themselves and need an outlet. Your writing is great ignore the haters Jessica

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    8. I appreciate you responding Jessica. I understand where you are coming from but I guess my perspective is based on the past few posts. I don't get the sense that Josie was excited that Richard has a $600k deal on the table, maybe I'm the only one? That line was added after the fact. It doesn't make sense that Josie will go over there to share the happy news that his manuscript offer was up to $600k. I'm sure Richard knows that there is friction between her and Howie, especially from the coffee shop meeting. He knows that they are both competing to be his agent. I'm sorry but I don't see this as altruistic at all. All Josie is cared about is saving her job, she made that clear the past few posts. Now she wants to share the good news that he has $600k offer? I think it's a clever ploy to get Richard to go with her. That's my opinion and I'm guessing I'm in the minority here. With that said, I admire your writing skills and this blog. Regardless of whether I am right or wrong, I feel strongly about these posts because I am so invested. That's a testament to your writing ability:)

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    9. I really should be prepping for a meeting right now but I am engaged. I see what you mean but in my mind it's just a combination of factors—the MS is good and Josie wants it, and not just because Richard wrote it. But she also cares about him and doesn't want to see him or the manuscript bulldozed by an editor at a big commercial factory, which is what would happen if he went with Denise. She's certainly not 100% altruistic, she wants what's best for her, her job, and for Richard.

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    10. I'm glad we can discuss this in an adult manner. I agree with you. Josie definitely saw potential in the manuscript from the beginning. Unfortunately that snake Howie stole it. I think Josie was surprised that Richard wrote the manuscript and was hell bent on getting him or whomever the writer was the best possible deal because she saw so much potential. I feel that Josie knows that if need be she can get Richard on her side. If it were a perfect stranger it would be totally different. I'm sure the upcoming posts will shed some more light on this situation and regardless of how it turns out I'm definitely a fan. I want Josie to be successful in all areas of her life because she deserves that. With that said, I totally get your point of view. I, too, would like Richard to chose which publishing house is best for him without any outside interference. Even though I personally don't like him, he does deserve some type of happiness. Everyone does.

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    11. Thanks Jessica, for giving your perspective. I think it really helps add something to the story

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    12. Ummm I don't think that's Jessica. When she makes a post it has her picture not a symbol. She is also a bit more abrasive and opinionated (no offense). I think this is a troll, or whatever you call them.

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  2. I can't wait to see what happens next! I'm impatiently waiting for Thursday. Keep up the great work!

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    1. Agreed. All these fine lines between doing her job and relying on Richard, I think, makes is an interesting situation and a lot of fruitful discussion. I wonder if she'll become his agent or if she'll be single in the end, but I'm hanging in there!

      http://poetsandheartbreakers.blogspot.com

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  3. I really like the last post. Which has made the whole getting back together with Richard story line even worse. I want a single Josie working on her career at the end.

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    1. Why couldn't she be with the man she obviously loves AND working on her career at the same time? I'm not understanding why it's an either/or. It would be one thing if the manuscript that was sent was sh*t and she was working hard at securing a deal for him because it was him, but it wasn't and she didn't know it was written by him until the day he was meeting with Howie in the coffee shop. And clearly it was good enough for two agents-in-training to recognize it and get a bidding war going. That IS working on her career. Maybe if you take the word Richard out of it, you'd see that.

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    2. There is nothing wrong with being with someone and a career. If there was time to introduce a new guy that would be great. But she shouldn't settle and that's what she would be doing if she went with Peter or Richard. Which is why I said to be single.

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  4. Good post but I feel like this book bidding war is dragging out way too long........

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  5. Ugh this is torture! But I bet Josie ends up as his agent.

    Curious to see how Peter feels about all of this..

    http://tragedytwentysomething.blogspot.com/

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  6. I love Josie and Richard together!!

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  7. I'm probably the only one, but I don't like Richard. I think he has a lot of maturing to do.

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    1. You most certainly aren't the only one! I would love to see them end up as friends but nothing more. Looking forward to finding out how it ends either way though.

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    2. No-not the only one at all. I am not a fan of him either. Even though he has come a long way, he still is not mature enough for a serious relationship. This post also has me wondering if there is a little more than appears between Richard and Allison...

