I wrote a book, which I think is AWESOME, but after pitching to nearly every agent I feel is a fit, I’m getting no interest. Well, while waiting for agents to respond, ANOTHER genius novel idea came to me and I HAVE to begin writing this. But The Agency is definitely on pause.
The Agency follows Emma Martinez as she begins her internship at a new boutique talent agency. Before long, strange occurrences force Emma to question the legitimacy and true intentions of the firm. After some investigating and a little help from new-found friends within theAgency‘s walls, Emma learns the CEO is a fairy queen who is using The Agency‘s talent to brainwash society into becoming her consumerist slaves. Emma realizes only she can stop this evil plan – all while balancing a scholarship, best friend drama, and the scary new world of dating.
Some of you may have read a version of this before BUT I wanted to put it here just in case. Would love your comments / feedback! Enjoy chapter 1:
I’m calling you that because I don’t know your name and writing “friend” helps me feel like I’m not messaging a stranger.
I don’t normally leave letters behind for individuals I don’t know, but this exercise is mostly for my own benefit. I need to process what went down at The Agency. I also need to know someone knows about what happened to me.
It started the way any story would – at the beginning. My beginning was on the first day of my first internship, when I left that unflappable Latina teenager behind and dove into the scary abyss known as #adulting.
As my dumpy Honda carved its way through the Hollywood Hills, a tinted Oldsmobile trailed closely behind. This wasn’t your irresponsible L.A. driver who was scrolling through his or her Instagram feed and following too closely. This wasn’t some granny driver who couldn’t see that her bumper was about to put its name to use. This wasn’t a near-sighted person without glasses, either.
This driver was different. This driver zeroed in on his target. This driver was spying. Had I known the implications of this little and hugely important fact at the time, I probably would have pursued every tactic to ditch my pursuer.
But playing the role of Ignorant Annie so perfectly, I dialed up my speakers’ volumes and blasted thrashing drums to help tune out the troublesome scraping noise of grinding metal my car was wont to make. You see, that noise meant my Honda would have to visit the auto shop soon and even with the discount Pablo gets me, I still didn’t have disposable cash to be spending on repairs. So I increased the sound level until I could tune anything out: honking horns, that irksome grating, and apparently stalker Oldsmobiles.
So I obliviously carried on, with my window all the way down, wind whisking through loose waves of thick hair. Feeling like a rock star, I nodded my head to the song’s beat. You wouldn’t know the band. It was frighteningly early in the morning and I hadn’t had my Rocket Fuel energy drink yet, so I appreciated the rock music and cool air’s caffeinating effect.
Bile swilled in my stomach, along with a jittery nervous feeling that only swelled as I handed the nice geriatric security guard my ID and he granted me access to the Entertainment Now studio lot – where I was about to begin my first internship.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I know what you’re thinking:
What happened to that Oldsmobile? You just caught my attention.
Well, have patience. My stalker will be right back in the mix of things soon enough, adding surprises to my life as if he were making a smorgasbord stew.
For now, I was navigating my way through the sleepy Tinseltown, all the while mulling over the anxiety and excitement bubbling in my stomach. Eventually I found a giant parking structure where I proudly stationed my tin can-on-wheels in between an Audi and Tesla and scurried towards the Entertainment Now hangar.
Before entering, I ducked into the alleyway behind the studio and gazed into my compact’s mirror, taking time for a reflective moment.
I was nervous, nervous enough that I could feel my palms sweating profusely and dreaded the moment I’d shake my first colleague’s hand. After fishing around in my oversized purse, I popped a couple Tums, took a deep breath and pulled open the glass door of Entertainment Now.
This was it.
Inside the surprisingly small and dated lobby, a perky receptionist greeted me, “Welcome to Entertainment Now! May I ask whom you are here to see?
I gleaned the receptionist’s name from the placard affixed to the desk: LUCY.
Lucy’s bright blue eyes looked like sugar dot candies. Her hair was the color of cornhusks and a candy-shell coated her voice so that it was sickly sweet. She reminded me of a baby doll and immediately annoyed me.
Leaning over her desk, I said, “I’m new and it’s my first day. Donna’s training me.”
“Donna’s the internship supervisor and a producer here. Hold on.”
Lucy tapped the phone board quickly and sang into the receiver, “Hi, it’s me. You have an intern.” Lucy glanced my way and I mouthed my name as she repeated, “Jenna’s ready for you. Right. Okay. Will do. Thanks.”
She hung up and offered with a hospitable, but fake, tone, “Donna will be out shortly, would you mind waiting here?”
