Tag Archives: writing

wfyaInterviews: Marguerite Quantaine

Author of  Imogene's Eloise

Author of
Imogene’s Eloise

Q: Have you had a lot of rejection?
A: I have not. But then I haven’t submitted much of what I write to very many places. However, when I have submitted essays, I have had my writing rejected.

Q: For example?
A: A friend once told me that humor written by women is almost always tossed when submitted to The New Yorker for their Shouts and Murmurs column.

Q: You don’t aim low, do you?
A: Big dreamers never do. Anyhow, after hearing this I got on my high-horse one Saturday night and submitted a Shouts piece, thinking it would be at the top of the editors mailbox for consideration on Monday morning.

Q: And?
A: I got an instant — and when I say instant I mean within seconds — an instant rejection, followed by an email from the desk of Bob Mankoff offering me a subscription to The New Yorker at a discounted rate, the magazine’s shop to browse and books to buy.

Q: Ouch.
A: Actually, I burst out laughing and immediately thought about contacting Guinness to see if it set a world rejection record.

Q: Have you?
A: No. But the thought is still percolating. More important is, it put the magazine into perspective for me. It finally makes sense as to why The New Yorker is dying a slow death.

Q: Because?
A: Because writers are readers first and foremost, and when you alienate a writer — even a bad writer — you lose a reader.

Q: You stopped reading The New Yorker?
A: Except when someone gives me a copy, yes. But to be fair, I never understood most the articles or all the cartoons. Many a night, when suffering from insomnia, a story in The New Yorker has put me right to sleep.

Q: How about Imogene’s Eloise? Was that accepted right off?
A: No, it was rejected right off.

Q: Seriously?
A: Yes — and let me stress — thankfully.

Q: Can you elaborate?
A: I thought I knew one of the owners of a publishing house whom I regarded as a friend. I wasn’t really looking for a contract so much as a nod.

Q: Approval.
A: More like, I hoped to be told ‘it appears promising, but at 150,000 words it’s too long, resubmit it when you’ve edited it down by half’ — something of that nature.

Q: And you got, what?
A: After following the submission guidelines, I got a sloppily composed and executed email thanking me for my short story and saying they had no interest in it.

Q: You’re kidding.
A: I am not, but like the email from Bob Mankoff, I have greatly benefited by the rejection.

Q: Are you and the publisher still friends?
A: No, but not because of that.

Q: Because of…?
A: It’s not really relevant.

Q: It’s an interviewers prerogative.
A: Yes. Yes it is and I do so love the word, prerogative. Okay. A third party had told me she’d decided not to submit to my friend’s publishing house because she wanted to be represented by a suit.

Q: A suit?
A: Someone who always looked spit-shined and ironed and successful and worthy of her writing rather than disheveled and wrinkled and as crumpled as this publishing person had appeared in public. So, when the topic arose between us, I said I was privy to something that I thought would be beneficial for her to know, but made her promise not to tell, or ever identify me, should she choose to bring the issue up for discussion. When she agreed I related the impression her partner’s sloppiness made, and that I thought it valid for a writer to expect her publisher to always look professional.

Q: And she told?
A: Yes, but it wasn’t that she told. It was that, after she betrayed my confidence she lied to me about betraying me, repeatedly, until she finally admitted she lied, but in doing so, justified the betrayal and the lying, then compounded the lie by being deceitful about another author whom she decided had crossed her. I cut ties with her for that and it cost me the loss of at least 9 of her colleagues.

Q: Surely, that bothered you.
A: No it did not. I’m far better off because of it, and I believe it’s what people who allow themselves to be bullied don’t understand. Whatever you think you might lose in the short run, you gain in the long term, and the people you end up with are so much more valuable than those who turned away.

Q: Food for thought? Or, preachy?
A: My sisters would say preachy, and I’m certainly no stranger to bandwagons, but I’d prefer to think of myself as someone who sets an example by my actions speaking even louder than my words.

Q: That’s a perfect segway back to role models. What do you think of the way women are portrayed?
A: In?

Q: LesFic books and movies.
A: If you mean lump sum, all genres, that’s really too sweeping a question. Even then I’d be limited to the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve seen.

Q: Most movies are based on books, so let’s start with the movies.
A: I have trouble finding myself in them, of my experiences as a woman, as a friend, as a lover, as an employee, as a person.

Q: As opposed to, what? Finding yourself in straight movies?
A: Not really. I mean, I could see myself in the character of, say Norma Rae, when I was younger and involved in fighting for change, and in Kissing Jessica Stein, to the extent of her wanting something different than what she was being offered. Except for the opening, I enjoyed that film immensely by the way.

