July 3, 2014

White Flag

One of the summer interns rapped on the door to William’s office, where the two of us had been waiting for him. “I have Richard for you,” she said. He was standing behind her, hands in his pockets, looking sharp in slim jeans, a pink checkered button down, and navy sport coat. It had been so long since I’d seen him in anything other than jeans and a tee that I forgot the kid knows how to dress, has a good tailor on speed dial, his seemingly inherent style the by-product of a blueblood upbringing.

“There’s the literary rockstar,” William yucked, standing and coming around the side of his desk to shake Richard’s hand. “You’re on fire right now, kid.”

“Thank you, William,” Richard said, a little bit bashfully. They knew each other from their time together at Literatti, but not well, and certainly not on a peer level. Richard’s sudden turn as hotshot writer had leveled the playing field between them.

William clapped him on the back and Richard turned to me. “Hey,” he said, leaning down and brushing his lips against my cheek. I stiffened, involuntarily, remembering what had happened in the pool just the other day.

I’d broken the surface of the water with a strangled gasp, pushing sheets of wet hair out of my eyes to see Richard, laughing, apologizing. I’d glided over to him, put my hand over his mouth, and said it was okay. There was surprise in his eyes as I pulled my hand away, arched up and kissed him. He didn’t even kiss me back at first, but then he was, intensely, swimming against me and pinning me between his chest and the edge of the pool. I wrapped my legs around his waist, could feel him, hard, and had something of a moment of clarity. What was I doing? Complicating things like this? Putting myself in danger of being hurt again? I’d pushed him off, shaking my head, muttering sorry, and climbed out of the pool. I collected my things to go and said I’d call him about setting up a call between him and the editors who were interested in the book. He didn’t try to follow me, and when I looked over my shoulder at him he hadn’t moved, was just staring at me with a mix of longing and sorrow on his face. I’d hurried off, going through the house, leaving a wet trail behind me.

“Ready for this?” I asked, with an encouraging smile.

“Guess so,” Richard said, with a shrug.

“This is the fun part!” William said. “You just get to sit back and let the editors tell you how brilliant you are, sell you on how they plan to make you a big fat success.”

The phone rang just then, and we all just stared at it for a moment, startled. “Want me to...?” and William nodded. I picked up, knowing it was Frank.

We exchanged pleasantries and then I put Richard on the phone. Good luck, I mouthed to him, before he put the phone to his ear. I didn’t even know why I said that. It wasn’t like he needed it.

William and I left his office, quietly, closing the door behind us to give Richard privacy. Immediately after Richard got off the phone with Frank, he was going to meet with Howie, in her boss’ office, and hop on the phone with Denise.

Frank had been able to come through at $600,000, which meant that at this point, Richard would base his decision on which editor he connected with most during these phone calls. One thing I find so fascinating about my job is how a handful of different editors can read a manuscript, love it, but have completely different takes on it. Completely different ideas about how to strengthen the story, about how they feel about certain characters. I felt confident Frank would have a much more nuanced take on The Five than Denise would, and that would sway Richard to go with Literatti, but I was still riddled with unease. Howie was resourceful and relentless—what if she had something else up her sleeve that I didn’t know about?

“Frank better fucking seal this deal,” William muttered under his breath, as we waited in the hallway.

“He will,” I said, firmly, even though I was just as worried as he was.

“Josie,” William exhaled sharply, his nostrils flaring like an angry bull’s. “You know how I feel about you. I will always stick my neck out for you. You’ve been the most loyal, hardworking assistant I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. But if Howie pulls this off, I may not be able to help you.”

I patted his arm. “I know. I understand.”

We waited in silence for the next twenty minutes. Finally, the door to William’s office opened and Richard peeked his head out.

“How did it go?” I asked, as William and I joined him in the office.

Richard nodded, excitedly. “Really well.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Like really well. Wow. He saw things about the story I didn’t even see. Themes he really wants to shine a light on. He even had an idea about adding an extra layer to the ending that I really like. I’m pumped to get back to work on this.”

