One day last week I decided to riffle through one of the filing cabinets in my office where all of my unkempt and unsorted piles of old writing go to die. Suddenly, I noted a file containing about 30 pages of material which I had labeled, "Fat Brain".
There's a story here.
Some time after I had written the book Candles in the Dark: A Collection of the World's Greatest Parables, I received a phone call from my (then) agent, Madeleine. "I think I can get you a nice writing assignment," she told me. "There is a web site, FatBrain.com, that is looking for two original Passover stories to publish in electronic format only. They will pay $1000 per story, and also offer a 20% royalty on all downloads. Do you want me to get you the contract?"
"Absolutely," I said. "Does it matter that I'm not Jewish?"
"Just write the stories," she said firmly. "Write one this week, and one next week. And I'll tell them they can have your stories up and running on their web site by the end of the month."
I did. But there's more to the story obviously. First, this was at the absolute height of the "dot-com" craze, when guys like Mark Cuban and Steve Jobs were making their billions (that's b-b-billions, folks!). There were web sites and new ventures like Amazon.com springing up everywhere. And one of these was a site called "FatBrain." And they were willing to pay writers like me a nice little sum to write original material . . . FAST. Madeleine knew I could do it. Fast has always been my middle name (just ask my wife).
But you know the end of the story, too. I wrote these two Passover tales, received $1700 (less my 15% agent commission)--by far the largest pay day I've ever had for fiction and the most money I have ever made on a "per word" basis--and as soon as the stories were published, FatBrain.com, like many other dot-com era ventures, fried in its own brain pan oils and went belly up.
Still . . . finding these stories in the filing cabinet brought back these glorious memories. I had my dreams. Believe me, I could have written a story a day for a $1000 a pop--and very good ones at that--even while working 60 hours a week as a pastor. Heck, I was already dreaming of earning that extra $365,000 a year writing Passover tales. What am I saying . . . for that much I would have written Hare Krishna tales. But it wasn't meant to be.
Now, I'm just another flat broke hack who is turning out drivel like this blog . . . hoping for that next phone call from an agent, an editor, heck, I'd even settle for my mom asking, "Hey, you wanna write a story and make $1000?" I would, of course. Ball State and Uncle Sam need my money!