This is not about testicles. It is about my relationship with my editor, Mim Harrison.
As a doctor and surgeon I expect my patients to defer to me in important matters of technical know-how, such as what specific surgery fits which illness. Likewise, I have been deferential to Mim in her revisions, choices of words, titles and compositional re-arrangements.
It was thus with much dismay that I discovered an obstinate difference of opinion between us and, at first, I dug my heels in. It was with a story entitled Testicle Talk. I loved the catchy title and so did my wife, my O.R. crew, various doctors who read the story and most important, one of the characters featured in the story as Claudia. Her real name is Kelly.
The story is about two guys, one a doctor, at a French Bistro named Anton’s, having a discussion about a testicle problem, while their women, unaware of what their guys are conversing about, have a parallel dialogue about all the horrible things that happen to testicles, neutered animals, eunuchs, you name it. At some point the two conversations intersect and our protagonist, the doctor, comes to a sudden realization about his counterpart that startles him.
Everyone, including myself, loved this story. Even my harshest critic Selim, my old high school classmate who reads and critiques everything I write, thought it was one of the best stories I ever wrote. There was one exception however, Mim. She took an instant dislike to it, and she focused on the title in particular.
I didn’t know what it was with Mim. She told me a story like that would land my book in porno search sites. So what, I thought, but I did not dare say that. I stuck to my guns and left the story alone.
Mim seemed to have a visceral aversion to my story and its title. In the nearly two years since it was finished, she tried hard to have me change various aspects of the story, most notably concentrating on the title. I didn’t Still, I was disappointed, because I had envisioned my entire anthology to be named Testicle Talk. Now I knew that if I did that, Mim would have a stroke.
As we came down to the wire, close to publication, and made our final revisions, Mim made a last ditch, vigorous attempt to change my mind. I slightly altered the ending, but kept the title.
She begged and pleaded with me. I finally caved in, and accepted one of her alternative titles, Friday Night At Anton’s. Boring!
A couple of weeks later, while having dinner my wife Julie and her friend Kelly – a.k.a. Claudia – I mentioned that I had discarded the title, Testicle Talk. They were shocked and disappointed. They accused me of being a coward. What a great, catchy title it was, and I had the gall to change it to such an insignificant one. They ordered me to rectify the problem.
It took a week for me to muster enough courage to go against my editor. I then sent her an e mail entitled Bad News. In it I mentioned my wife, but the real deal breaker was Claudia (after all she was in the story), and that they both wanted Testicle Talk back.”You are outnumbered,” I told Mim.
She understood and relented, although with an admonition that she would be pinching her nostrils every time she saw that title.
I am relieved to have Testicle Talk back and I owe a debt of gratitude to Julie and Kelly for standing up for it. As for Mim, hopefully Julie and Kelly are the bad guys from her perspective. And I? The spineless one, I presume.