William and I glanced at each other, giddily. “That’s so great!” I said. “I think Frank”—

“Knock, knock.”

We all turned in the direction of the world’s most obnoxious voice. Howie was standing in the doorway, sporting that smug smile that seems to be permanently tattooed on her face.

“Ready for me?” she asked Richard.

“Uh, yeah,” Richard said. He looked at me. “Where will you after this?”

“In the mailroom,” I said. “Just head out to reception after your call with Denise and they’ll call me to come meet you there.”

He nodded. “Okay, sounds good.” He shook William’s hand. “Good to see you.”

“Congratulations again!” William said. “We look forward to working with you, in whatever capacity that may be.” He shot a look at Howie.

Richard gave us a little wave and followed Howie out the door. Before he left, he looked over his shoulder at me and mouthed, Thank you.

--

I was sorting through a fresh pile of manuscripts, half an hour later, when the phone rang. It was the receptionist, telling me Richard was waiting for me in the lobby.

I hung up and hurried to the elevators. “Come on, come on,” I whispered, pressing the elevator button again and again even though I know that does nothing. I was dying to know how the call had gone with Denise.

I rode the elevator to the ground floor and hurried down the hallway, pushing the door open with a flourish. Richard was sitting on a couch, flipping through the latest issue of GQ.

“Hey!” he tossed the magazine on the coffee table.

I gestured for him to follow me outside, to the courtyard, where we’d have some more privacy.

“So,” I said, sitting down on a bench facing the fountain in the center of the property. “How did it go with Denise?”

“You know,” Richard said, “I thought I was sold after talking to Frank. I kind of went into the call just thinking I was doing her a courtesy, even though my mind had already been made up. But I actually liked her. She had some interesting ideas.”

I struggled to find my smile. “That’s great! It’s always good to have two great options. Most writers would kill for that, you know.”

“I know,” Richard said. He squinted overhead, as a bulky grey cloud slid in front of the sun. “They both gave me a lot to think about. But this is the thing...”

I swallowed, dreading whatever the caveat was. “What’s that?”

“Denise actually told me the Little, Brown offer is now $750,000.”

I swallowed again, forcing down the acid charging up my throat. “Wow,” I said. “Richard, that is incredible.”

“So now I don’t know what to do,” Richard said. “I actually really like Denise. And it’s not just that she’s offering me more money, but they have a huge budget to market this thing. And that could spell bigger sales down the line.”

“Little, Brown has an ace marketing team,” I agreed. “Though because Literatti is offering as much as they are, they would prioritize this as their book of the season. Their smaller titles might not get the same attention as Little, Brown’s do, but you’re on a different level and don’t have to worry about that.” That was all true—if Richard’s MS was only netting an offer in the low six figures, then yes, I’d say he might be better off with Little, Brown, especially if he liked Denise as much as he liked Frank. But Literatti reserves a marketing budget that is comparable to Little, Brown’s for their bigger titles, which The Five would certainly be.

Richard nodded. “That’s good to know.”

My phone buzzed. I looked down to see a text from William. My breath caught in my throat as I read it. Denise upped the pot to 750k, he’d written, which I already knew. But I didn’t know the thing he wrote next: The partners won’t allow him to take the Literatti deal, not with that much of a discrepancy between the two offers. I’m sorry, Josie.

“Josie,” Richard said, “are you okay?”

I closed out the text and even though I was splintering up inside, I held onto my smile for all my worth. “It looks like you don’t have to agonize over this decision after all. I think you kind of have to go with Denise.”

I explained to him how it worked, how when a book goes to auction it’s a beauty contest only to a certain point. If one party comes in significantly higher, the agency is going to want their client to take that offer.

“I guess that makes things easy,” Richard said, with a little laugh. “But this means you won’t be my agent then?”

“Howie will be,” I said, trying not to sound as agonized as I did over having to say those words. “She’ll fight for you. That’s what you want in your agent.” At least that was true. And I didn’t want to stand between Richard and what was best for him. I hadn’t even earned that opportunity either. Howie was the worthier opponent, as it turned out.

