Legendary writers do not become known overnight. Ask any Neopian Times writer, and they’ll probably tell you some sort of story about how many times they’ve been rejected before their first success. Even the best of raconteurs have those stories that they regret. Obscurity, unfortunately, is inevitable in the world of writing.
However, an ambitious company once wanted to change this. Once, many years ago, a Royal Boy Kougra by the name of Linton Stone founded the Coronation Corporation, a business whose job it was to provide stories for the Neopian Times. There were many others like it, but its methods were far different than any others.
Linton prided himself in finding as of yet unsuccessful writers on the street (he only paid attention to female novelists; don’t ask why, for he was a rather eccentric type) and turning them into instant successes. Sooner or later, they would fade away to their former position—obscurity—and another would come to take their place, as is the norm. Despite its success, many of the other submission companies grew to distrust the Coronation Corporation, and hypothesized that there had to be some dark secret behind the scenes.
In fact, their suspicions were true, and that was the Coronation’s downfall. However, Linton still enjoyed his victory for many years before that, and that is the time period in which we find our young heroine...
Kalliopa Earnshaw was just one of the possibly hundreds who were picked up by this company. She had been a member for years, but she was still as unsuccessful now as she had been the moment she started working for them. While she, like any wise writer, had plenty of outlines for potential ideas, she was forbidden to go through the submission progress. Only the queens could do that.
Even from the beginning of the Coronation, the most gifted employee would be crowned the ‘queen’ of the company. Despite being in business to provide Neopian Times stories, the others only served to sit and wait until their time came. Queens didn’t last long, for some dark reason. On the other hand, though, they did get to submit stories and they got special attention from Linton—which everyone envied, since he was quite a popular gentleman. So, it was settled: Kalliopa would become queen and have her tales published everywhere. Everyone would know the white Xweetok’s face.
Right now, the queen was a Yellow Lenny by the name of Honeysuckle Winter. Like others before her, she was kind and hard-working, but a little conceited due to the fact that she was, after all, one of the most well-known faces in the Times. Almost her whole life had been spent trying to get to this position, and many joked that she should paint herself white to resemble a White Weewoo, and in turn, look even more like a Times writer.
Today, Honeysuckle was nowhere to be found. Kalliopa above all knew what this signified.
“Not again,” she sighed. “And we had Honeysuckle for so long, too. I never thought this would happen again...”
“Miss Kalliopa,” stated Linton while working on his calligraphy, “I’m afraid that we had to let Alice go.”
She watched, deep in thought. Calligraphy was always a talent of his, and it never failed to surprise her that he was never a Times contributor.
“Pardon my asking, Mr. Stone,” Kalliopa wondered, “but who precisely is Alice, anyway?”
“First off, there’s no need to be formal here,” he intoned. “Linton shall do just fine. And second, I believe you know Alice Winter quite well. In the Corporation, she was known as Honeysuckle.”
“Oh.” That was one of the rules of the business: you could write only under a pseudonym. As a result, very few actually knew a queen’s real name.
“You were the first that I called here,” he continued. “You realize the significance of that, right?”
“Do you require me to do some office work?” Kalliopa asked.
“No!” yelled Linton. “It means that you’re queen now!”
“Really?” she wondered. “Isn’t there someone in line before me?”
The Royal Kougra shook his head.
“I won’t let you down, sir,” she stated excitedly. “I can’t believe it happened so soon!”
“There is one last order of business,” answered Linton. “From now on, your name is Mayapple. Do you understand?”
“Yes!” She jumped and let out a little squeal at the news. “I can’t wait for my debut, and I still can’t thank you enough!” Mayapple then walked out of the room, eagerly awaiting her newfound career.
Linton gave a slight chuckle as she walked out and whispered, “No. Thank you, Miss Earnshaw...”
As days passed onward, the name Kalliopa seemed to be muttered less and less around the offices. Like Alice, her identity was being replaced by that of Mayapple, her pseudonym. Linton wasn’t lying when he spoke of making queens famous and recognizable. Within two weeks’ time, she was noticed in the streets and even made a few Neovision appearances. Everyone who was anyone in the world of writing read her stories.
In addition, Mayapple was happier than she’d ever been as Kalliopa. Her life was absolutely perfect compared to before. All her dreams had finally come true. However, soon all that began to change.
The company itself even profited from the White Xweetok’s success. As a matter of fact, one of the oldest corporations, Black Quill Publishing, went out of business just a week ago. Of course, Linton took this opportunity to gloat and give a pep talk to the others about how the Coronation was the finest publishing company that would ever be known, and that it would never die off like the others had.
