Margie Gelbwasser challenged her writer friends to write outside of their comfort zone, which challenge I met head on with the following picture book story.
Manny, the Manuscript Who Wanted to be Loved
Manny was a manuscript in the slush pile of the noted children’s publisher, Books for Moppets and Wee Folks.
All the other manuscripts made fun of Manny.
“You’re in Comic Sans!” laughed a couple of chapter book manuscripts, dog-earing his pages and smudging his ink as they chased him around in the slush pile after all the interns had gone home.
“You’re amateurish and hackneyed!” jeered a vampire story.
“You’re a three thousand word picture book, fatso!” cried a clique of YA romances in their all-to-familiar harsh voices. “Plus, your title has a colon. What are you, an academic paper?”
Manny was so tired of being teashed, he left the slush pile and hid in the supply closet, hiding between a box of manila folders and a stack of office envelopes.
Why had his creator sent him to this awful place? He remembered the office in the basement where his creator had brought him to life, typing his words and illustrating his pages with colored pencils. Life was simple then. Manny felt like he was the only manuscript in the world that really mattered. Then his author sent him off, telling Manny that he might spend a few lonely days on an editor’s desk, but then he would be read, and something magical would happen: the editor would turn him into a book.
It could still happen, Manny thought as he drifted off to sleep. One day he would be a treasured book in the hands of a child. It would happen.
He woke up to a noise. Interns were shoving boxes around, talking excitedly. What was going on? He perked up his ears (he had many, thanks to rough treatment earlier) and heard the words “no longer taking unsolicited manuscripts,” and “disposable copy.” He didn’t know what any of that meant, but when he peered out of the closet he saw the manuscripts in the slush pile being shoved into boxes and then stacked up on a dolly and carted away, their SASEs stuffed with slips of paper and tossed into a different box.
He had to do something. He ran out into the hallway as the last dolly being wheeled into the freight elevator. He sneaked in just before the door closed and rode down with it. They came out in the sub-basement, where the boxes of paper were set in the corner. There was an incredible, frightening noise, like nothing Manny had ever heard.
“Just shred them all,” he heard someone say. “Then send the shreds to the recycling center.”
Manny panicked, thinking about all the helpless manuscripts and all their lonely, worried creators. He had to help, but didn’t know what to do. Then he remembered what happened once, when he was only a partial draft. His creator had been working, pushing and prodding Manny to grow, when everything suddenly went black. When Manny woke up, his creator explained that the computer cord had been pulled out by mistake.
The cords on things made them work! Manny saw the big cord to the big machine, which disappeared behind it and went into the wall. He jumped over to it and pulled with all his might, but he wasn’t strong enough to remove it.
Instead, he climbed the cord to the very top of the machine, picked up a loop of the cord and coiled it around himself. Then, without another thought, he leapt into the machine. He felt himself being ripped apart. Then the cord got caught in the blades of the shredder. There was a sound like lightening and a flash, and the machine went silent.
“Look at this,” said a kind voice as Manny’s mangled pages were pulled from the machine. “It’s a heroic little manuscript who tried to save the others.”
He was laid out gingerly on a desk, repaired with tape and glue, and he looked up to see the warm, intelligent eyes of an associate editor.
“Manny, you may not be much of a manuscript,” she said, “but we’ll commission a ghost writer to tell your story, and you’ll be the hero of very your own book.”
Manny smiled, took a deep breath, and said: “I need to talk to my agent.”
– The End –