I was so impressed, I shared it on Facebook.
No, I was not impressed. But today while I was sitting there in Starbucks again, working on Max's book, he was back, a rolled up manuscript clutched in his hand, and he approached me again, this time with an obvious mix of excitement and Oh My God I'm Going To Barf painted on his face.
Would I please read his book? The only other people who would read it like him too much to give him an honest opinion.
It was twenty pages of double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, maybe 8,000 words.
Twenty minutes of my time.
So I said sure, with the caveat that I would be honest enough to hurt his feelings, and he gushed that he would walk over to Taco Bell so that he wasn't breathing down my neck, because he hated it when people did that to him.
I was grateful for that, because I hate it, too.
I expected very little from it. I mean, the kid thought he was writing an entire book when what he had was a short story at best. It wasn't even a long short story. And the vibe I got from him...well, I just didn't expect a lot, but it wasn't going to cost me anything to read it.
Thirty seconds after he bounded out the door, I was hooked.
I raced through it, sucked into the story so quickly that I was afraid I had missed something, so I went back and read it again.
His short--a story about a teenaged boy living in a world of black and white, whom everyone thinks is mentally challenged but in reality is gifted and sees the world in color--was exquisite. The narrative was tight but not so tight that it choked the wonder out of the way he wove his words together, and it was so lyrical I could practically hear the music in each syllable.
I had very little to say to him on the critical front when he returned. He wasn't upset to be told that he did not, in fact, have a novel, but a short story. He didn't mind that I pointed out the misspellings and typos. He accepted everything I told him graciously and seemed excited when I told him I thought it was a phenomenal basis for a full length book, or that it would be the shining star in an anthology if shorts are what he really wants to write.
Just keep writing.
When I originally mentioned his initial approach to me on Facebook, it started a little bit of a conversation. I mused that anyone who got through high school English should know the difference between a short story, a novella, and a novel.
I still think so.
But this kid got through high school and had no clue; why, I don't know. It's less an indictment of him than it is schools today, I suppose, but the truth is that he has an enormous talent, and I was given the opportunity today to get a glimpse of it.
Truthfully, I don't usually enjoy it when people ask me to read their work; there's a burden of expectation I loathe, and 90% of what I do read is fairly horrible and I have a hard time finding nice things to say to cushion the inevitable this-sucks-really blow. Of the other 10%, half of what I'm asked to read is largely outside of genres I'm familiar with, so my judgement isn't the best, even though I know a decent story when I see it.
But this one? I'm very glad I said yes.
And I hope he keeps writing and has the nerve to start submitting his work for pay.
I had to leave after that, because honestly, what I was writing felt inferior to what I had just read, and I didn't want to push that out of my head for a while. The rewrites on Max's book can wait until tomorrow.