“And you wouldn’t?” Richard asked.

“Wouldn’t what?”

Richard put his weight on his elbow, leaning closer to me. His upper lip pitched steeply in the middle, the perfect little v. “Fight for me?”

I smiled, sadly. “Sometimes the right thing to do is not to fight.” I wondered if Richard had thought that same thing, right before he broke my heart.

45 comments:

  1. Hard to care since I despise Richard but thought it was good of Josie to tell him the pros and cons of both choices.

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    1. Shows responsibility and maturity on her part

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  2. I hope Josie still gets to keep her offer! It'll be interesting to see how this plays out

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  3. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO..... I am so not liking the fact that Howie "won" this battle. UGH. The writing is so good!!!!! I'm sad this is coming to a close. :(

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  4. That means Josie will return to NYC and probably go back to work at Literatti. This post being solely about work wad du and dull but at least ended this storyline and I'm guessing the idea of Josie and Richard being together.

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    1. Actually that's a great point! She could come back to Literatti at a high end position. And it'd be great for her anyway.

      Couple things I always wondered....Howie wasn't on their literature team. Didn't they sort of wonder how she got her hands on that manuscript? Also, this happened so fast - like they got the submission and the offer within a week. Did Richard sign anything with CWA? Who is to say he (say out of love for Josie and not wanting to screw her over) yanked it from CWA and went to another company and publisher all together?

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    2. I wondered the first thing too. Doesn't anyone else find Howie's relationship with the manuscript strange?

      Richard going through a third and unknown publisher, although a good twist, would be strange because the way it's presented, he couldn't get the same type of offer anywhere else. We'll see, I'd like that turn of events!



      http://poetsandheartbreakers.blogspot.com

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    3. This makes a lot of sense. I also wonder why, after she told Howie all of those great things about the book, Josie didn't just take the manuscript with her...she knew how cutthroat things were out there, she was nearly done! This story has had highs and lows, but has mostly been pretty good. I'm disappointed in where it is going.

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  5. I love Richard! Excited to see what he and Josie have in store

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  6. I still don't get why Josie didn't stand up for herself and tell anyone what Howie did.

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    1. Me too, but I think it was explained that she didn't want to come across as a tattletale and when Howie had the big $ that's what mattered anyway.

      That said, I would have at least told William.

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  7. Aww poor Josie. I think she did the right thing. Just hate that her job may be in jeopardy. Dying to see how this plays out.

    Lilysplaylist.blogspot.com

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  8. This this with Howie is killing me! I hate how conniving she is. She stole that manuscript! I've seen people comment on how much the want Josie to be hit with a little realism... That things can't always work in her favor. But as the "heroine" of this story, I want to cheer for her. It makes me so sad when things don't go her way. With her story wrapping up, as much as I appreciate realism, I want to see Josie succeed and be happy.

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  9. Like seriously? I can't believe the writer let Howie walk all over Josie repeatedly and not let Josie stick up for herself ONCE. Obviously Josie's character has been put through h--- during her time in California and now it's going to be for nothing? Not a great ending to an amazing story.

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  10. The ending of this post made me sad !

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  11. I have a feeling that this isn't over by a long shot. This is Josie we're talking about, no matter what she always gets out of situations like these unscathed. Something is going to happen and she will miraculously get the deal and save her job. I highly doubt Jessica is going to end the blog with Josie being jobless and manless. Someone is going to discover what Howie did and then she'll pay for her actions and Josie will come out of top.

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  12. This might be a moot point but why would Josie be explaining to Richard of all people Literatti's budget and marketing strategies? Richard was employed there longer than Josie and was a editorial assistant which means that he has more insight that Josie who was just William and then Frank's assistant? I'm guessing an editorial assistant would know what was going on with a particular book and how and whom it was being marketed towards.

