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The Parlay – A Story of Insecurity, Frustration, and Humble Gratitude

I began writing The Parlay during a dark period in my life. I had just completed graduate school. I was jobless and living with my parents. It was an incredibly humbling feeling. During the day, I frantically searched and applied for jobs. In the evening, I began what was a sports fiction novel known as The Parlay.

Weeks later I was given a job opportunity in an unlikely place. A phone interview led to a sight unseen job offer in Los Angeles, so I packed up all my belongings and moved there. I didn’t know anyone in California, so I was basically hitting the reset button on my life.

Prior to driving from Illinois to California, I found a temporary place to stay on Craigslist. Sure, it was a risk, but I didn’t have many options at that point. The woman’s name was Grace, and she was a Midwestern like me. She was a graduate from Northwestern and made her living as a writer. She was currently doing research on Gray’s Anatomy when I arrived on her doorstep.

I lived at this location for two weeks until I found a more permanent residence with two gentlemen who were around my age. I can proudly say that these two men are still my friends to this day. All the while, I was spending my weeks putting in long hours at my job and secretly writing on the novel.

Fastforward one year. Things at work were not going the way I had planned, and my brother and sister-in-law had just had their first child. I was missing home and wanted to be an Uncle, so I packed up everything and returned to Illinois. I started a new job with a large company. At this point, the novel was starting to take shape.

One year later, I completed the book and began the frustrating process of pitching the novel to agents and publishers. I leveraged a list of agents from the Internet and contacted at least 100 of them. I sent out query letters based upon the individual requirements. Most of the time I didn’t get a response; however, when I did get a response, it was something to the effect of not being a genre of their interest. You see, at the time Young Adult Fantasy was hotter than lava. You had Harry Potter, Twilight, and a bunch of Fantasy books flying off shelves.

Agents and publishers simply had no interest in a novel that wasn’t in a mainstream genre. Maybe my book sucked, but I’d never know because it wasn’t even getting a chance. Granted, sports fiction isn’t the hottest genre in literature, and I don’t want to sound sexist, but most men are probably casual readers at best. Additionally, sports fiction was, in fact, not a popular genre. However, this only inspired and pushed me to finish it. I felt that I had a story to tell and an under served audience that may want to hear it.

Unfortunately, agents and publishers didn’t agree me with. Frustrated and defeated, I put the project on the shelf. Periodically I would take mild swings. For example, when the Draft Kings and FanDuel scandal broke in the news, I felt it was a good time to reignite the search for a publisher, but in the end, the novel sat idle for ten years.

Why did I let the story sit so long? Perhaps it was insecurity. I was confident that I could tell an entertaining story; however, I had never written a novel before, and if anyone knows me, they know I’m a perfectionist that is never complacent. Additionally, I’m insanely critical of others and even more so of myself.

A part of the lag in publication was likely attributed to my frustration with agents, publishers, and the “mainstream.” Around the time that I completed the book was the wave of movie reboots. It had seemed that art and expression was being replaced with safe ideas that sell. Perhaps I was disillusioned by all of this.

I am not a writer. I am not an author. These are terms I have defined in my own way. I will be a writer when someone I don’t know purchases, reads, and enjoys one of my books. I will be an author when I visually see a stranger reading and enjoying one of my books. However, I didn’t write The Parlay to achieve either of these things.

Honestly, The Parlay was a self-indulgent endeavor of stories that I felt were worth telling. It chronicles a silly, immature time in my life with the best friends a guy could ever ask for, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. I wrote the book because I feel like there are a number of groups just like mine that experienced crazy adventures and endured them all because they had great people to lean on through it all.

While The Parlay is littered with stories of drinking and shenanigans, the themes are really about transformation. All the characters experience growth in someway or another. Ironically throughout this entire process I suppose I went through my own personal transformation as well.

All of this said, regardless of whether this project is successful, I feel like I’ve already won because I put it out there, and it has created the constant reminder of how amazing my friends and family are. I look forward to creating new projects and exploring different genres, likely not teenage vampires but reflections of my life and the people around me who shaped it.

Thanks all.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jefferson Webster

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