Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Arthur: Paying the rent

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that people have a lot of misconceptions about writers. This is, I imagine, true about every profession, but most of the time we only really notice it about our own, because people ask ridiculous questions. Sometimes we realize that we ourselves hold these mistaken ideas when circumstances force us to move into a new industry.

Moving into a new life is something else again. When dropped into both Elizabeth's and Penelope's lives, I wound up with their jobs, and not only were there things I didn't know, but I wasn't going to be cut any slack for not knowing - Liz and Nell knew their jobs, so I was expected to. Some of what I've learned about being a television on-air personality has been kind of shocking, although it really shouldn't be.

Most of what the average person knows about sports and television is what we pick up by what we hear about high-profile things. We hear about deals being made for millions of dollars, we see movie credits which stretch on forever, and the people we can name in the industries are the most successful. I admit, when I first entered Penelope's life, I expected something a little cushier than I was getting.

Just being on television doesn't mean you make a lot of money. I won't get into figures, but what Nell makes for doing a twelve-game season of lacrosse play-by-play is about an order of magnitude less than what I was picturing in my head. It is not, I suppose, bad money for the few hours of work a week it would be for the real Penelope Lincoln - basically a day of work on Saturday or Sunday (maybe an extra day if it's an away game), a couple hours on Friday for a pre-show meeting, and some spare time during the week to do research. It would be a good second job.

Of course, I've been doing it as if it were my first job, and if I do that much longer, I'm going to have to start dipping into Penelope's savings to pay the rent, which I'm far from comfortable with, since I have yet to hear from her. I know from her note that she might be hard to contact for a while, so I can't ask much in the way of advice.

Fortunately, my first instinct for what to do in this situation is essentially correct - I went to see my agent. It had been a couple weeks since I'd talked to Drew, and it was worth the time just to touch base with him. Unlike in my life of a year ago, it was no trouble to get into see him: Having people think you're a girlfriend as well as a client means you get waved right in.

Drew was glad to see me, asking how my adjustment was going. I told him that what was throwing me most was that I had apparently inherited some sort of insanely healthy metabolism - I seem to get by fine on five hours of sleep most nights, and I just don't get tired easily. So, what could he do about helping me fill it?

He apologized to me for that. In some respects, he says, being an agent is like being a lawyer only easier: when he's on the phone or sitting across a table from someone now, they both want basically the same thing - he company wants to pay his client for his or her services; it's just a matter of finding middle ground. In most of his previous cases, he and the guy on the other side want opposite things. What is new for him is calling around to solicit work.

I get that, and remind him that he can shop me around as a writer, too. In fact, I've got an idea kicking around in my head about a murder mystery set in the world of sports broadcasting ("wow, you and your partner really don't get along, huh?"). I know it's hard to break into fiction, but a former pro athlete and current broadcaster might stand out from the slush pile. It could be a series!

"And when Nell takes her life back...?"

"I've worked as a ghost writer before."

"Well, I'll see what I can do, and if there's anything else that might be available for you. Speaking of available, what are you up to for lunch? On me and deductible as a business expense."

"Sounds good to me."


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