Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Prepare to Laugh Out Loud

Donald Maass writes the best books about how to write. He is also a hotshot literary agent. He is my hero---but then I found out he got his start writing (probably cheesy) romance novels. No one knows his romance pen name, so we will never know how good (or cheesy) they were. Here is my version of his salad days. I am sure it has no resemblance whatsoever to the truth, but it was fun as heck to imagine.

The Secret Life of The Donald: The Romance Version

Chapter One: Donald is cold and shivering, living over a subway grate on the mean streets of the city. A mustard and pickle stained McDonald wrapper flutters toward him driven by the icy wind. He picks it up, smells the spices in an ecstacy of hunger, then resolutely wipes it off on the knee of his torn and tattered jeans. He reaches into the paper bag on his lap containing all his worldy goods and pulls out a battered Bic. Donald starts to write his first novel on the back of that wrapper.

Chapter Two: Surprise! Donald realizes you cannot write with a Bic on a piece of waxed paper. He carefully folds up the wrapper for a future, as yet unknown use, and stuffs it into the paper bag. Wait! Bag... Paper... He upends the bag, discarding all his treasures, and slits it through the seams. He begins to write again on the smoothed over brown paper.

Chapter Three: Donald trudges off to Grand Central Station, where he is almost arrested for indecency as he shows off his pecs while washing away the filth of the streets in the public restroom. Using origami techniques, he fashions a shirt and necktie out of paper towels and toilet paper. The now spiffy Donald heads downtown, whistling a happy tune. He is a man with a plan.

Chapter Four: Our Donald stands in front of the door to the grandest publishing house on the planet. He is twiddling a piece of wrinkled brown paper. In his skillfull hands, it begins to take the shape of a bouquet of long-stemmed roses. His eyes light up when a certain woman approaches the door. He knows that face! Donald has done his research. It is the agent of agents in the romance writing world.

Chapter Five: When the woman is almost at the door, Donald springs into action. He sweeps the door open before her, bows, and hands her the paper bouquet. Tears fill his eyes when he sees her sniff the paper as if it held real roses. Such is his power to reshape mundane reality! He slips through the doorway right behind her.

Chapter Six: Donald can barely contain his excitement. This is the moment, the moment she will see that the rough brown paper is not merely paper, nor is it roses. It is what it is. But will she notice?

Chapter Seven: The black moment--she tosses the paper roses into the recycle bin, washes her hands, and disappears into her plush corner office, closing the door firmly behind her.

Chapter Eight: Donald is undaunted. He pretends to be the cleaning guy, collecting the trash and cleverly pocketing the brown paper bouquet. When no one is looking, he taps on her door and tangoes into her office. Really tangoes, paper bouquet gripped between his teeth.

Chapter Nine: "Who are you? What do you want?" she shrieks.
"Your dialog is cliched," the Donald admonishes. "I'd expect better from a pro such as you." Seizing the moment when her eyes widen in surprise and words fail her, Donald segues into his elevator pitch. He almost faints when her eyes reveal a twitch of interest. "Read it," he says as he sets the bouquet on her desk, unfolding it to expose his riveting first sentence.

Chapter Ten: "You want more, don't you. Much more." The Donald flashes his movie star grin. "Everything you've ever wanted from romance is right here. Buy it. You'll like it." She laughs. "Isn't that a cliche?" she chides. "Cliche, smishay. It is what it is. Admit it. Isn't this the wildest pitch you've ever experienced?" He pulls out his battered Bic, and she responds by flashing a contract. He leans in to sign it, but she puts a daintily manicured hand over the dotted line. "There's just one thing to do first..." she murmurs seductively. Donald arches a brow.

Surprise Ending: "You need a pen name," she says. "How about..." They both look down at the pen and the paper bag manuscript. "How about Bic Browne?" he suggests. "Rose Papiere?" she counter proposes. Unbeknownst to both of them, an elf is hiding beneath the desk. "Aha!" chortles the elf. "If I learn the secret of the Donald's pen name, my fortune is made!" Donald lifts the lady's hand, and writes. "It's the perfect pen name!" she exclaims as she swoons into his arms. "Auggghhhh," moans the elf. "Why did I never learn to read?"

The End


  1. Could any of these be his early attempts at romance novels?? Deb

    1 Nights Deception‎
    by Donald Maass - Non-Classifiable - 1983

    Frenchman Kisses‎
    by Donald Maass - Non-Classifiable - 1983

    Gentle Conquest‎
    by Donald Maass - Non-Classifiable - 1982

  2. I love it when someone finds a thing hidden in plain sight. That's part of the Katsuren theme, too.

    The rest of us were flummoxed by the pseudonym disclaimer, and here they are, under his own name.

    You are my hero!