Jan 19 • New Releases • 4441 Views • No Comments on Exclusive Excerpt: I’m Doin Me by Anna Black
Tiffany sat at her desk waiting for the morning circus to begin. She was the executive producer for a hit television show called Boy Crazy, and she knew that the next season could be the last because the young ladies’ characters on the show would be graduating high school and going to college. Whether or not they would continue the series was still up in the air. She hated the waiting game. Her idea was to allow the characters to bypass college and become young adults, starting their new life adventures, trying to find their way in life with episodes about job hunting, moving out of their parents’ pool houses, and starting new careers—things that most recent well-off graduates do. Since the women were not the teens they portrayed on the show, she wanted to turn their characters into young adults, not college girls. They were now in their early twenties, and one cast member, Joy, was starting to look it.
She tapped her pencil on her desk, not able to concentrate because the thought of losing her show made her feel sick. She hadn’t felt that kind of fear in her gut in a while. She nervously went over the details of her proposal for the show a million times, hoping that the legendary Boy Crazy would continue. At five minutes ’til ten, she stood and grabbed her files and notes. “Meeting time,” she said to herself.
She hurried out of her office to get to the meeting, but her assistant, Myah, greeted her with a bright smile. “Okay, boss lady, you know what to do. Go in there and claim your new concept.”
“I will try. Since Bill has been gone, things have been so different. It is going to be difficult getting my ideas across to his pompous asshole of a brother. You know he wanted to cut our show first, even though it’s the number one show on this network.”
Myah brushed lint from Tiffany’s shoulder. “Because it’s a black show and you know our shows get, what, seven seasons tops?”
“Yeah, but I came in and saved this show,” Tiffany said. “And I’m not about to walk away without a fight. We have won several awards the last three years and rumor has it we have more coming this year, so he’d better not say no.”
Tiffany had lucked up on her job. She had gone to school for broadcasting and hoped to be a show host or anchorwoman someday, but landed a job purely by accident as a screenwriter and then later, as an executive producer. She was in the right place at the right time, she said every time she was asked how she got started.
She’d never forget that day. She had an interview to become a broadcaster for an online news segment, on KCLN’s Web site, a cable network that competed with popular stations like UPN and TBS. She walked in and asked directions to where she needed to be. With directions in her mental Rolodex, she went to the right floor, but walked through the wrong door. It was a meeting of screenwriters for Boy Crazy. When she walked in, the producer of the show, Todd, assumed she was the new writer.
“Great, you’re here. Have a seat,” he instructed. When she did, he continued. “Now, we are going into our new season. I need ideas, and I need them now!” He spoke like a man unmistakably in charge. “We know that Shana is now with our new cast member, Chase, and he is slime, the worst of the worst, and he only has sex on his little menacing mind. Who do you think we should allow him to hit on behind Shana’s back, Claire or Joy?”
Tiffany spoke up first. She was familiar with the show because she watched it faithfully, and she wanted to impress him since she thought this was her interview. “I say Claire. She is not likely to be trusted since she has had a history of dating both of their ex-boyfriends. Her confession about Chase will come across as vindictive, and when Shana doesn’t believe her, Claire sets up Chase with her Web cam to prove to Shana that she is telling the truth. That brings the girls a bit closer to seeing that Claire is not the horrible person she reflects on the outside.”
The producer agreed. “And what should we do about Claire’s mother deciding to divorce her dad because she thinks he had the affair with Claire’s dance teacher?” he asked.
Tiffany jumped in again before anyone else. “We know that the encounter at the restaurant was innocent. I think Claire should intervene and go on a so-called investigation of her own to get to the truth to convince her mom to stay. That will give her and her friends a quest to join forces to save her parents’ marriage.”
“Brilliant,” he said. “I suggest you guys put your heads together and come up with something extravagant for the upcoming season. And you, new girl, are impressive. Welcome to the team.” He shook Tiffany’s hand and she smiled. She didn’t know the job was for a writer for her favorite show.
