Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Long Run and Other True Stories by Mishka Shubaly.

There's a game I like to play sometimes, in which I imagine myself writing a letter to my younger self. I.e. after three years at Oxford, I imagined trying to explain to my eight year old self that this exotic city I was seeing for the first time on a trip with my parents would one day look very mundane. Or every time I finish another book I imagine holding it up to four year old me and saying, "See. You did it. Don't ask how long it took; you'd probably cry."

By far one of the strangest letters, though, would be to my twelve year old self. That was the year I was in seventh grade, and I had first period history and whatever period math with this kid from Canada, Mishka Shubaly. We didn't ever really talk to each other. Our fathers were both glider pilots, and I think we exchanged about four words on that topic. By eighth grade, his family had moved away.

This was before the internet and email were available to the public, before Netscape turned the world wide web into the image laden, interactive experience it is today. I think the next time I ran across Mishka was when I joined Facebook, more than a decade after seventh grade. At that time he was nursing a self destructive substance abuse habit, so although he accepted my friend request and I visited his website and MySpace page, he wasn't really there. I remember thinking that this was too bad. Even though I barely knew him and wouldn't recognize him if I saw him, he had seemed nice enough.

Our friendship, though, was the kind made for Facebook. We weren't best buddies used to talking every day. We were acquaintances. In middle school we saw each other in the hall, sometimes, and knew each other's names. Every now and then one of us might have overheard the other making ridiculous comments, and on even rarer occasions we might have flashed each other a sarcastic thumbs up. These are the interactions perfectly preserved in the form of the Facebook feed, comments format, and "Like" feature.

The fact that both of us had become writers meant that our virtual paths began to cross more often, and somewhere along the line, he sobered up. I can't say when exactly we transitioned from two people who really didn't know each other to two writers who kept in semi-regular contact via social media. He began to write Kindle Singles and became a rising star. I began to indie publish chick lit and he still admitted in public that he knew me.

I quoted him in one of my books, and he tweeted about it to his fanbase. I joked with him in Facebook comments and garnered more than one suspicious glare from female admirers who wondered if I were competition (which, given I'm Mormon, married, and a mother of two small children, I find hilarious.) One night I got an email from Mishka that said something to the effect of: "Emily, I want to do a collection of all my Kindle Singles and I just emailed Jeff Bezos to ask if he'd be willing to do the foreword, and he emailed back right away to say yes. Will you format it?"

And so I did, of course. He sent me all of his Kindle Singles plus some bonus material, essays he'd published elsewhere. He sent me all the draft covers for each and we went through and figured out which ones to put on the pieces. He threatened to drive me crazy asking for constant changes, but I must say, he fell short of that.

If I were to write a letter to my twelve year old self, it would go something like this:

Dear Emily,
Twenty-seven years from now you will be trying to get your car checked in at a body shop and waiting on a promised rental car that is not there, when Mishka Shubaly will message you on your cell phone to explain that Jeff Bezos just emailed an updated draft of his foreword. You will need to put it in Mishka's ebook before upload time. As a result you will have some very tense conversations with several people at the rental car firm and end up being given the luxury sedan that the employee on site drove to work in that day. You will drive the entire length of Santa Fe with Mishka's texts pinging on your phone and get home just in time to get that forward redone and the file sent.
Oh, and the reason that random guy from Ms. Hue's class will be texting you is because that kind of thing happens now in 2014. You are also beta-reading his first novel and he owns a paperback of one of yours - you'll discover this when a mutual friend complements you on it and says, "Mishka loaned me his copy." By 2014, you'll even have met up with him again in person a few times, once in front of a pirate ship in London, where you greeted each other with a hug, and another time at a taco restaurant in Los Alamos, where neither of you lives anymore.
In fact, twenty-seven years from now you will talk to that guy, sitting a few tables away, more often than you speak with anyone else in this classroom. It's a long story, but a good one. I suppose I should also explain what cell phones and ebooks are and who Jeff Bezos is, but you'd likely find that every bit as confusing as the thought of being friends with that guy over there sporting a skater cut.
Enjoy the next quarter century and change,
All of this is a very longwinded way of saying, The Long Run & Other True Stories: Foreword by Jeff Bezosis out and for sale. Go buy it. It contains fantastic writing by Mishka Shubaly who is a great guy, and - I'm very happy to say - an old friend of mine.

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