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Resist the urge to bite yourself

Elizabeth Collins Archive

Elizabeth Collins

Life Lessons at the Literary Agency

August 13th, 2009
by Elizabeth Collins

PHILADELPHIA, PA–

Fresh out of college in 1993, I landed a job with a literary agent. Don’t ask me how.

The job, however plummy it seemed, was actually insane. Every day was a lesson in Real Life.

The first thing I learned was: Don’t let the bike messengers use the bathroom.  They’re usually shooting up in there. 

I got screamed at, reamed out, when I let the messenger use the bathroom. 

“Don’t you know what they do in bathrooms!?” My new co-worker was horrified.

I could imagine it, yes, because it is hot in NYC in summer, and bike messengers must drink a lot of water.

“Heroin!” she shouted. “Smack! They’re junkies!”

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Elizabeth Collins

Impossible Questions, Answered Under Intense Pressure

August 1st, 2009
by Elizabeth Collins

PHILADELPHIA, PA–

We are weaving in and out of lanes, and I’m trying to feed my children almonds, but they just keep asking me to put on the rap radio station, and they keep kicking the back of my seat. We are in between reading and writing camp and on the way to guitar lessons. My nine-year-old daughter suddenly starts peppering me with questions: What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw, Mom? What’s the wildest thing you ever did?

She always asks me these sorts of things when I’m driving, or stressed out, so my typical first response is, “Uh…I can’t think right now. I’m…driving.”

“Come on!” She gets annoyed. “Tell me something. Tell me about yourself.”

“Well, what about you?” I counter, stalling for time as I maneuver through a busy intersection. “You tell me about yourself. What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw?”

“I don’t know,” she mutters. “Once, I found a quadruple peanut… But I’m only nine.” She grows suddenly, strangely sentimental. “You’ve had this whole life I don’t know about. What were you like as a teenager? Tell me a story.”

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Elizabeth Collins

On the Human Need to Look at Shocking Photos

July 10th, 2009
by Elizabeth Collins

PHILADELPHIA, PA–

These photos of me with a grotesquely-swollen, Betadine-stained leg with dual rows of bloody staples are…what’s the word? Disgusting. They are also the most-viewed items on my blog.

I get traffic and hits from around the world, visits from countless people who apparently want to see what a tri-malleolar ankle fracture, post-surgery looks like.

I wonder if I’m scaring people, or titillating them? I wonder if people are refusing surgical fracture fixes because of me? That’s actually not my intention.

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Elizabeth Collins

Why I’m Not Allowed in Atlantic City, NJ

June 24th, 2009
by Elizabeth Collins

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

“My wife is not allowed in Atlantic City,” I hear my husband tell his friend over the phone.  D. has been working near AC, building a house. Now that it’s done, he’s frequently encouraged to visit. We always say no thanks, but not because AC is a dump (which some might agree with). There are other reasons.

“It’s not like I forbid her to go. She’s on the casinos’ Banned list. They know who she is, they look out for her.”  Big pause, while I assume his friend wants to know why.  None of the likeliest reasons are particularly classy, now are they? I cringe, but D. loves to tell this story.

“I mean, she’s not allowed in the city. It’s crazy, man.  My wife is a card counter. Brain like a computer…”

“They shook her down, raided her hotel room, grabbed back the money, messed her up, even threatened to execute her if she ever came back.”

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Elizabeth Collins

Two Gringos Catch a Punk Rock Show in Guadalajara

June 21st, 2009
by Elizabeth Collins

PHILADELPHIA, PA–

When I was 19, I decided to impetuously travel to Mexico to visit a guy I had just met. After knowing each other approximately one day, he had declared his intense love for me, via a series of romantic, letter-filled FedEx packages, and I was unspeakably flattered.

I had never been to Mexico before, so I wanted to go. The problem was, I had very strict parents. Luckily, they were away.

My best friend drove me to the airport (I was flush with cash from a summer office job), and I called my mother, who was in Florida, visiting her family.  “Mom, I am going to Mexico. I’m flying into Guadalajara,” I said when I called.

She laughed. “You are not,” she said.