Seconds later, the actual new girl walked in. “I’m so sorry I’m late. Traffic was crazy,” she said and put her bag down. Her natural curls were wild around her milk chocolate face, and she seemed to be out of breath.
“Who are you?” Todd asked.
“I’m Tracy, your new writer,” she said and extended her hand.
“If she’s Tracy, who are you?” he asked Tiffany.
“I’m Tiffany Richardson. I am here for the broadcasting position.”
“Well, Tiffany, broadcasting is not your calling. And you, Tracy, are late, so you lose.” He got up and exited the room.
Tracy looked at Tiffany with a look of total confusion. She looked around, hoping someone would say something, but everyone gathered their things to leave the room.
“Are you serious? This has to be a joke right?” Tracy said, blinking almost one hundred times a second.
“Yes, ma’am. You missed your chance, Miss Tardiness,” Darryl, another writer, said. Everyone began to leave the room.
“Son of a bitch!” Tracy yelled.
“Look, I’m sorry,” Tiffany said. “I walked in thinking it was an interview for the broadcasting spot,” she tried to explained.
Tracy shook her head. “I don’t give a shit. I have worked my entire life to get here, and now it’s being snatched from under me by someone who doesn’t even qualify for the job? This won’t be the last time you or KCLN hears from me. I’ll be calling my lawyer!” She stormed out.
Tiffany sat and tried to take in what just happened. Unsure where to go or what to do next, she decided to find Todd and ask him what’s next. She asked around and finally made it to his office.
“Come in,” he yelled when she tapped on the door.
Walking in slowly, she said, “Listen, Todd, I don’t have a clue where to go from here. I mean, I came in for a different position and you mistook me for Tracy. I don’t want to take anyone’s job,” she protested.
“You’re not taking anything, I’m giving it to you,” he said and stood. “Come follow me.”
They went down the hall and stopped at a door with the name Tracy Simms on it. Todd slid the nameplate out and opened the door. “This will be your office or what I like to call your thinking chamber. There is a comfy sofa for you to lay back and let your imagination take you anywhere that results in a successful show.”
Tiffany looked around in amazement. She didn’t expect anything as lovely as this office and she thought she’d burst.
“Now,” he continued, “take this down to the personnel office and they will get you processed. Be back in the morning at nine sharp, ready to work with your team to write thirty fun and crazy episodes for next season.”
“I thought each season was only twenty-two episodes,” she said.
“Yes, but we write thirty because some are not worth airing,” he said and walked out.
She found her way to the HR department and sat down to fill out her paperwork. Her eyes bulged when she saw her contract and her new salary.
“Ma’am, is this correct?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am. You get this per episode,” the rep said.
Looking at all the zeroes made Tiffany dizzy. “I need a glass of water,” she said.
The older, thin, gray-haired woman got up and got her some water from a cooler in the corner of the office. “You’re the first writer to act this surprised,” she said, handing Tiffany a paper cup. “I’ve been here for twenty-four years, and they always want more,” she joked.
“Well, I came here for a job making five times less than this,” Tiffany said.
“Well, Boy Crazy is like the fifth or sixth show for this network in ranking, and it has only been on the air for one season.”
Tiffany took a deep breath, worried that she may have gotten in way over her head. She finished signing all the documents and headed out, anxious to call her mother. In the car, she dialed her and filled her in on the miracle that just happened. She went home, excited to tell her roommate that she’d be finding a new place in thirty days. The money she’d be making called for a more upscale type of living arrangement. Making that much, she could now afford to buy a new set of wheels, too.
“Asia!” she called when she walked in. “Asia!” she yelled again when there was no reply. “You will never guess what happened to me today.”
Her roommate finally came out of her room. She had on a robe, a clear indication that she was maybe in the middle of or just finishing up some grown folks’ business. “Shhhhh,” she instructed with a finger over her lips.
Tiffany lowered her voice. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were entertaining. I’ve got some news that will blow your mind.”
“What, girl? What?”
Tiffany grabbed a wine glass and poured it half full of merlot and took a sip before she continued. “You will never believe what happened to me today.” She grinned.
“Okay aw’redee, wat in da bumbaclot hap’pon?” Asia asked, lapsing into her Jamaica dialect.
