To Write and Wrong

Maria Matienzo Puerto

Walking along Havana's "Malecon" seawall.

Less than a month ago I was invited to write for a national publication.  Four of us writers were willing to send in reviews on a weekly basis.  On what? – art, theater, music, dance…whatever appeared. This was an effort to promote the city’s cultural movement and, to be frank, also a way of earning a little extra cash.

Not long before the first publication, we received phone calls from VM, the person who held the position of chief editor.  Very kindly, at the beginning, VM spoke to us about the editorial standards at the publication, something that didn’t intimidate us because we were accustomed to writing and therefore those types of corsets were always easy to accommodate.

With the pretext of the magazine being bilingual, we had to write with both subjects and predicates, in short paragraphs and without so much flowery language – rules that Spanish doesn’t always follow.  Also, whatever we wrote could only be seven-hundred words long.

VM’s calls were often only to get to know us on a personal level, an approach that I found perfectly logical.  To tell the truth, however, he didn’t call me more than my share because of my sexual orientation; I had commented to him that I was an unwavering lesbian.  My co-workers, though, were inundated with calls.

In one week VM was able to exasperate the three women at the same time, and each had their own account of what he had said.  In his delirium, he had told each of us that he was a percussionist, but what was agreed upon by the four of us was that he didn’t know the first thing about culture, despite the fact that he ran a cultural magazine.

He didn’t waste time finding a pretext to try to get to know the four of us even better; he set up a class to teach us how to improve our writing.

Well…we accepted.

But the coup de grace was yet to come.  The publication of our first collaboration was imminent.  We were approaching two weeks on the job and he had to do his part, or at least try to show us that he had some part.  So, it was when we turned in our copy to him that the tragedy began.

The editing was horrific.  What we got back were not short paragraphs, but writing in verses in which it didn’t matter if the idea was contorted, distorted or completely mutilated.

The direction of the phone calls reversed.  We —now all four of us talking to him— begin requesting explanations.  His initial response was that of total ignorance to the facts.  To begin with, he hadn’t read a single one of the articles we had sent him.

We sensed that he had gotten in contact with another editor, who it seems was the person who actually performed the hatchet job, though VM was the one ultimately responsible.

His response was completely unexpected.  His explanations became more contradictory, unbalanced and hysterical.  He turned on us with insults and threats devoid of all ethics.

My case, the least noxious, when I asked him to simply read my copy before it was published, he began to point out all the errors that had appeared in each of the publications I had worked for previously, as if this were a justification for finally telling me that he would never comply with my request.

He referred to the other writers with the same threatening tone, classifying all four of us as mediocre and overly emotional: in short, women.

Nonetheless, things still hadn’t reached their climax.  The height of this pathology was when, after all these wild telephone exchanges, he flipped back to the commitment he had first shown to comprehension and understanding; he requested a meeting to apologize.

Horror and panic set in.  We realized that we were about to fall into the hands of a serial killer.

(Just kidding.)

But we did in fact say no to any such meeting.

We were not going to show up so that he might flip out once again and offend us to our faces, so that he could presumably feel superior in front of us.  Simply put, if VM is a frustrated guy who doesn’t have a woman to boss around, whose abilities no one knows, who runs a magazine that has almost no recognition or visibility, who is going to unleash his neuroses from one moment to the next, there was no way we were going to voluntarily subject ourselves to that.

I’m not disclosing the true names unless that’s necessary.  For the time being I can only say that I have all the documented facts, and I have no doubt that I’m capable of using them.

One thought on “To Write and Wrong

  • Isn’t this normal for a fringe publication..?

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