I was at some huge writing convention, somewhere in NYC. I'd been invited to do a reading with a group of former and current Clarionites, and it was to promote a Clarion anthology that had recently come out. Ellen Datlow and Kelly Link had co-edited it, and many Clarionite instructors and some of the more famous graduates had contributed essays on writing as well as stories. A few lesser-known graduates had also been asked for stories, and one of mine had the honor of making it in the anthology. So, about half an hour before the reading started, I made my way through the maze of rooms and hallways to where we'd be holding it, clutching a very large copy of the antho in my hand.
Unfortunately, the convention was sharing the same place as an antiques show - and the furniture seemed to be a bit "off", in that creepy dream way. So I kept losing my way, stumbling into rooms where armoires shifted around and blocked my way, or big-headed porcelain dolls would start following me down corridors. I was freakin' out, man! Also, I was freaking out over the fact that even though Ellen had instructed us to go over our stories and practice reading, I hadn't even glanced at mine. I wasn't even sure what story of mine was in the anthology. Also, I seemed to be dressed like Laura Ingalls Wilder, which was most distressing...
Ok, so after a few more hijinks with evil dolls and furniture, I made it to the reading. I walked in to see EVERYONE staring at me, waiting for me to begin. blackholly and brad_beaulieu sat in a corner, shaking their heads at me, while Chip Delany and Nancy Kress had looks of utter disgust on their faces. Kelly Link was slumped over in her chair, one hand covering her eyes so she wouldn't have to look at me (or my ugly-ass outfit). Ellen shouted, "we've been waiting for you for hours, start reading RIGHT NOW!" I shuffled to the center of the room (which looked suspiciously like this room right here, opened up the anthology (which had morphed into a giant magazine with lots of loose, wrinkly pages), and began to read my story.
Except, I couldn't read it. I started the first sentence, then stumbled over a few words, stopped and told everyone I was sorry, and would start again. I started again, only to find that sentences were upside down, entire paragraphs were written in other languages, pictures had been inserted in place of text, and the pages were growing darker and darker, making it impossible for me to see the print. Flop sweat poured from me, and my hands stuck to the pages and came away with chunks of paper sticking to my skin. I got about five or six paragraphs in, and then the real horror sunk in: I had plagiarized practically every single person in the room! My story was a hodge-podge of everyone else's stories, stories from non-Clarion writers, old Livejournal posts, and even a little bit of Shakespeare thrown in. In the corner I heard mroctober whisper to aimeempayne and Will Ludwigsen, "Oh my god, I feel so much better about my writing now." My voice faded to nothing, and I just stood there, in silence. I'd fucked up so monstrously big-time, I didn't know what else to do. Finally Ellen spoke.
I don't remember her exact words, but I do know she instructed everyone to rip my "story" out of the anthology. A paper blizzard ensued. She also instructed people to delete any photos taken of me, she didn't want to see that shit on Flickr or any blogs. My name would be stricken from all Clarion records, and I was to leave the room and never associate with anyone in it again. I dropped the anthology (now a sodden mess) to the floor, and staggered to the door, barely able to breathe. As I reached the door, Nancy Kress came up behind me and said, "You didn't impress me at Clarion, and I didn't think you'd amount to much. I was right."
And then I woke up.
Holy fucking shit, do I ever need my coffee this morning.