Q: The opening?
A: A leading female character having backroom sex with a man before she seduces a woman. It’s like a stamp of approval for all lesbian films — that, the film is only worthy of attention, or more worthy because a man staked his claim first and foremost.

Q: How about the L Word ?
A: I watched it for the first year but, again, couldn’t relate. Like 90% of Americans who feel there’s no one in Congress speaking for them, I think the vast majority of lesbians feel the same about movies. What’s on the screen bears little resemblance to their every day lives and much deeper emotions. It might be a gender gap trap to even say so, but I often think boomers represent the last great generation of romantic music and gestures, before nameless hookups and STDs became the norm.

Q: Do you miss that time?
A: I can’t miss what I’ve maintained for myself, but I miss it for younger women who never had a opportunity to experience it, or make an informed choice in favor of it over the fragility and transience of relationships now.

Q: Do you think younger women would be interested in the world of your youth?
A: I’d like to think they’d embrace the good of it and — like the remake of great songs by younger artists — choose to establish a romantic lifestyle for themselves.

Q: Your book, Imogene’s Eloise, is primarily a reminder of where we were isn’t it ?
A: No, it’s not just about where we’ve been. It’s about how we got to where we are in a patriarchal, primarily Christian identified, mostly divided society where women are now in the majority. It’s about discovering where our minds and hearts were then, in contrast with how our minds and hearts of today interpret back then. It’s about how our ‘in the life’ world within the overall world has changed dramatically.

Q: Through the journey of a single love affair?
A: Actually, there are many love affairs going on of varying intensities between numerous people. It’s about recognizing the differences between love and lust and understanding the degrees of friendship.

Q: Sex?
A: Romantic without being explicit. It also teaches history without the drudgery, and is entertaining without it having been written strictly for entertainment value.

Q: What do you think is most appealing about Imogene’s Eloise?
A: Readers decide that on an individual basis. But the intent is to expose the commonalities we share pertaining to those we love and how it’s what everyone, at some juncture in their lives wishes for — and is told they cannot have. I’m telling the reader — you can have it — and that on some level, to some extent you are in this book, and someone you know, and someone you want to know, and someone you long to meet is in this book. There are emotions you’ve felt, and thoughts you’ve had, and answers you seek to questions in the back of your mind. And, just like life, you’ll applaud some, and resist others, and ponder the rest.

Q: Any reactions?
A: It’s a marathon read at 391 pages, so the reviews have trickled in as people cross the finish line. But so far, mostly applause. Those who don’t like it admit they didn’t read it before leaving a review. It’s unfortunate, but such people are unavoidable.

Q: How about your beta readers?
A: I didn’t employ beta readers. I’m not certain I believe in writing as a team sport, but I did offer a peek to blog followers before I edited the book down for a final time.

Q: And?
A: Generally supportive. Except, ten months ago I had a person, I wish I could remember her name, she sampled the first ten chapters of my book and said — and I’m paraphrasing here — “The characters are weak. I only read books about strong women.” So, I thanked her for her opinion and moved on. But I wish, now, I’d reminded her that women weren’t born strong. It wasn’t a given for us. We didn’t have parents, or siblings, or magazines, or movies, or advertisements to encourage us, or fictionalized characters toting guns and giving men karate chops as our pacifiers.

We grew strong in spite of naysayers and obstacles.

And the women coming of age in the 50s and 60s — those women who grew up being denied loans and credit cards, denied the right to buy a house without a male co-sign, denied the right to sell inherited property without a man’s permission, denied jobs advertised as help wanted male, denied justice in our courts, denied protection from violence, denied entrance to colleges and clubs, denied the right to run for political office, denied the right to be heard, denied advancement in the workplace, denied equal pay, denied consideration or equality under the law by both government and religion — those women of a that second class American society who fought to guarantee your first class American citizenship — they’re the strong ones. Those are the characters that should serve as your role models. And until you understand that — honey — you haven’t a clue as to what the meaning of the word ‘strong’ truly is.

Q: You published on Kindle. Why?
A: Two reasons. First, 85% of all books sold are on Kindle or other electronic device. And Amazon now offers a free app that turns every computer, tablet and phone into a Kindle. So that’s a big incentive.

Q: To earn more money?
A: To reach a wider audience. Imogene’s Eloise is nearly twice as long at half the price by comparison to other books for Kindle readers.