Of course I didn’t mind. I was at my dream company, waiting to be greeted by a PRODUCER. It was an honor just to sit on their flimsy Ikea couches.
By the way, in case you didn’t catch it, our friend Lucy over there misread my lips. My name is not Jenna. It’s Emma.
Emma Josefa Maria de Martinez.
But just call me Emma Martinez.
Everyone else does.
As I sat in the reception, I perused entertainment magazines while producers connected from head to butt through Walkie Talkies bustled about, seemingly late for a —-
“Jenna?” A crisp voice entered the room, followed by a tall, Frappucino-sipping woman, who I deduced was Donna.
Donna stood tall in red stilettos and a black baby doll dress. Her bun was so taut, that I imagined her face collapsing each night after she released it. I didn’t especially j’adore the bawdy necklace of gigantic white beads she festooned around her neck, but hey, we each architect our own unique vision of style. I was wearing a red checkered shirt over a grey tank top and sporting loose denim jeans. Next to her, I looked like lumberjack’s assistant. So it’s not like my vision of style is the pillar to endeavor towards.
I glided to my new internship supervisor, leading with strong eye contact and a handshake firm enough to crush bone, “Hi! Yes! Actually, my name is Emma. I’m so excited to work here and with you. Please know even though I’m a USC student, I’m not entitled at all. I’m here to work and learn as much as you’re willing to teach me.”
Ugh, do you see what I did there? I dribbled incoherent, anxious syntax. Where Sally had that irksome scraping, I was wont to have those word vomit episodes. I quickly shut my mouth before anything else could come out.
Donna ignored my strong handshake and scrutinized me like a suspected spy, eventually saying, “Rule one: come off as a seasoned professional at all times. Even if you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about, act with confidence. You just came off as a desperate fan girl. Follow me.”
Donna hadn’t finished her sentence before she slithered out of the reception, leaving me alone with my mouth open. I quickly shook off the biting scene and followed.
“You of course have to want the job,” Donna said without turning to notice if I was following, “you have to always be hungry. Oh! And that reminds me; you literally have to be hungry.”
It was clear what she meant, but I couldn’t tell if she was serious. This woman’s dry tone was indecipherable. Donna smirked as she turned around, re-examining me to ensure I was indeed, not too plump for Entertainment Now. After I passed the test, she clucked her cheeks and carried on with a self-satisfied walk.
As we rushed through the newsroom, a large chamber lined with television screens and rows of desks, I noticed everyone’s eyes were baggy and puffy. I noticed everyone had a coffee in-tow, as if controlled by caffeine. I also noticed a lack of contentment floating like a thin cloud of misery over the entire hangar. I swear I could feel an ulcer of disappointment forming within my stomach, even just five minutes into the job.
We passed a glass panel dividing the newsroom from a producer’s office and I noticed a blonde bombshell lying facedown on a massage table. A brawny Swedish hunk rubbed her topless back as the bombshell lifted her botoxed head to scream out to her assistant, “Get me Beyoncé! I want the exclusive!” and we continued on, as if the topless woman in the office was not out of the norm.
Finally, Donna stopped at a corner desk and sat down in front of her computer. A second chair had been propped up but when I sat down in it, a vein popped from Donna’s forehead, throbbing violently as she hissed, “Why are you sitting down? Is your work done for the day?”
I stuttered, “I, oh, I’m so sorry. I thought – training?”
Donna turned back to her computer and clicked, clacked away at her keyboard. She muttered under her breath, “Did they even screen you?”
Donna’s mouth was pursed as she focused intently on an email, ignoring my presence for three minutes before she said, “Okay, let me tell you what I expect. I want someone who knows what they want. I want someone seasoned and experienced, but green, cheap, and ready to pay her dues. I want someone who eats, breathes, and sleeps entertainment news. But I don’t want you to sleep because that’s a waste of time. You should be working, planning, or planning on how you think you want to start working.”
As Donna spoke, she scrolled and typed, never actually giving the courtesy of eye contact. Her redundant monologue clearly indicated that I was not dealing with a sane person.
“If you want to work in this industry,” Donna continued, “You need to be willing to give up your personal life. There’s no such thing as a family emergency, BUT, if you are at a family emergency and news hits? Well, you better know your priorities. So tell me, Jenna, could you ditch your grandmother’s funeral to cover Lady Gaga’s pregnancy announcement?”
Donna stared at me, unflinching, waiting for an answer to her absurd questions, but I failed to say anything, assuming them to be rhetorical.
