By The Reverend Mrs. Silence DoGood
When I received the letter from Eliot, Eliot & Holden saying that they wanted to publish my book I naively thought that the process would be simple. I had given them a collection of my sermons and Letters to the Editor with a suggested title of “Recipes for Overcoming the Fear of Living and the Fear of Dying.” But that naiveté was quickly corrected by my Editor, Ms. Emily Thatcher, a British girl in her early 20’s dressed like Coco Chanel. She told me what I had to do to turn my loose collection of material into a “systematic zeitgeist” or world view. I used to think that having given birth to my two children was the most painful task I would have done in my life but that was before I met Ms. Thatcher.
Mr. Eliot had introduced me to Ms. Thatcher at our first and only meeting and then he left. It was eminently clear that he had confidence in her. As she and I sat in a small wood-paneled conference room with an oversized chandelier she quickly told me that it was she who convinced Mr. Eliot to work with me. She made it quite clear that my writing career depended on her.
My first homework assignment from her was to identify universal themes in my sermons and Letters that could be used in my book to help readers overcome their fears of living and dying. After a great deal of thought I came up with what I thought was a perfect theme.
Listen to the Wind When the Bells Don’t Ring
“What does that mean?” she asked in a high-pitched British condescending voice.
“It is a beautiful phrase. I think it is almost self-evident. Bells are the work of men and women. They are most often rung by churches but they are also rung by other institutions. The wind on the other hand is Nature and everything that is not made by men and women. There is truth and revelation in the wind. It redeems.”
“It sounds to me that you want to tell your readers to find truth outside of church.”
“Weekly my parishioners spend about an hour and a half in Church. The rest of their lives are spent in the world. At my Church I preach to help my congregation find strength in the world to overcome their fears.”
She quickly changed the subject. So I didn’t know then if my universal theme met with her approval or not. I still don’t know. And what I also don’t know is whether she will decide or if she has to discuss it with Mr. Eliot. Maybe over cocktails. Birthing a book is very difficult.
She changed the subject to my new homework assignment.
“You realize that in our culture there are universally accepted quotations that reference our common human experiences. Some come from speeches, literature, plays and of course movies. I want you to write lines in your book that become a standard quotation in our culture.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“In the movie On the Waterfront Marlon Brando says ‘I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody instead of a bum which is what I am.’ People in this country and around the world quote those lines. Especially ‘I could’ve been a contender.’ I want you to write lines as quotable.”
Aghast! It’s not a word I use very often but I was aghast at her directive. Was it her intention that my book become a best seller by being quotable? Or was it that she wanted to be the editor of a book that was universally quoted so that when she was on the “Talk Shows” she would become famous?
I told her that I understood her request. I also told her that I had to go back to my home in the bucolic-farming hamlet of Halo, Pennsylvania where I would continue my writing. Somehow she and Midtown New York weren’t supporting my creativity.
The Reverend Mrs. Silence DoGood
Choir Master (part-time)
The First Church of God’s Love