Q: Will it be out in paperback?
A: It’s available in paperback.

Q: The genre is romance.
A: More because Amazon and Bowkers require it.

Q: Given more of a choice?
A: It’s a dramedyherstoryromance.

Q: Imogene’s Eloise is subtitled as inspired by a true-love story. Tell me, how much of it is true?
A: All the best parts.

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IMOGENE’S ELOISE : Inspired by a true-love story.
by Marguerite Quantaine

Now at the Kindle nearest you.
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431 pages. $4.99

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SECRETS & TIES

New Jane & Me

Marion Deyo didn’t start out as my friend, or exactly finish up that way. And yet, twenty years after our final exchange, the ending to our story still astounds me.

It will you, too.

We met in 1966, when I was a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, desperately searching for a different dream. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy acting. I did. In fact, my audition instructor, the late great Jessica Tandy, said I had the natural talent to guarantee a bright future in the theater.

But I knew I didn’t have the personality for it — especially the New York City six-floor walkup, noisy neighbors, nasty bugs part. And, the menial labor between parts part. Or, the suck up and shut up part. The waiting for hours to audition with those who actually wanted to wait for hours to audition part. The desire for fame and fortune part. The tediousness of twiddling thumbs while slow learners remembered their lines part. The talk among actors about nothing but acting part. The throw momma under the bus to get the part part.

It’s why I applaud, but never become a fan of celebrities. I know how hard they worked to get to where they got. I know the bad choices they made. I know of their struggle to get by in the public eye. I know how self-destructive they become when disdaining fellow actors.

But I digress.

One Stouffer’s morning with hot buttered pecan roll and golden coffee in hand, an advertisment in The New York Times classifieds for a media clerk at a Fifth Avenue agency caught my eye. I didn’t know what the job entailed, but figured clerks keep records. Enough said.

Upon entering the office of the department head assigned to interview me, I zeroed in on her desktop nameplate: Marion Deyo.

The older woman (by 21 years) didn’t look up. She didn’t ask me to be seated. She didn’t make any attempt to put me at ease. She even forced me to introduce myself to the top of her bent down head, busily engaged in reading my job application.

“I’ve never heard of anyone with your last name,” she muttered.

“Oh yeah?” I snapped back. “Well I’ve never heard of anyone with your last name, either!” It was a pompous, knee-jerk reaction that I don’t know why I had since — then as now — I’ve yet to encounter a single person outside my immediate family who has my last name.

Suffice to say, the interview ended abruptly and I went on my Mary-quite-contrary way until a week later when I got an early bird phone call saying I was hired.

“How?” I asked. “And, why?”

“No one else applied for job,” replied the person who’d spend five minutes training me later that day.

Technically, Marion was my boss, but she never spoke to me, and made a point of ignoring me whenever we were in the same room, or passed each other in the hall.

Cue Ruth Ruffino (a fictitious name in this, otherwise, true story).

Ruth was a four-foot-eight gentile yenta with coal black hair to match her widow’s wear daily outfits. She had half-dollar size eyes, skin the color of Pattypan squash, and a passive-aggressive control freak personality that she conveyed through a chronically clogged nose. Ruth was just so transparent, so disingenuous, so cloying, so suffocating, so much the type of women I truly didn’t like a lot.

Nevertheless, Ruth was a popular little Miss nicey-nicey, chirpy-chirpy, brown-nosey to everyone, earning her favor by supplying our communal office of eight women with free donuts most mornings and coffee every afternoon.

The thing with women working shoulder-to-shoulder in one room is that their eyes are always peeled and ears cocked, providing the perfect stage and an instant audience for anyone enjoying fanfare, which Ruth invariably made whenever leaving me a box of candy, or personal note, or annoying tchotchke — then yelling from her desk, “Did you get the gift I left?”

Oh-h, I got it all right.

I just didn’t give it. I didn’t eat the donuts, or drink the coffee, or accept the gifts, or read the notes, or engage in conversation — even when she was hovering over me, talking at the top of her elastic sacs.

One day upon returning home from work I found flowers had been delivered, not by a florist, but by Ruth, personally, giving the bouquet and card to my landlord with her delivery instructions.

The next day, she crowed, “I was late to work yesterday morning because I rode all the way up town in order to deliver you flowers. Did you get them?”

“Yes,” I cawed back, “and assured the landlord the flowers were for him and I gave him your telephone number as you requested.”

Soon after, Marion summoned me into her office to tell me she was letting me go for causing too much trouble in her department.

