The Mystery of it All


Gazing at the Spring 2017 issue of the Writer’s Digest Yearbook: Writing Essentials, I was struck by the young lady pictured on the cover. (passive voice, I know). My first thought was to acknowledge how very good looking she is. She smiles a beautiful smile, beautiful white teeth. Her hair cascades wonderfully down her shoulders and over her cool, off-white jacket. She has rolled up the sleeves, revealing slim arms. She’s slim, physically fit, sexy. She runs every morning in the park. Notice the white sign that shamelessly states: “NO EXPERIENCE” blocks her third finger, left hand. Interesting.

To the left and even with the top of her head is the headline: SUCCESS BEGINS HERE! So, it appears she’s happy because she is a successful writer, a thought which begs the question: Is she a writer? I mean a “real” writer? I look on the inside cover and find out that the cover image is credited to Yuri Arcurs, who is a professional photographer. I Googled.  The pictured lady is unnamed.

I checked a few other magazines I had lying about. It seems when an actual writer is highlighted on the cover their name appears as well. For instance, the July/August 2017 issue of Writer’s Digest features a marvelous picture of Heather Graham, and again, in the March/April 2017 issue of Poets & Writers, we see a bearded George Saunders on the cover. He’s sort of leaning into the center—towards his name, in large white letters.

Now both Graham and Saunders are writers, and just by looking at the pictures one can easily surmise that they are both over thirty. Why do I mention that fact? Well, let’s return to our first picture. The young lady shown is a twenty-something. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to rant and rave about young writers or young, incredibly-good-looking writers. No, no. I’m interested in this cover image for another reason…no, not that one either!

The reason is this:

Our anonymous young lady is a fiction. The whole set-up is a fiction. Let’s see what we can make of this. The Artist as a Young Woman is sitting at her desk. She’s sitting in one of those cloth swivel chairs, no arms. That’s why she’s leaning on the desk. She’s leaning towards us as if she’s about to speak or perhaps waiting for us to say something witty. I don’t know.

It’s a clean desk. You don’t see “stuff” lying about, such as old post-it notes or books or a pile of useless USBs or a few unpaid bills or a piece of a dog biscuit the dog didn’t eat last night. She leans toward us a bit. Her hands are clean, no calluses. Her unpainted nails are neatly manicured. No gaudy finger nail polish here. As previously noted, she’s wearing a very nice summer jacket—perhaps because the air conditioning is too high there in her study. Is it her study? We don’t know.

Beneath the jacket she dons what appears to be a t-shirt? Difficult to say. We see just enough cloth to know that she’s wearing something! Ah, and no earrings. I had to pull out my magnifying glass to check. There seemed to be something in that right ear, the one we can see. Something. What is that? What the hell? It looks like a kernel of corn…. I swear. Maybe she’s not even human. Ah, but no. It’s probably just the light. Maybe my nerves. Her left eye (She has brown eyes.) is larger than her right eye, as if she’s on to something. She knows something we don’t.

Oh—what was that? I thought I heard a sound. Maybe not. Back to the picture.

You see the corner of a laptop. Now the laptop in and of itself is not so much, but when we study the position of the computer in relationship to the non-writer, writer, we realize that she’s not very much involved with the screen. It’s at an odd angle. It’s actually turned away from her stunning gaze. Hmmm.

The computer also appears to be sitting on top of a white desk pad. Don’t you find that a bit disturbing? It echoes all that “whiteness” behind her. As if she’s in a white room, a sterile room, a room without end. There’s no writing on the desk pad, and it’s pushed quite a far piece back from the edge of the desk, a fact which I find odd. And why is that computer turned away? Why? Was there a second chair? Where is it? Who was looking at the computer, if not her? Who indeed? Just above her head are the letters: AL. Who is Al? Is that the missing person, the writer who has vanished? Is that a desperate message? Hold on Al.

We also see rising up, as it were, from the bottom of the cover, a glass. At this point, I thought to wax philosophical and ponder whether the glass is half full or half empty. Unfortunately, the glass in question appears to be absolutely empty…period.