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    3. Not the only one at all. I actually find it disturbing that we are supposed to root for the guy who yelled at and made Josie cry because she didn't want to have sex with him. I'd be telling a friend to run far away from a guy who did that to her.

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    4. I agree with you. I would be happy with Josie striving in her career and being single. I think she is settling by choosing either Richard or Peter. She and Peter are at different points in their lives. He's ready to get married and have a few kids whereas Josie is focused on her career and establishing herself first. Richard is too emotionally unstable and there is the possibility that when Josie needs him, he'll bail on her again. I'm sure that there is a man out there that would be the perfect fit for her, but she hasn't met him yet. No need to settle at 26-27 or any age for that matter!!

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    5. Nope, not a Team Richard myself. I say Peter or nobody FTW. I'd never let a guy treat me like Richard did, and I think Josie could do much better. Peter has treated her really well, showed her she's special, BUT they are in different places in her life.

      I think that Allison will make more appearances. I mean, why not if she's mentioned, right?

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  8. I am ready for a love post about Richard and Josie!!!

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  9. Just an FYI if the comment doesn't have Jessica Knolls' photo by it then its probably not Jessica Knoll.
    It's really annoying and rude to comment to LSP's readers pretending to be someone else, please stop.

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    1. Chris - @nylonlover69 on TwitterJuly 1, 2014 at 4:27 PM

      Ya think? Could it be that Jessica is posting from her phone and that shows up differently? And how nice to call her out when you can't even bother to put your name beside YOUR post!

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    2. Actually I know, not "think" trying clicking the name of the fake account takes you to a profile with views and friends that are completely different than the profile the l actual posts are coming from.
      And seriously relax, here's my name, so you can take that stick that is clearly bothering you out of your ass. ;)

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  10. Yayyyyy!!! I loved this post! I'm so happy there is a possibility that Josie and Richard could be together again! I think they both fit very well together, so Im really excited for the next post! Thank you Jessica :)

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  12. Meant to just say: *Great* writing, Jessica! Love the realism, the drama, Richard and Josie's relationship growth pains...all of it! I think it's fantastic, and thanks for the entertainment! Good luck in all your endeavors, and in Life itself...take care.

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  13. I swear this blog receives the most criticism. Every post there is a dozen people who have something negative to say. Lighten up people. Better yet why don't you just stop following and write your own blog. Big emphasis on the stop following. Jess I don't know how you take it because this isn't even my work and I get offended for you.
    Atti

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    1. You clearly don't know the difference between debating different ideas and criticism. NO ONE IS CRITICISING JESSICA'S WRITING!!! Instead making such a statement read the comments and the rationale first. No need to be rude and tell readers to stop reading BECAUSE THEY DISAGREE WITH JOSIE'S CHOICES and start their own blog. Why don't you STOP READING THE COMMENTS, if they upset you so much. Clearly you're the type who doesn't question anything and goes berserk if someone disagrees with you. WHY don't you GROW UP and STOP GETTING OFFENDED if someone has a different idea than you OWN. All of the comments are on the blog content. I DON'T GET WHAT YOUR PROBLEM IS.

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    3. How is criticizing everything in the story arch not criticizing the writer? Since the hiatus and the story moving away from Peter and back to Richard, some people are criticizing every aspect. If the story doesn't count, how do you criticize a writer? The editor is in charge of spelling so... Pretty sure it's the story. And it's very hypocritical- there have been a ton of things throughout this narrative you could say would never happen and that's the point of fiction so it's cool, the fact some people are doing it now is not cool. And just to be clear, not liking a character is not what I'm talking about, it's the "that wouldn't happen" whining that I am. It's so transparent

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  14. Really like the post! Thumbs up for that! Cant wait to see how the whole thing rolls.

    I can understand where Richard is coming from. Though there were alot of comments about him being an insensitive jerk, I do think Jessica is slowly giving us insights of him with all the little stories here and there.

    On the other hand, knowing that the story is about to end soon really is saddening!

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  15. Richard and Josie are such a bad fit. Even though I am Team Peter, I'm glad they aren't gonna end up together. Josie is immature and selfish and doesn't deserve Peter.

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