At home, Feng is the stats guy. The stereotype is true: Chinese are good with numbers—or at least, “my” Chinese is. I’ve seen him analyzing MLB stats for hours for optimal fantasy baseball strategies, a task you couldn’t even pay me to carry out if I had the slightest idea what these numbers meant in the first place. He can make sense of data, calculate a ROI, estimate a value and back this up with fancy Excel sheets and percentages. I think numbers inform most of his decisions, while mine are mostly instinctive or based on human psychology.
I wish I had hard data on hand to figure out if I stand a chance. Like, how many manuscripts do publishers receive every day? How many make a sound proposal? How many give a convincing pitch? How many writers can actually produce a readable, marketable and enjoyable story?
I know for a fact many people want to write a book but don’t have the opportunity or the time to do it. And I’ve also heard many writers try to pitch their books before it’s completed or even before starting to type the story—I doubt publishers take them seriously, unless they are already famous or lived a truly unique experience.
There is this guy who works at Starbucks all day. You can’t miss him—he brings a laptop and an old-fashioned keyboard and he spreads out his stuff on couple of tables—yes, he is one of these annoying customers, the kind you curse when you are standing around with your own drink, looking for a seat. I had the misfortune to grab the chair in front of him one morning when the shop was full and he told me all about his book for an excruciating twenty minutes. From what I understood, he found the secret to successful investing and he is writing about his unique knowledge without any background in economy whatsoever, he just “feels the money.” I guess money doesn’t reciprocate love because he can’t be bothered to buy a drink most days… Alright, I’m being petty. But let’s get pettier: I hope I pitched my book better than he pitched his.
I can’t do stats or calculate probabilities. I don’t know the market and above all, numbers make no sense to me.
Instead, I write stories in my head.
So far, I have three scenarios.
First, there is the French scenario. After being rejected for years and years but still deeply and passionately in love as artists are, but also broke as artists usually are, I write a letter begging the European Union to subsidize my book project. Because no one actually read my letter (it is open on a Friday afternoon, public servants are planning their weekend), someone grants me the money. However, the EU realizes its mistake after seeing the title on the blues—mon dieu, c’est de l’anglais! Indeed, following the Brexit, France successfully lobbied the rest of the European Union for a complete ban of English and the comeback of French as the language of the civilized world. As a former French citizen who writes in English, I’m charged for treason. My French passport is destroyed and I am deported back to Canada.
Then, there is the American scenario. After collecting rejection letters and debt collection final notices for years, I decide to give up on my dream and embrace a minimum-wage job once again. One night, I dump the manuscript in a recycling bin. However, that same night, a famous Hollywood publisher walks around the neighbourhood, desperate for some material to read while sipping a coffee at Tim Hortons. Intrigued by the thick stack of paper in my blue bin, she picks up a few pages and immediately falls in love with the story. She knocks on my door, flies me to Los Angeles, book me into a five-star hotel and I become rich and famous for a year before being shamed by the media over a minor scandal months later—the usual highs and lows of fame in North America.
And then, just in case you found the previous two scenarios a bit far-fetched (no, really?), there is the realistic, unmarketable option: absolutely nothing happens. I never hear back from my query letter or at best, I get a standard rejection letter and life goes on.
The lucky bamboo is sprouting two tiny branches.
I’ll take it as a sign I still stand a chance.