Happy Monday everyone! We’re sharing some great parables this week. Just for reference, I looked up the exact definition: Parable — a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.
While “the Prodigal Son” and “The Servants And the Talents” get a lot of press in Sunday school circles, there’s one parable we don’t hear about in sermons and Bible studies very often. It’s one of my favorites because it speaks to me on many levels, but especially as a writer. In the Bible, it goes like this:
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Of course, at its heart, this is a parable about grace — about the fact that we can’t earn our way there, no matter the amount of our works, but on a human level, there’s another lesson here. How does this lesson translate into the life of a writer? Like this:
A Writer’s Version:
An author submitted his manuscript with great hope. Then one day in January, about nine in the morning, an editor called and gave the author the most wonderful news! The author was being offered a two-book deal with a modest advance, and the book would be released in mass market paperback. The author was thrilled. After many years of writing and submitting, he would finally be published. He had achieved the dream at long last!
Some months later, the author went to a writer’s conference. This year, he was thrilled to be arriving with a .jpeg of his new book cover, safely stored in his iPhone. It was a wonderful cover, and best of all, was emblazoned with his name in big, gold letters. Life couldn’t get any better!
While he was waiting in line for the big conference banquet, he ran across a woman he’d met on a writers’ loop two years ago when she was just finishing her first manuscript. He was thrilled to tell her about his upcoming novel and show her the .jpeg of the cover on his phone.
The woman congratulated him, then reached into her briefcase and handed him an advance copy with a glossy cover. She had sold her manuscript right after the last conference, after only two years of rewrites and submissions. She’d also secured a successful agent, who had negotiated a nice advance and good contract terms. Her book was coming out in the fall in trade paperback, and her publisher was sending her on a small four-city tour.
The author felt the sting of disappointment as he let his phone go dim and tucked it into his pocket. Why hadn’t his publisher printed beautiful, glossy advance copies of his book? Why wasn’t he being sent on tour? What was wrong with his agent? Didn’t the agent know they should have held out for a better deal?
The questions weighed heavily as the writer entered the banquet hall and found a seat. His companions at the table exchanged business cards and talked about their works-in-progress. He mentioned his upcoming book, but didn’t bother getting out his phone. After all, not having advance copies to throw around made him seem small-time.
He was relieved when the Master of Ceremonies took the podium to introduce the keynote speaker, and the table talk tapered off. He tried to focus on the MC and enjoy the dessert the waiters had just served up, but it’s hard to enjoy anything when your publishing deal is so much lousier than someone else’s.
Finally, it was too painful to think about it anymore, so he tuned in as the keynote speaker came to the mic. The speaker looked young. Very young, and nervous.
“I never really thought about writing a book,” the kid admitted, “But I had a dream one night, and when I woke up, I remembered all of it, so I sat down and wrote it straight through in three-and-a-half weeks.
“I never thought I’d show it to anybody, but my mom’s housekeeper read it, and that day she was cleaning for a literary agent next, so she offered to take my book along. The agent was at home sick, so she read my manuscript. She called me the next day and said she’d been up all night with my book. She’d already talked to five publishers that morning, and she thought we could get mid-six figures at least, for just the book rights. So, while the auction for the book rights was going on, a film producer called the publishing house and asked if they had anything with dogs or weddings in it, and my book is about dog weddings, so then we sold the movie rights…“
The writer pushed away from the table, tossed off his napkin, and headed for the door. Staying in the room any longer was pointless. When life is so ridiculously unfair, it’s impossible to enjoy anything.
Even your own slice of chocolate cake.
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