I could hear my aunt Mary Anne chirping in the background. “What’s she saying?” Mary Anne asked.  My mother repeated what I’d said, in a tone that decried how insane I was. I could picture them, hopping around the kitchen, drinking wine, chopping vegetables for a salad.

My aunt is a free spirit, a watercolor artist.  “Ooh! Mexico!” she said. “I love Mexico! Tell her to have fun!” 

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Elizabeth Collins

After The Break-up, Melanie Sorts Out Her Feelings

June 4th, 2009
by Elizabeth Collins

PHILADELPHIA, PA–

June 4, 2009

Dear Bob,

I know I have written you many letters during the course of our relationship.  You must have a virtual book of my letters—thousands of thoughtful, tender, loving words.  All of them probably took me a solid month of my life to write.  Enjoy them.  Toss them.  Whatever.  This is the last letter you are going to get from me.

I really appreciated you dumping me after I got out of the hospital. Yes, thank you.  It could have been much worse.  You could have dumped me while I was IN the hospital. You could have visited me there (you never visited) and dropped off a pile of my letters to you, and I would not have been able to rip them or burn them or even throw them away because I was so heavily medicated and bed-ridden and I did not have the use of my limbs (also, you can’t light things on fire in the hospital).  But you waited to dump me until I recovered and could come to see you after months of being laid up, after re-learning to walk and talk and use my hands, and longing for your kiss the whole time.  It was at least semi-thoughtful that you waited.

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Elizabeth Collins

Applying for a Teaching Job? Read this

May 22nd, 2009
by Elizabeth Collins

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

A letter sent to: Miss Emily Jones, 1982 Walnut Street, (Teenagers’ Apartment, Upstairs), Redford, PA 19077

 May 22, 2009

Dear Miss Jones,

I would like to take this opportunity to offer you my sincere congratulations. You have been selected as a finalist in the Peace and Love School’s English Teacher Search. We have been interviewing candidates for months, after advertising in approximately fourteen different independent school markets. We have held twenty meetings already, most of which lasted for at least three hours, and we, as a Committee, have been discussing the pros and cons of each candidate—repeatedly. You should feel proud that you have made it this far.

Each member of the Teacher Search Committee plays an important role in the selection process, whether it is as Presenter of Resumes, Prayer Leader, Collector of Recommendations, Facilitator, Cheerleader, Devil’s Advocate, or Person who Throws a Grenade into the Middle of Each Discussion and then stands back, enjoying the warmth of the flames.

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Elizabeth Collins

Show Us Something New and Show Us Some Money!

March 28th, 2009
by Elizabeth Collins

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

I have been waiting nearly two years to see what was a new story of mine finally published. 

A few years ago, I got busy sending out this story to literary journals, and after flurries of rejections (all standard—I didn’t let it get to me), I finally had an acceptance at a prestigious literary review. I was very pleased.

I became less pleased when I learned that it might be nine months or so from the time of acceptance until the eventual publication.

Sigh. Just standard publishing world time lag, I thought. Typical that it takes months to hear back from these journals, and then many months more before the story comes out.

As I filled out the writer’s contract, I read that I would be paid $50 upon publication.  I have to say that even though that is a pittance for the solid month or two of working time that this particular story cost me, I was kind of looking forward to fifty extra bucks. That’s a tank of gas, or two pizza deliveries. That’s a mani-pedi-wax. (It is not a new pair of shoes, a week of groceries, a massage, or even a tube of eye cream.)

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Elizabeth Collins

Don’t Feed the Sports Parents…Junk Food or Coffee

February 16th, 2009
by Elizabeth Collins

PHILADELPHIA, PA–

I first realized I was one of them—a freaky, crazed, over-involved sports cheerleader parent, the kind other people want to kill—when I took my daughter to play indoor Nerf soccer a few years ago. I didn’t become one of them over a season of sideline or bleacher coaching, though; I just instantly was.

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Elizabeth Collins

The Siren Song of the Snuggie

February 2nd, 2009
by Elizabeth Collins

PHILADELPHIA, PA-

It has been a long winter, and the season isn’t even half-over. I see in the news today that Snuggie has sold over four million units. How many times have I seen the Snuggie commercial? Too many. So many times, in fact, that I actually know what a Snuggie is, not to mention how stupid it looks, or the three lame, universally unflattering colors it comes in.

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