The vein engorged so much so, I thought it was going to explode before she fumed, “Sorry. I don’t teach entertainment 101. I need someone ready to hit the ground running. You can finish out the day, but this will be your last with Entertainment Now. Speaking of now, coffee machine is behind reception. Coffee – stat.”
Her words shot through me like bullets, and I was in a catatonic stupor after their impacts. How could I be fired so quickly? I hadn’t even been an intern a full hour. There wasn’t even enough time to prove how well I brewed a medium roast. None of her words seemed serious.
Donna’s mascara-laden, dark eyes didn’t imply jests of any sort. She was cold, stiff, and deadly serious, like a fashion-forward Judge Judy.
Mustering the last ounce of bravery I possessed, I asked with a high pitch, “You must be joking, right?”
Donna smiled and said, “I’m not one for comedy. Yes, you are fired. I’m sorry, but take this lesson and use it on your next shot in Hollywood, if you ever get one. Now while you’re still an intern here – coffee.”
I floated out of my body, trudging my way mindlessly towards the coffee station stationed behind the reception. I went over every conversation in my mind, unsure what I did that was so horrific.
As the coffee drained into a mug, my dread, feelings of serendipity, and excitement drained alongside. I felt myself breaking as my dreams cracked beneath me.
Donna didn’t want to give me a chance. Donna was a deranged producer on some sick power trip. Contempt expanded within me, and like the scalding coffee, I was fuming.
Donna didn’t deserve fresh coffee, Donna deserved earwax. So I licked my finger, stuck it in my ear, and gooped out a waxy coat. I shoved my finger in the mug, immediately shrieking from the burning sensation, “OUCH that’s hot!”
Lucy squealed in surprise behind me.
I was foiled again.
The day passed as a blur, but at some point I rose once more and found it within myself to attempt another tactic: to work diligently.
Perhaps if Donna could fire a girl in the first five minutes, she could rehire her in the first eight hours. I decided to win Donna over through work ethic and a charming spirit. I made copies, pulled footage from the tape vault, and transcribed monotonous interviews. All my work was done with a sense of urgency and a smile.
At two p.m. the end of my first shift rolled by. As Donna packed her purse, she leaned in my direction and whispered, “You ended up doing a good job today, kiddo.”
I graciously responded, “Thank you.”
Then I stood there expectantly waiting for the announcement as Donna stared with a ‘you can leave now’ expression. Finally accepting defeat from the dragon-y producer lady, my shoulders slumped. I dragged myself towards the exit of Entertainment Now carrying with me a bit of that cloud of misery.
Before I reached the glass doors and fully exited, Donna ran into the reception and yelled after me, “Wait!”
I quickly swiveled and a smile beamed across my face.
This was it.
This was my Ugly Betty moment. Pollyanna paid off! Of course I proved my worth. My passion for this internship emanated from me. There was no way I could have worked so hard, dreamt so long, and pleaded so much for it all to be swept away like dust in the wind on my first shot. I beamed with pride, envisioning my True Hollywood story:
I was going to make it after all!
But Donna said unapologetically, “Before you go, will you remember to leave your parking pass at reception? We can give it to your replacement.”
The universe never gives us more than we can handle.
I’ve certainly heard that motto enough in my life, but the words resonated with me clearly for the first time as I drove back to my shoddy apartment in Koreatown.
I didn’t live in K-town just because it was close to campus. It was also the only place I could find an affordable apartment that wasn’t in the valley (ugh, the valley) while also being moderately safe. I mean, very rarely there are random drug shootings and car break-ins in the vicinity of my apartment, but hey, there’s laundry onsite. It all evens itself out.
Luckily my rich best friend didn’t mind slumming it in K-town and agreed to move with me. I just couldn’t afford the swanky places her mother’s money could, so there we were, relegated to the Fairville Estates, renamed shortly after moving in to the Dingeville Estates. The parking sucks, but we live above an awesome cook-your-own-food, all-you-can-eat restaurant, which is pretty rad when you get the munchies.
It was early afternoon, but there was still plenty of traffic on the road, thanks to LA’s many rich, fun-employed kids.
Traffic was actually a saving grace; I wasn’t in a hurry to get home. I needed to mentally process the day. I needed time. My best friend and roommate, Jezebel “Jez” Johnson was home and I wasn’t in a hurry to recount my humiliation to her. I hadn’t even figured out my own POV on the matter.
I had some time to ride around in my dumpy Honda and free myself. With that being said, it was comfortable knowing that when I did end up divulging the news to Jez, she’d offer the best advice out of anyone in my social circle.
True, my social circle really only consisted of Jez, but still.