To my chagrin and our surprise, I burst into tears, blubbering my side of the story from the minute Ruth laid eyes on me until my moment of breakdown before her.

Marion listened, stone-faced until I finished. Then she offered me a tissue and said she’d handle it — which she did. But she never said how, we never spoke of it again, and I wasn’t fired.

Hours later Ruth announced her engagement to a dweeby, much taller, older account executive who wore his suspendered pants up around his atrophied pecs; a bloke who’d been transferred to our Chicago office that very same day, taking Ruth to the windy city with him. The other communal room women shunned me afterwards.

Over the next six weeks I was assigned to a task no other employee (past or present) had been able to complete. I tackled it by initiating an unorthodox protocol, earning me a promotion and my own office.

Upon becoming Marion’s executive colleague, the walls came down. We sat together at department head meetings and lunched together regularly. She learned I was single and living in Manhattan. I learned she was single and living with her cousin on Long Island. The weekend she invited me out for a visit began a quintessential friendship lasting for years — right up until the day I discovered the two women weren’t cousins, but a couple.

I had an inkling, but I never completely understood why everything suddenly changed after that. Our daily routine ended abruptly. I ceased being invited to their home. Marion took another job at a different agency. Eventually, so would I.

Over time we continued to touch base, but seldom, until not at all.

I fell in love and my life took many dramatic turns. We ended up living in the same Long Island town as Marion and her partner. The company we launched and grew was in stark contrast to the enterprise they undertook. For fifteen years we rarely crossed paths. In 1990, we semiretired to Florida. They remained on Long Island.

Then in October of 1994 I had a premonition. It prompted me to write Marion a long letter saying how much I loved the two of them and always would. Essentially, I thanked Marion for being my friend and confidante during a still-single period of my life when I needed guidance and protection the most.

I mailed the letter. I don’t know for certain if she ever received it.

But a week or so afterwards, I began getting phone calls at odd hours of the day, at least once a week, from someone who just listened to my voice and stayed on the line for as long as a minute before hanging up.

I sensed it was Marion. It might have been her partner, but it felt like Marion.

Nearly five months later, in late February of 1995, the weekly phone calls mysteriously ceased. It wasn’t until May that her partner called to say Marion had passed away on February 28th.

I immediately got online and searched for her obituary. There wasn’t one — so I dug deeper.

This is all I ever found:

During the late 1600s, the first woman fleeing France to America with Marion’s last name married the first man fleeing France to America with my last name.

We shared their DNA.

Marion Deyo was my cousin.

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Marguerite Quantaine Copyright © 2014

If you’re at all enchanted by this story, I promise you’ll be charmed by
Imogene’s Eloise: Inspired by a true-love story.

I welcome your feedback, so go ahead and let me have it by commenting here, or Liking and Sharing this on Facebook.

My heartfelt thanks to you and yours, now and always.

http://www.amazon.com/Imogenes-Eloise-Inspired-true-love-story/dp/0940548011/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418760488&sr=1-1&keywords=marguerite+quantaine

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU (TOO)

Birthday Greetings - Woman in White Dress, FlowersWere I to write my epitaph, it would read, “She lived a charmed life.” Those who have only known of me might not agree — but those who’ve known me well, would.

Consider this as evidence of that.

August often stifles New York, as it did forty years ago, with temperatures so high and rain so scarce a brownout swept over all five boroughs, leaving the city sweltering in virtual darkness from dusk until dawn.

We were living in Bensonhurst by then, renting the upper two floors of a 1925 three story duplex; a stucco, fort-like house located on a tree-lined street between Avenues O and P, not far from a rumored underboss residence. It was a neighborhood where no one locked their doors at night and old-country madonnas garbed in basic-black sat in fold-out lawn chairs on cement sidewalks, waiting for the intense fragrances of Sicilian sausage, fennel seed biscotti, and basil-based sauces to waft through their kitchen windows, signaling meals had simmered to perfection and were ready for serving.

Our home’s private entrance had four steps up to the front door. Once inside there was another seven steps up to the hallway landing leading to a bedroom, living room, dining room, and bathroom, with a second flight of stairs to two more bedrooms. A doorway leading off the dining room opened to an eat-in kitchen. Another opened from the living room onto a second floor veranda stretching 25 feet long and 15 feet deep, with a 4-foot high wall leveling off just below the treetops.

We loved that place and porch, especially in August when sleeping outside beat the heat of the house by thirty degrees, and the starlit sky with its dreamsicle moon overhead was about as romantic as any heart could wish for, or mind could imagine.

