I hope this cracks you up as much as it cracked me up. Well, it is an attempted scam and as the author of two con novels, I loves me my scams and maybe have a stronger affinity for them than you do. On the other hand, this incident speaks to the heart of the writer’s experience – the desire to trade words for money – so perhaps it’ll resonate for you, too.
See, I’m organizing a writing workshop, to be held in Pasadena, California, on August 13, 2011, and in the name of surfing the new paradigm, I’m attempting to promote and book the thing entirely online, leveraging the awesome power of Social Media. Those initial caps in “social media” are entirely gratuitous, I know, but somehow they seem called for; if I could slather the whole thing with reverb – Social-l-l Media-a-a! – I certainly would, for I’m counting on Social Media – Facebook, Google Groups, Meetup, and their thousand bastard cousins – to drive to my doorstep the literally tens of participants I need to break even on this venture. In the olden days, way-ay-ay back in the 20th century, I’d have been handing out fliers. Nowadays (-ays-ays – sorry, once you get stuck on a riff it’s hard-ard-ard to get off) I’m exploiting, or at least exploring, the functionality of Constant Contact.
So I registered with Constant Contact, set up the graphics, dialed in the content, and went live with my workshop, Living the Writer’s Life – Closing the Gap Between the Writer You Are and the Writer You Want to Be. I got my first response within minutes, and man was I psyched. Social Media! Yeah! Live leads, just like that! Let’s just see who took the bait…
My dear soul mate (writes one Maxamina Mcalear)
I reside in losangeles also
and I feel you should read in detail this article
There followed a link, which of course I followed, because that’s the sort of doofus I am. Next thing I know, I’m looking at an exciting opportunity to get free government grants right from my own computer (-er-er-er)! All I have to do is download a certain e-book for just $2.97 (well, it’s cheaper than World Series of Murder) and all the riches of the internet can be mine. Financial independence! The freedom to live my life as I please! I can spend all my time writing! All for just $2.97.
Can you hear me sigh? Can hear me sigh from here?
Just when I thought I was on the cutting edge of whatever, it turns out that the scammers got there first. And they got there – and this is what just kills me – with the full understanding of what my dreams and fantasies are, and how to hit me exactly where I live. Financial independence? Yes, that’s what I want. Why do you think I’m doing all this in the first place? The books, the Kindle editions, the workshops… I’m just trying to buy some time. I’m just trying to trade my words for money so that I’ll have the leisure to, yes, that’s right, generate more words. What an elegant trap I’ve set for myself. And look who’s helping me spring it! Maximina Mcalear. (Note to self: save that name; gotta be good for something sometime.)
Lest you think this was a one-off (oh, would that it were), the next day I received my second “live lead,” this one with the grammatically ragged message, “hey! txt me when u see who i am… my name on here is ‘storymagic’, lol.” This one also contained a link that I, of course, was powerless not to click. It took me to marriedbutlonely.com, “the #1 trusted wife dating site.” Okay, well, wife dating. I guess they figure that’s related to a writer’s life, at least some writers’ lives. No, probably not. Probably this spam message was just like the other one, a shotgun blast aimed at anyone dumb enough to fall for its promise, whether the promise be “free money the government grant way” or “married women that don’t play hard to get.”
The promise…the promise… When I think about my writer’s life, I think of it in terms of “the Hope Machine,” and if that metaphor rings a dim and distant bell for you, it’s because I described the Hope Machine in my very first post on this site:
The hope machine is like a slot machine, only I feed it with effort, not coins. I feed it with hopes, dreams, sweat, and loud frustration, and sometimes it pays off with accomplishment, achievement and paychecks. Real writers (and I like to consider myself one, as I’m sure you do) invest heavily in the hope machine. To put it more prosaically, we just simply never give up. We keep putting nickels in the hope machine, and pulling that handle as fast as we can. We want the jackpot, of course: the blockbuster bestseller that makes every other book in the bookstore sick with jealousy. Still, we’ll settle for any kind of payout, so long as it’s enough of one to stay in the game. That’s all we want: just to stay in the game.
What gets me about this whole experience is how the spammers hijacked my own hope machine with dreams of free money the government grant way. (If they hijacked my libido with dreams of married women who don’t play hard to get, I’d say that’s between me and my libido.) Still, with my soft spot for con artists, I have to say that the episode tickled me, too. We’re all such earnest strivers. We all want what we want, and no matter what nouns or adjectives color that pretty promise, it all seems to boil down to “follow our dreams.”
For dreams you need money, though, and for money, apparently, you need government grants.
The road is long and hard, my friends, and I’m reasonably sure that the promise of government grants (or even lonely wives) will not make it shorter or smoother. All we can really do is keep writing, keep working, (keep leveraging Social-l-l Media-a-a), and hope that our efforts turn into meaningful accomplishment, the sort of accomplishment we can look back upon at our lives’ ends and say, “Yep, that was worth it. Really and truly, it was.”
And if that doesn’t work for you, well, there’s this e-book you can buy…