By Geralyn Ruane
His name is Bruce, and I didnâ€™t thank him. This past Saturday I received a white rose at OCC because a short story of mine has been accepted for publication. At the podium, I thanked every member of OCC and I thanked my fiancÃ© Ron who sat in the front row and took my picture. But I did not mention Bruce Kluger.
I could not have done it without Bruce, yet I donâ€™t much about him â€“ he has red hair, wrote for Playboy and used to like the Baltimore Colts. But without a doubt, our brief encounter put a spark in my life that wasnâ€™t there before.
Bruce is the editorial assistant for Marlo Thomas, the woman who is publishing my story in her book.
Hereâ€™s what happened:
Marlo Thomas is publishing a book of personal short stories called The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2. She was accepting submissions for stories about love and romance up until November 15. I sent in my story â€œJane Austen Meets the New York Giantsâ€ by e-mail on that Tuesday evening just before midnight New York time. Wednesday morning I got a call from a really nice guy who introduced himself as Bruce Kluger, who worked for Marlo Thomas. He said he really liked my story. Then he said â€œUnfortunately . . .â€
AHHHHH! What, was he just calling to say â€œNice try kiddo?â€ Had I missed the deadline? You mean this wasnâ€™t THE CALL? But I continued listening, as lifeless as a deflated balloon in the gutter.
Unfortunately, he said, my story read too much like a short story, and it needed to read more like a personal essay. Could I re-shape it without losing any of the feeling of the story? I could have until the end of the week. He said he couldnâ€™t even begin to tell me how to go about making such a change, but did I think I could do it? Bruce did offer to help me out by sending me a few of the essays that had already been accepted for publication in the book so I could see what he meant. I hung up the phone with the warm and fuzzy feeling that he wanted me to succeed.
But once I received the essays I was worried. I figured that most of my dialogue had to go â€“ but that was the heartbeat of the story. Yikes! So, I tried to make it more essay-like but I kept a tiny bit of the dialogue. Too much? Too little? Not essay-like enough? I sent off my best effort Thursday afternoon. Bruce e-mailed me Thursday evening. He said he loved what I did, but heâ€™d made some changes â€“ he said he put back in some of his favorite things that I had cut. He put back in the dialogue! I was so happy. He made a few other changes, making it more accessible to those who havenâ€™t memorized Pride and Prejudice. His changes were minimal and beautiful, and he did not step on my toes one little bit. He also wrote that he wanted to make sure Marlo liked it when he sent it to her on Friday. I TOTALLY felt like he was in my corner.
But I did not hear anything Friday morning. Oh, no – Marlo must have hated it! Late Friday afternoon, my fiancÃ© Ron came to pick me up from work. I got in the car and he handed me his cell phone. Bruce had called earlier but hadnâ€™t told Ron the verdict. I dialed. Bruce answered â€“ I was in!!!!!
In fact, when Bruce had called earlier, he and Ron had talked about football for a while then he told Ron the good news but told Ron not to tell me. Ron played his part to perfection and it was indeed Bruce who told me I was published. He said Marlo Thomasâ€™ immediate response to my story had been â€œExcellent.â€ I wondered why I hadnâ€™t heard earlier in the day if this response had been so immediate. Then Bruce told me that Marlo Thomas wanted to end the story two paragraphs earlier than I had ended it. Bruce had spent the day fighting for my two paragraphs – he had gone to bat for me. As it turns out, Marlo’s cut made the story even better.
No, Virginia, I donâ€™t think there is a Santa Claus, but there are people out there like Bruce Kluger who are even better. I have been a member of OCC for two and a half years, and I have heard some horror stories about the people in the publishing industry. Were any of you at the Dean Koontz meeting? As a best-selling author, heâ€™s accumulated a bunch of shocking stories about how heâ€™s been treated â€“ AND HEâ€™S DEAN KOONTZ! If a best-selling author can get knocked around, what chance do any of us have? So, sometimes, things can seem pretty dismal, and that maybe things suck over on the published side of the fence. But then there are people are out there like Bruce Kluger and Marlo Thomas. People who respect writing and writers, people who are a joy to work with. Maybe Iâ€™m being naÃ¯ve. Maybe I lucked out. But this much Iâ€™m sure of â€“ thanks to Bruce, and the knowledge that people like him exist, Iâ€™m not scared anymore.
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