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  13. I have to say these posts have been a white knuckle ride. I do hope that Josie prevails. I would hate to think that the blog and Josie's story ends essentially where it began: Josie at the bottom rung of the ladder careerwise and having just broken up with a boyfriend she thought was going to be a serious and possibly permanent relationship (at the beginning, Eric, at the end either Peter or Richard). I realize these things happen in real life--I know because I just got passed over for a promotion at work in favor of someone younger, less experienced and male (when I was, in fact FAR more qualified, I might add. So much for equality for the sexes.)--so often hard work and devotion yield nothing. Still, in a fictional blog, I want to see triumph for our heroine. I really hope Josie wins--I mean REALLY wins. Fiction like this IMHO is an escape from real life. The protagonist eventually gets the kudos, promotions, love, sex, fame, whatever, that we wish we had in real life. Josie has worked very hard and I don't think in this instance, she made a mistake. Howie took the manuscript when she should not have (as pointed out by the partner in the previous post); she broke protocol. Shark behavior like this often wins, but when discovered is still frowned upon. The MS should have been safe because it was out of Howie's purview and Josie was aced by a twist of fate, really. More than anything, I like evil to get a comeuppance in fiction since it happens all too infrequently in reality. I also would hate to see Josie prevail, however, because Richard bails her out and not because she worked hard. That kind of "win" is just as humiliating as failure in my mind and I would hate to see Josie's pride take such a hit when she has taken the high road in this particular conflict. As for men, I know that career really is Josie's desire, but for her to not reconcile with either Peter or Richard would also be quite sad. I read into these posts Peter distancing himself (telling J not to think so highly of herself) and a wall of mistrust between Josie and Richard because he ditched so cavalierly and don't see how these obstacles can be overcome storywise. I can hardly wait for Tuesday, but really--2+ years of reading this blog? Let's see a last second Superbowl-style big win. One for the fans...!

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  14. aw I was really hoping that this deal would come through for Josie. idk. But it seems like things will get interesting with Richard anyway!

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  15. Jess has set this up winningly! I hope she sees it through. It's like the final leg of the movie, the heroine has to lose it before she can triumph. Howie committed a fire able offense and this was well established for a reason early on. Call in before out, etc... Howie didn't just not call in she stole from another agent. In this company Josie is not suppose to worry about leaving a novel out for others to steal.

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    1. For this reason^, Howie is as good as gone. Eventually

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  16. These posts aren't even that good anymore. It's sad. I used to look forward to the blog but after this one I'm no longer interested.

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    1. I respectfully disagree. I think the posts are better than ever! Sometimes, you need time away from a piece of writing and with a strict twice a week schedule, it can be hard to regroup your thoughts. I've loved the blogs since Jess came back and it put Josie in a whole new situation, which makes it more exciting.

      cranberryvodka9.blogspot.com

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    2. Wholeheartedly agree! I was obsessed before, even more so now. Will miss it desperately when it's gone.

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    3. I am LOVING these posts and I can't wait to find out how it all goes down .

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  17. I miss Peter! I hope it's Josie for the win
    .. but I still want to see Peter as the "happily ever after".

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  18. Im hoping the editor josie mentioned when she first read the mamuscript comes through shortly at 7 figures. She has a hood eye. Although shes handling it professionally, heck yes i want to stick it to howie.

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  19. I don't know much about this industry, but if it weren't for Josie, it seems like the book would have only went for 250K. Josie's work TRIPLED the offer. Maybe Howie could have done that as well, but I don't think this is all necessarily bad news for Josie. Especially because, as many other commenters pointed out, Howie did not follow company protocol. Yes, she got the better offer, but how would an insubordinate agent be better for the company overall?

    cranberryvodka9.blogspot.com

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    1. If it weren't for Josie leaving the manuscript in a common area and telling Howie great it was, none of this would happen? Josie reaching out to her former boss and getting a higher offer and then having to fight to save her job is not a something to brag or be proud about. It's a slippery slope with Howie because the manuscript wasn't Josie's personal property, it was in a COMMON area and yes Howie took it and got an offer. Was it wrong? Absolutely but it seems that this is a cutthroat industry that only care about getting the deal done. I'm willing to bet anything that Josie will come out on top and get the deal and get the man and will live happily ever after.

