In third grade, the language arts classes at my school are cut due to lack of funding. But thanks to the efforts of the PTA and a few passionate teachers, an after-school grammar club is formed so kids like me have a safe place to diagram sentences.
A goth friend in high school introduces me to indie essays on existential nihilism by Kierkegaard. She refuses to read novels in paperback form, insisting that the nuances of the English language can only be fully experienced through the analog texture of papyrus.
I form a writers’ group called Lit Chicks in my parents’ garage with college roommates. Blair, always the attention-seeker, insists on being lead writer on verbs. I provide the nouns. Leah is responsible for prepositions, conjunctions, and Oxford commas. Kiki, whom we suspect is a high-functioning alcoholic, does adjectives. All the adjectives. Terrifying, paralyzing, mesmerizing adjectives the rest of us didn’t even know existed.
A cousin I haven’t seen since I was twelve asks me to be the official writer for her wedding. She wants custom speeches for everything from the officiant’s introduction to bridesmaids’ toasts written in matching rhyming meter. After six rounds of edits and forty hours of work, I am paid in exposure.
Lit Chicks breaks up when Blair and I get into a huge fight over gerunds.
My literary career gets a big break when one of my short stories is featured at New York Fiction Week. Sexy librarians strut down the catwalk, carrying hand-stitched hardcovers of the season’s most avant-garde literary works. The plots are quickly copied by “fast fiction” discount bookstores creating cheap, ready-to-read knockoffs.
When I publish my first novel, exclusive deluxe editions drop at Target, Barnes & Noble, indie bookstores, and select Free Little Libraries across the country. Each version comes with a unique bonus chapter that offers a different twist ending.
I am invited to be the opening act for a reading at Madison Square Garden. I bounce down the T-shaped stage, waving to the mosh pit as I recite my flash fiction into a handheld mic. When the headliner, Stephen King, comes on, 20,000 people scream the words to Chapter 56 of The Shining in unison. Upstage, backup dancers do a choreographed reenactment of The Overlook Hotel explosion.
The script for my three-act comedy goes up for auction at Sotheby’s. It sells for $1.7 million and enters the library collection of a European aristocrat. Few people know the plot, and the play is never performed outside a few private shows in Swiss chateaux.
After the publication of my sleeper hit biography on Martin Van Buren, I am hounded by paparazzi. Countless clickbait articles speculate on the diet, exercise regimen, and sleep schedule I followed to get myself into the mindset of the main character, Old Kinderhook.
During a guest-star performance on Saturday Night Live, I mess up the cadence of my poem’s iambic pentameter when I pronounce “rebel” like a verb instead of a noun. The mortifying mistake goes viral. I am accused of plagiarizing, employing ghostwriters, and relying on autocorrect. My literary reputation is ruined.
I am reduced to peddling herbal supplements on infomercials to maintain the lavish lifestyle I’ve come to expect as a Pulitzer Prize winner.
When my nephew makes first chair in journalism of the All-State Writers’ Guild, the whole extended family goes out for a celebratory dinner. I find myself becoming irrationally envious of a 16-year-old, even though his debut byline is a painfully cliché and pathetically sentimental puff piece about his school’s debate team. I cope with my feelings by getting wasted in the restaurant bathroom. The night ends with me being banned from both Olive Garden and family reunions.
I attempt to make a comeback by writing the product manual for NASA’s newest Mars rover. Though critically acclaimed for its genre-defying structure and playful syntax, it peaks at only #82 on the Wired “Hot 100 List of Technical User Guides.” My dream of winning a Nobel Prize for Literature goes up in smoke.
In my twilight years, the Library of Congress hosts a special exhibition dedicated to my memoir writing. The event is rocked by scandal when a protester ruins a priceless first edition of Epiphanies from My Twenties by smudging Cheetos dust all over the pages. I sink into despair and disappear from the public eye for good.
After my death, my work experiences a resurgence in popularity, thanks to high school goth kids who rediscover the out-of-print indie essays I wrote in college. They refuse to read my novels in paperback form, insisting that the nuances of the English language can only be fully experienced through the digital immersiveness of an e-reader.