Jez was technically a fun-employed kid, but she wasn’t like the other FK’ers who attended the University of Southern California. To start, she didn’t have that glossy, ennui-glazed personality. It’s so strange to me that the kids who have it all, the kids who grow up with every opportunity, they seem to be the most bored. Jez’s fun-loving eyes sparkled and her smile was contagious. She was still fascinated and astounded by life, despite her (as all filthy rich people seem to label it) fortunate upbringing. I appreciated that.
I feel like if I were a FK’er, I’d take advantage of the advantages, but maybe there’s something about growing up with a silver spoon in your mouth that prevents the development of that burning “oomph” we call drive. I don’t know; I’m not a psych major.
My point is, Jez wasn’t like those other FK’ers at all. Jez was the kind of girl who would walk in to the ice cream store, ask the about every exotic flavor, requesting for a full SWOT analysis on each choice before finally settling on something classic like vanilla. It was her nature.
She was a tormented soul who cared not about visceral materialism, but was captivated by artistic endeavors. I’d never met someone so driven by passions, and it was our mutual respect for our determined dreams that sealed our friendship. Basically? She was my BFF – even though I’d only known her a year.
But she was more than a BFF and the year felt like an eternity. She was family. She was like a sister.
She was all I had.
I drove around for about an hour until the rush hour traffic was just about to hit. My angry music made me less so. Eventually I reached the mental space to find peace. Losing Entertainment Now was a good thing. It was the next step in my journey, leading to something bigger. It had to be. I had to hang onto that belief.
And I was ready to confront Jez with the news.
When I parked tandem to Jez’s BMW, I failed to notice the same Oldsmobile from the morning had parked across the street from my apartment complex.
Strike two for oblivious Annie.
Jezebel Johnson’s bedroom served as a vast emporium filled with artistic bric-a-brac and scientific oddities: fractal renderings, robotic machines, lines of codes, molded art figures, half-painted easels, telescopes, and other such bewildering things.
My knock was drowned out by the Jez’s stereo, so I quietly entered. Once inside her artistic lab, my eyes had to readjust. Jez covered the windows with blankets, closed the curtains, and kept the lights off. Her room was completely dark. I blindly felt my way towards the light switch and flipped it on.
At this, Jez shot up and squealed, “What the hell, Emma, you can’t just barge in and disrupt the process! You scared me!”
At this point I was dying of laughter. She screamed so loud, her eyes about popped out of her head as she fell back, falling onto her squishy, big butt.
Jez quipped, placing one hand on her hip and hoisting herself up the other, “It’s not funny! I could have really hurt myself, or even worse, broken an art piece.”
Gasping for air I said, “You’re right, you’re right. I’m sorry. It was just so…”
I then cackled and mimicked her scream and fall.
Jez jabbed my rib with fingertips and teased, “Careful, Martinez, you’re just a skinny little chick. You couldn’t take me even if you tried, so don’t try me.”
We both were breathing heavy now, red faced and laughing in the fallout of our taunting match. Just like sisters, right?
When I’d finally calmed, I sat down on her flaccid mattress and deflated a bit. Jez sensed my energy and sat down next to me. She grabbed my thigh and looked me in the eye with concern. “What’s wrong, Emma?”
I sighed and said, “Life. I suck at it.”
“Okay, girl. I want to help you, but I’m going to need you to be a bit more specific.”
I whined, “I lost my internship today. They fired me!”
Jez gasped and said, “That’s impossible. You’re a genius with an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture. A top outlet like Entertainment Now would see the value in someone like that.”
I assured, “It’s possible and it happed.”
I went on to share the tale of Donna and the coffee burn and the Swedish masseuse, up until “and then, they asked me to return my parking pass.”
Jez gasped, “Ouch. Entertainment Now is a well-oiled machine, isn’t it?”
I nodded, “Chewing up and spitting out people like soggy sunflower shells since 1982. What am I going to do? I CAN’T lose this internship.”
I really couldn’t. The University of Southern California was hosting me on scholarship, there was no way I’d be able to afford community college, much less one so prestigious and private as USC. With a school so competitive, poor smart girls are a dime a dozen and once one fails the internship class, the funds dry up quicker than a flaked off scab.
I grimaced at Jez in despair and she smirked at me. It was devilish and I knew what she was thinking.
I said, “Jez, no.”
Jez propped herself up and hobbled to her laptop, rubbing her bum’s sore spot. When she’d sat down, she inhaled deeply, shook out her hands and bent forward, frantically pouring code into the computer, each finger constantly in motion, typing, hacking.