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Deborah Prum

Deborah Prum

How I Almost Ruined My First Freelance Job

Deborah Prum
September 7, 2010

One evening, I was supposed to meet my husband and his colleagues at a fancy restaurant downtown. Before I could leave the house, I needed to prepare dinner for my three sons.

I answered the phone. A cultured voice said, "Hello, my name is Maxi Strauss. I'm with Parent's Home Circle." (named change, think well-known magazine.)

Oh no. Someone trying to sell a subscription. I was about to hang up, but I remembered I lived in the South now. My new goal was to drop my abrupt New England ways and be a nicer person.

"Yes, I'm really busy right now." The short cord on my phone just barely allowed me to reach the baby's bowl. I spooned macaroni into it, but as I tried to hand it off to one of my older boys, he dropped. Baby Ian started howling.

The woman went on, "As I said, I'm from..." I put the receiver near Ian, making sure she got an earful. "Maybe you could call back?" I said hopefully.

The woman blurted out, "I am calling about the query letter you sent us...."

The room spun. I tried to think of which query letter that could possibly be. In those days, I never expected to be published. I sent off three or four queries a week and kept shoddy records.

"We like the concept," she went on.

Now which concept would that be? Three possibilities came to mind: Cat Dander: An Enemy of the State, Training Your Son to Lower the Lid, and Lice the Gift that Keeps on Giving.

By this point, Ian, ever the pragmatist, begins crawling toward his supper on the floor. I throw a dish towel at him.

"I'd like to talk over details with you. Do you have a minute?"

"Of course." I frantically look for a pen or some paper. My cord reaches exactly 18 inches. A broken orange crayon is within reach. I start gesticulating wildly to my other two sons, ten and twelve. I pantomime writing on a piece of paper.

Unfortunately, both boys had just reached their Pre-pubescent Comedic Stage of Adolescence. One says to the other, "Look. Mom has a hand tremor." "Parkinson's Disease. Sounds like Parkinson's Disease?"

I've learned my lesson though: keep good records. Also, invest in a good mobile phone and put your kids in boarding school as soon as they are potty trained.

About Deborah Prum

Deborah Prum began her writing career at age seven. During the years since, Deborah Prum has written reviews, articles and humorous essays (The Writer, Ladies' Home Journal, The Virginia Quarterly Review), the critically acclaimed history for children (Rats, Bulls, and Flying Machines: A History of the Renaissance and Reformation) and prize-winning fiction for adults (Triage, Stanley in the Clouds). She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her family.

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