My daughter Sophie won't talk to me any more about novels. Even in her short lifetime, she has heard me say time and time again, "Oo, oo, I had a great idea for a novel today." She refuses to hear me talk about any more novel ideas (or listen to any first chapters) until I actually finish one.
So how's this? After I posted, "How to Write a Novel" last week, I picked up one of the fifty novels I've started these last 30 years and planned it out. I figure I have 50-100 pages of raw material already written, and my page goal is only 350. As an incentive, I'll post an excerpt from each week of minimal writing on Fridays until it's done.
So here's the first of, perhaps, 35 Friday posts?
... Perhaps not surprisingly, I picked the profession of champions for philosophy and English majors. I took a job at a local coffee shop. I would become a barista.
After the manager accepted that I would never show up consistently before 10am, it became the first real success story of my life. I had no problem with the ritual, mindless tasks of espresso creation. I actually liked it.
And I made a good coffee bartender. It was fine with me for the customer to do most of the talking, and I had a kind of whimsy that could lighten a tense moment. In a strange way, I think I was one of the few bright spots in the hum-drum, day-to-day life of these middle managers and university staff. It staggered my mind to think of how much some of them spent a year on lattes and Frappuccinos.
The café was always full of university students, at least during the school year. A coffee shop is like the church of the thinker and dreamer. Over time I came to classify them.
First there was the person looking for a relationship of a more Platonic variety. The vulgar classes had their Hooters, their sundry bars and dance clubs. But the thinkers came to Café d’Espoir to mate, where I was bartender.
Then there were the writers and readers. With the bookstore species on the endangered list, the readers brought their books with them, either in paper or electronic form. I could spot the budding novelist. I could see myself in the notepads and lap tops.
My preferred medium was the coffee napkin. I was always getting some idea for a novel in between espressos. It was my ticket to the imagined, dreamy life of a successful novelist.
I would have a log cabin where I could go and write on retreat. How about a castle? I would build a castle somewhere in the woods with a moat and everything. And I would need a yacht, along with a house on a lake somewhere.
I figure in the last ten years I’d written down ideas for at least fifty novels on those napkins. They were in a drawer in my apartment. A few had made it from napkin to the notepad. Less than ten had made it to my laptop...
... We had both grown up some by the time she walked into Cafe d'Espoir one day.
"No way, you have a job?"
"Very funny," I answered. "I actually own this store."
"Now that is funny," the Cafe manager said, not far away.
"Nice to see you too," I continued on, ignoring my manager. "May I offer you a latte, an espresso, maybe a little hemlock?"
"Socrates, right?" she fired back.
"Quite right. Don't get many orders for that one, surprisingly."
"A soy chi latte will do for today," she finally answered.
Next week, an excerpt from chapter 2.