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Ike To My Tina
By Carrie Friedman

I lie on the kitchen floor. It's a crime scene without the chalk outline. My dog licks my face, then rests at my feet. He's familiar with this by now: it's part practicality, part drama -- the kitchen floor tile is the coldest place in my house (as our air-conditioner has a bloated sense of entitlement and turns off whenever it wants), and when the day gets me down, lying on the floor is the only thing left to do sometimes. A kind of damage control: I cut my losses by simply not moving.

I have just learned that my second novel has also, like the first, been rejected by every publisher in New York City. So, essentially, it feels like all of New York sent a memo saying: "Once again, we hate Carrie Friedman and everything she's ever done." Each novel took three years to write, and I've now watched both -- six years of my life -- get passed over.

Lying on the floor, I'm listening to the sound of my neighbor's construction workers riveting the unforgiving cement between our two houses. There's another sound too: that of my mind snapping like a bra-strap at a drive-in movie. Big tears used to roll down my cheeks when getting news like this. My heart would ache, felt like it was severing. But none of that is happening now, which concerns me. I just stare at the ceiling and notice a flaw in the ceiling tile.

As a sign that my hope was still alive and kicking, I used to stand in front of my bathroom mirror and practice the "author photo" that would one day be on the back cover of my Great American Novel. There was the happy smile with teeth, the serious smile without teeth, the 'I've lived a tough life' straight face, and the 'you caught me at a good time with really great clothes and makeup on' mock candid shot.

Now, I think about how foolish that exercise was. Now hope is flicking off me like crusty nail polish.

I am, like everyone else in Los Angeles, or the world for that matter, trying to find my piece of prosperity-pie or any-form-of-success-cake. Any kind of pastry of which you could carve me a piece will do. And I'm starting to fear I arrived too late to the party. All the pieces have been doled out, mostly to my friends and anyone on the street I happen to meet, and none are left for me. I will, therefore, be left with nothing but a lot of jealousy and a dog who licks my face. I will fall through the cracks, my biggest fear.

My resume of rejection is long. Before I wrote novels, I wrote screenplays. Ten of them, all rejected by agents, producers, everyone who ever saw them. Sure, there were notes, and glimmers of hope in the form of penniless options, or someone who knew someone who knew someone who might want to produce it. I've been a semifinalist, third place, honorable mention. Which is great, is something at least. I celebrated and cherished those. I've taken criticism, made changes, killed my darlings, swallowed my pride. And every time resulted in a big fat no.

I used to be an actress, so clearly I know how to pick professions that will maximize my heartbreak. Just as I used to have the distinct ability for deciding to date the one man who would stomp on my heart the hardest AND, added bonus, would sleep with my friends while doing it. What can I say? I have a gift.

My work has been rejected enough times that there are now recognizable stages to my grief:

The 'What the Hell Am I Doing With My Life?' stage, where I wonder if I will only ever be known to friends and family as the author of such memorable emails as "No Subject," and "Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Mothers Day."

You can't even call what I have a "career" since I've never made one red cent doing it.

"A writer writes," my husband always tells me. "Period. You're a writer. You put words on the page every single day of your life. You don't need to make money in order to be a bonafide writer."

Fine, except that I am shrinking under the crush of the 'You Haven't Made One Red Cent' stares, which are the hallmark of the Paranoia stage, in which I assume my in-laws and my husband's friends only see me as a money-sieve, a gold-digging, bon-bon-eating dependent who's sucking their son/brother/friend dry.

The next stage of my grief is depression, in which I lay on the kitchen floor. Everyone I know tries to cheer me up during this stage, in one of two ways: either they say a bunch of mean things about all the publishers in New York, or they regale me with wonderful stories of other writers who achieved phenomenal success only after a spate of rejections. The kind of stories that have the power to propel me another day, another year perhaps. The equivalent to talking me down off the proverbial ledge in my brain.

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