It was after 10 one night when we were out there, lying on army surplus canvas and wood framed cots, listening to the neighbors battery operated radios synchronized to Casey Kasem naming, And I Love You So, by America’s favorite barber as “holding at 38” on the Top 40 charts when we heard a knock on the door and Liz called out, “Who’s there?”

“I’m looking for Marge,” came a baritone response.

“Who are you?”

“Mike Kelly.”

“Are you Irish?”

“I am.”

“Then the door’s open. Come on up.”

At the time, I was still recovering from a crash that left me chronically disabled the year before. As predicted, I’d regained my ability to walk, but still needed a wheelchair or walker, occasionally, and a cane, always. As I struggled up and into a lightweight, summer robe, Liz donned hers and, with a Coleman lantern in tow, greeted the fellow, leading him out onto the porch, and offering him a seat at the fold-out card table stationed there for Canasta and Hearts competitions whenever family or friends visited. Then she excused herself to get us all some iced lemonade while I tried to read his face by candlelight.

I liked what I saw. Mike Kelly had a crinkle-eyed smile plastered to his super-sized mug, with a pencil mustache complementing his noggin of silky grey hair.

“I’m sorry to bother you so late,” he began, “but you never contacted us. I had to take the Long Island Railroad from Port Washington after work and two subways — then got lost while walking here from the El.

“Why should I have contacted you, Mr. Kelly?”

“Mike, please.”

“Mike.”

“Didn’t you get our telegram about winning Publisher’s Clearing House?”

I laughed out loud. “Come now. You can do better. Although, I must admit, I’ve never heard that line before.”

He grinned. “Darn. I wish I’d thought of it before I got too old and too happily married for come-ons to matter anymore.”

“What’s so funny,” Liz chimed in, sliding a tin tray of refreshments onto the table.

“I was just telling Mike here about my last encounter with Publisher’s Clearing House.”

“You had one?”

“Sort of. While I was partially paralyzed for a few months last summer I passed the time by answering all those ridiculous Cosmos questionnaires before playing wastebasket wad-ball. I confess. One of the wads was a Publishers Clearing House entry.”

“She’d ordered a photography and a camping magazine,” added Liz.

“True, but I figured I’d never be going camping again, and wouldn’t be anywhere interesting to shoot photographs for a while — so I wadded it up and made the basket.”

“Well, that explains that,” chuckled Mike.

“What?”

“Your wrinkled entry.”

“But I didn’t . . .”

“I did,” Liz interjected. We both turned towards her. “I took it out of the wastebasket and smoothed it out the best I could and mailed it in. Whenever a magazine came in the mail I hid it. I thought I’d give them all to you on your birthday. I guess I was hoping, by then, maybe, you’d feel like camping and taking pictures again.”

I turned to syrup inside.

Mike Kelly beamed. “This is where I tell you – again – you’ve won Publisher’s Clearing House.”

I’ll end this on that high note — but not because there isn’t more to tell about the trip around Manhattan included with the monetary prize; our suite at the Waldorf Astoria, the nights on the town, dinner at the Rainbow Room, orchestra seats to A Little Night Music, the yacht ride to Port Washington, the catered brunch, a tour of the PCH facility, the awards ceremony, the photographer and limousine at our disposal for the weekend, the parties, the clubs we closed, the new friends made, the fun and the fanfare. It’s just because — you really had to be there. (And I’d rather not ruin the surprise.)

Receiving the 1973 Mystery Prize check from the President of PCH.

Receiving the 1973 Mystery Prize check from the President of PCH.

The following year I agreed to make (what I was told was) the first televised commercial for PCH. It ran between 11:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on all three of the only networks back then. If you were watching television in December of 1974 and saw a news program, soap opera, game show, sports event, or family favorite like The Rockford Files, The Waltons, Kojak, Medical Center, Mash, and Chico And The Man — yep. That was me saying it could happen to you (too).

There’s no drawback to the entire Publisher’s Clearing House experience except in one, small respect, and that is — no matter what I’ve done with my life, who I am, where I live, whom I love, what I’ve accomplished, or contributed — each time I meet those from my very distant past, the first thing they mention is that I won Publisher’s Clearing House, followed by the implication that my life has been “easy” because of it.

And, I always let it pass.

Because — even though the $17,500.00 was before taxes were deducted, and the balance went in one lump sum to pay off past-due medical bills — I’ve led a charmed life.

I know it.

And for this I am, truly, grateful.

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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2013.
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I’m all eyes and heart.

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