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  20. OMG Jess! I waited all day for this! You never disappoint! Ever. But my heart is breaking for Josie. She's grown into an amazingly powerful, independent young woman! I was team Peter forever, I get that's not happening now, but I want so badly for her to have SOMEONE in the end. She's proven she can take on anything, time to take on real love. Pls make it happen haha! Thanks again for the wonderful stories!

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  21. I love these posts and I seriously can't wait for Tues and Thurs to come around! But with that said, I just have to point out something I find completely unbelievable, having worked in a variety of industries...that Josie could lose her job over this???? This was never presented to us as a scenario where the company only had room for one agent, Josie or Howie, and may the best one win. They are in different departments, different cities even, and there would be room for both. Josie has done very well here in just getting the book into a bidding war and let's not forget, this is her FIRST deal as a junior agent. You mean to tell me that CWA would invest in months of training and housing this promising junior agent, and then just let her go if she doesn't bring in the top offer on her very first job? That is too unbelievable! Howie may have proven herself to be more competitive than Josie, but that doesn't make Josie's efforts worth firing her over (especially when just a short while ago William said CWA desperately needed young female agents that they could trust to send to industry events). Not to mention, Howie is a branding agent, not literary. I don't understand CWA sticking a very hot writer with an agent in the wrong department...one who "didn't call in before she called out." I think a much more realistic scenario is that the partners would encourage Richard to take the highest offer, and maybe give Howie a bonus for bringing in Denise, but assign him to a senior agent in the lit department. Let's not forget these ladies are still "trainees" having not even finished the program yet. There's no way a company like CWA would be letting them handle a deal of this magnitude completely unsupervised. I know this is fiction and we just need to enjoy the ride! But I think all of us who have worked in offices know that William, Howie's boss, and the partners would be sitting everyone down and analyzing what everyone did right and everyone did wrong throughout every step of this deal, not just letting them wing it on their very first attempt at signing a client. The stakes are just too high, and if anything, this should have proven to the partners that BOTH Howie and Josie have potential to be top agents, they just both need some improvement and refinement in their techniques.

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    2. Agree - with everything. Maybe that's the hook here...we haven't seen the end of this particular drama yet. Let's hope that's the case, anyway.

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    3. Yep, agree with everything! And as much as I am enjoying the stroryline, since there isn't much time left on this blog, I would love to see more personal posts about Josie and her friends (Nina and Ashley) and of course her love life!

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  22. Agree, here. Howie is the wrong kind of agent. Richard would be assigned to someone else--quite likely William. And Josie did create the bidding war. I suspect Howie's boss would be just as much in hot water as William, if either are, because she didn't properly supervise her trainee to follow company policy correctly. Howie scored a win by bringing in Denise at Little, Brown because she was a friend, but it seems right that she may be both praised for that AND censured for not following proper company hierarchy. The last thing ANY company needs is strife from within and that is precisely what Howie created not only between herself and Josie, but between her boss and WIlliam.
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  23. The fact that Howie won this....totally ruined this blog for me

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  24. Yes agreeing completely with the posters above that Howie would be both praised and disciplined, if this were a real job in the real world. Not to mention, and I think this is a very important point- but neither Josie nor Howie would likely be on their own to make deals once they complete their training. In the real world, both would be shadowing or mentored by a senior agent with experience for at least a few months' probationary period. The stakes are too high with those kinds of dollar figures to have two inexperienced junior agents fighting over a new client. Personally I think Allison Emerson is going to be the wild card in this, and offer him a movie deal no one saw coming. Maybe Josie will end up leaving CWA and get involved in that.

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  25. I am so mad I really wanted to see Howie go down!!

    http://whiny-teenager.blogspot.ca

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    1. It's not over yet.....

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  27. Maybe howie will end up winning this bid but the catch is she had to stay in LA and they move Josie to NY and then Josie and peter foreverrrrr

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    1. I like the way you think!

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  28. I would like for Richard to take the deal, propose to Josie and them stay in LA.

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