But here our fiction takes a dangerous turn. There’s a second glass! Look carefully, there in front of her is—another glass. It’s empty as well. There’s a chill in the room. She’s holding a pen. She’s happy. She has sharp dog teeth. The glass is empty. Has she been drinking? Is that why she’s happy? Or is it something else, something even more sinister?

Someone is missing from this picture. Maybe it’s the real writer—Al somebody—the missing person, the absent chair. Or deeper than that, she is the real writer. The ghost writer. Al’s a fake. Maybe that’s why we don’t see the third finger. Eh?

She knows something. It has made her incredibly happy. We see her joy. We feel the bliss, the delight. She has succeeded. Indeed, the very headline tells us: SUCCESS BEGINS HERE! What success is that? Examine the key words: “finished novel.” Whose, I ask? Yours? Mine? Al’s? “Find more time” Oh, hell no. She definitely is happy about “more” time. “How to submit” OMG! Yes, indeed, I rest my case, dear blogger friends.  Here’s some real skullduggery if I ever saw it.

I think I might even subscribe.

I don’t know why I did this. It was fun! Hope you enjoyed.

19 thoughts on “The Mystery of it All

  1. calmkate

    lol, great analysis of a staged model I’m guessing … your piece reminds of Philip Adams, a gifted writer, a true wordsmith who has inspired me greatly since meeting him in my teens. He was a media guru then who used to give free talks to youth analysing the full page advertisements in various magazines to clearly demonstrate who was their target audience. And he assured us that most of the articles were created around that audience eg fake. Your reminder made me google him and at 78 he’s still alive and writing .. books, columns, etc so here is a taste of his quotes but his way with words is sheer bliss …
    Unless you’re willing to have a go, fail miserably, and have another go, success won’t happen.
    Advertising men and politicians are dangerous if they are separated. Together they are diabolical.
    The Internet provides a delivery system for pathological states of mind.
    PS reblogged an article about publishing, not quite as fake as RD, did you spot it?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Paul Post author

      Thank you so much. I’m happy you enjoyed the post. Ha. Philip Adams! I’m going to look him up. Sounds very interesting and the quotes are so true! I’ll check out the publishing article…I think I did see it, but memory ain’t so great in the morning! haw!

      Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. spearfruit

    Well done Paul, I think there is no longer a mystery of it all. Your attention to detail is one many people would like to have – and you have it! Great post, I thoroughly enjoyed reading and thank you for sharing. Happy Sunday my friend. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tina Williams

    Even Writer’s Digest, a worthy magazine in my opinion, is in the business of selling images and dreams. We see that beautiful young woman with the props of being a writer, and we want that, too–the beauty, the joy, the ease, the cleanness, rather than the sloppy messes we really are. So we pick up the magazine, read it, maybe even buy it. You know all this, of course, and I really liked how you made up a scenario for this not-quite-right picture. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul Post author

      Thank you!

      After I quit laughing myself, I thought, “why don’t they show a “real” writer’s desk or her library or her garden…why a model? Not that the model isn’t a positive image but hey, why not something a bit more realistic?

      Thank you for reading Tina. Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Cynthia Guenther Richardson

    Well, of all things to use as a prompt–such creative juice got flowing from that cover! Enjoyed your trippy experience each movement forward– fast arc, excellent clue development and a fine conclusion! I will never look at another writing mag the same way again. It might be the inspiration for the next great piece; yours was fabulous. Maybe you should consider writing mysteries, that would be fun to share with us. Carry on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul Post author

      Thank you so much for reading! I had intended a completely different post, but once I got going I couldn’t stop writing or laughing! It was fun, that’s for sure. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Miss Gentileschi

    Your eye for details is just stunning, Paul! I enjoyed reading your analysis very much – I will definitely look at cover pictures in a new way from now on!
    And I absolutely believe that a real writer’s desk should be cluttered with all the things you’ve mentioned and more 😉
    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Idle Muser

    Why did you do this, Paul?- because you enjoyed spilling your creativity with an engaging analysis and I enjoyed deciphering that why did Paul really pen this down! 😀
    Oh! I enjoyed this so very much. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


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