Knowing that I needed my privacy to write my new novel,
the ghost of Mark Twain, of course,
felt compelled to bring a long string of ghostly authors to my table in Meilori's.
I noticed Oscar Wilde when he cleared his throat beside me, saying, "Dear boy, there is a U in humour."
I sighed, "If I were British there would be."
Mark chuckled, "Well, Ostrich, now that you have the boy's attention, give him both barrels of your wisdom."
"To write well about the elegant world, you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being."
Mark scoffed, "That's it?"
"No, of course not, Clemens. What matters is not whether you love the world or hate it,
but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it."
The ghost of Louis L'amour sat down beside me, shaking his Stetsoned head at my empty page.
"Ignore Mr. Fancy Pants there, Roland. Show up, show up, show up, and after a while, the muse shows up too."
I started in shock and at the contrast when Kurt Vonnegut sat beside Mr. Lamour, nodding to my still empty page.
"Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water."
He flicked ghost cigarette ash my way.
"Here's a secret, son --
give the reader at least one character to root for ... and try not to waste the time of a person who gambled cold cash on your talent."
Louis L'amour nodded, "And every sentence should reveal character or advance the action, preferably both."
Mark and Louis both bristled as Karl Marx stopped in front of my table long enough to gruff,
"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life."
Karl noticed a tall, lnaky aristocratic man strolling our way and huffed off. The man stopped to smile at me. I swallowed hard.
It was Anton Chekhov, physician by day and genius playwright by night. He smiled at me with weary eyes.
"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
And with that he strolled towards the bar to refill his champagne glass, calling out over his shoulder,
"Do not ask me for more, young sir. The role of an artist is to ask questions not to answer them."
Hemingway snorted as he sat in the chair opposite me. "So speaks a man who wrote his first stories under the pseudonym, 'Man Without a Spleen.'"
Mark Twain scowled, "At the time the man was paying his own way through Medical School AND supporting his whole family."
Hemingway shrugged, "The world breaks us all."
Louis L'amour shook his head.
"I'd always heard you were harder on a man than corn cob toilet paper, but now I know it."
Hemingway got up.
"You want advice, Roland? Do back exercises. Pain is distracting. Or write standing up as I often did.
And remember: Prose is architecture, not interior decoration."
Then, he lumbered away nursing a grudge and his drink.
Oscar Wilde sighed, "Sad that no matter how long you nurse a grudge, it never gets better."
"Isn't that the truth?" laughed the ghost of John Steinbeck.
"Roland, you have to lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day. It helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised."
I never did get any writing finished that night. But the company made up for it.