“I went to KCLN for that broadcasting gig, but ended up getting a job as a writer for Boy Crazy,” Tiffany squealed.
“Waddddd? Yah lie,” her friend snapped back.
“No, mi no lie,” Tiffany said, trying to imitate her.
“Oh, my God, Tiff, that is, like, amazing,” Now Asia sounded like the sixth-grade schoolteacher she was. Not the Jamaican sister who grew up in Brooklyn.
“Yes, and this is my thirty-day notice. I am moving out. I am going to be making more than I made in the last six months in just one episode. I can’t believe that it just happened like that.” Tiffany snapped her fingers for emphasis.
“Wow, Tiff. That is incredible. I am so happy for you,” Asia said, hugging her tight.
“Thanks so much, Asia, and I promise when I am settled and things are normal, I will pay you back for all that you have done for me.”
Asia put her hands up and shook her head. “Tiff, come on. When you moved in, I told you that I wanted to help. Help means help, and you, my sista, don’t owe me a ting.”
Tiffany hugged her even tighter. “Thank you so much, Asia. You are like an angel. God put you in the right place at the right time. If it weren’t for you, I would have been on the streets,” she exclaimed. “Moving from Chicago to pursue my dream was one thing. Getting here and finding out the beachfront property I signed a lease online with was a crack house wasn’t the worst thing to happen to me. Not getting my two grand back for the deposit was,” she said and they laughed.
“Well, if you hadda changed your clothes the next morning instead of having on the same outfit that you had on the morning before, I would have never known that you were in need of a little assistance.” Asia went to light the fire under the tea kettle.
“I know, right? I slept in the diner that night. I was grateful that Miss Alma didn’t make me leave.” Tiffany shook her head, thinking back.
“Well, it worked out for us both.”
“I don’t know how you drink that. Tea is so awful.” Tiffany frowned, watching her roommate get tea out of the cupboard. She took a swallow of her merlot and took a seat.
“Tea is not awful. It’s better than all the wine ya’ drink. Boy, I swear, you Yankee gals.”
“Hey, you said you wouldn’t call me that.”
“Yes, you’re right, mi sor’ey.”
Her lover came out of her room “Baby, mi gon’ push off,” he said. Asia went over and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Will mi see ya later?” she asked.
“Of course,” he said and kissed her. She watched him walk out the door.
“My goodness, Asia,” Tiffany said. “Where do you find these fine-ass men? I mean, for crying out loud, you’re a schoolteacher.”
“Hey, what I do in the daytime is one thing, and what I do at night is another.”
Tiffany laughed. She grabbed her wine and headed to her room and looked around. She was happy to know that she finally would be able to afford a place of her own and not have to live in this eight-by-eight box anymore. She still slept on a twin-sized bed because nothing else fit. She hadn’t totally unpacked because there was no storage in her little room, but she was grateful she wasn’t homeless.
That was episodes ago. Now she was established and doing well as the executive producer and head writer for Boy Crazy. Today was the day she had to convince Todd and the evil-ass, non-smiling bastard and acting CEO that the show needed to transition from high school graduation to college graduation. She felt the show did not have to pick up with the girls being in college, because every situation they could get into had already been done in all the episodes of them being “boy crazy” in high school.
“Myah, please promise me that you will be on my team even if it’s not at KCLN,” she asked. Her assistant was the best of the best when it came to assistants.
“If that means I won’t be on the unemployment line, I’ll promise,” Myah said.
Finally, it was time for Tiffany to walk into the idea room. That was where they sat at a large oval table to play with their ideas. “I can’t promise you that just yet, but I know my life would be an unorganized mess without you.”
“Well, go in there and keep us both employed,” Myah said, giving her boss a little shove.
Tiffany went in and took her seat. Todd walked in with Mr. Keiffer. Mr. Keiffer was the network owner’s brother. He was filling in because Bill, the real deal, was out ill. His presence in the room made a difference. Tiffany’s confidence deserted her. For the first time in the idea room, she was fresh out of ideas.
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