One day, Mr. Stone had halted all business for a meeting. Standing next to him at the gathering was a Rainbow Ogrin, female like all the rest of the writers present.
“Employees of the Coronation Corporation,” he announced, “we have been blessed with a great honor today. As you know, one of our competitors, Black Quill Publishing, has shut down. All of the other companies were able to recruit former Black Quill members to join. As a result, Miss Angria McClellan is now a proud member of the Coronation and is in the running to be our next queen. She enjoyed quite a bit of success at her past company, and I’m sure she’ll be an asset here as well.”
Work continued as usual. Mayapple, curious, was one of the first to approach Angria. She’d never met someone from a competing business, and had always wondered what they were like.
“Hi,” she greeted. “My name is Mayapple Earnshaw.”
“Weird name,” commented Angria.
“Oh, like Angria isn’t?” responded Mayapple.
“I’m serious. Is that like a pen name or something?”
“All queens have to have pseudonyms,” the White Xweetok explained. “That’s common knowledge here.”
“To be honest, I wasn’t really sure I wanted to transfer corporations,” admitted Angria. “After all, I’ve heard some strange things about the Coronation. For instance, is it true that only one of you guys can submit at a time?”
Mayapple glared at her. “It’s not like anyone else does it differently.”
“Whatever,” sighed Angria. “That leader of yours seems like a jerk, anyway.”
“Linton?” wondered Mayapple. “Are you insane? You’re not interested in him at all?”
“Nope,” she responded. “I could care less about what he thinks of me. After all, I think I’ve started to figure out why all the queens end up mysteriously disappearing after a while. That’s not normal, you know. Usually, when you have an employee, they stay until they retire.”
“What’s your theory, anyway?” asked Mayapple. “I think I could use a good laugh right now.”
“I’m being serious!” she yelled. “Besides, you’ll see someday. From what I can tell, as soon as a queen gets one of her stories rejected, they can never come back.”
“Even if that was true, what’s wrong with that, anyway? Isn’t rejection the sign of an inexperienced writer? That’s what Linton always says.”
“Believe it or not, where I came from, rejections were seen as a second chance. A chance for improvement.” Angria then looked back at Mayapple as she walked away and whispered, “I wouldn’t trust what that Linton says. Something about him just doesn’t seem right...”
After that discussion, Mayapple went back to her Neohome to start working on a draft for her second series. A writer’s job was never done, after all. While she wanted to work on short stories as well, Linton insisted that series writers were ‘in’ at the moment, so she pushed all those thoughts out of her mind. After all, he was always right.
Or was he? Despite the fact that she thought Angria was just spouting conspiracy theories, Mayapple couldn’t deny that she had a point. Queens rarely lasted more than six months, and that was only the lucky ones that made it that far. There had to be some reason why. Part of her wanted to know, and part of her just wanted to continue with her life. Her time was now, and her spotlight would not die off without a fight. So she thought, at least.
As she was crossing along the road near the Coronation headquarters, she spotted a Yellow Lenny coming from one of the publishing companies.
“Honeysuckle!” she yelled in surprise.
“The name’s Alice,” the other figure corrected. “The time I was called that was a different period of my life.”
“It’s me, Kalliopa! Well, I’m Mayapple now, since I’m queen and everything, but you understand what I mean. So, have you applied for another company?”
“Yes,” replied Alice, “and they treat me much better here. For one thing, they don’t treat me like a one-trick Uni and throw me out when they think I’m losing my touch.”
“So it’s true then?” wondered Mayapple. “Linton really fires queens when they get rejected?”
“Couldn’t be more true,” responded Alice. “Last time I remember at the Coronation, I was working on my fifth series. It was going to be a twelve-part mystery series, my absolute masterpiece. Know what Linton did to it? He didn’t even let me submit it! He read the whole thing, thought it was an amateur work with no market audience for it, and almost threw the draft out the window, if I hadn’t caught it. The guy doesn’t care for us at all, only about the fame it brings him.”
“So he’s some kind of con man?” questioned Mayapple.
“To put it kindly. All the other publishers look down on his strategies, you know. In fact, he never got anything published in the Neopian Times. Everything he ever tried writing about had been done to death—I’m not going to name genres, since it might insult some people—but the point is that he’s always gotten such horrible feedback that he’s firing us like crazy as retaliation for what happened in the past. At least, that’s what my theory is. Still, it doesn’t justify his cause at all.”
While Mayapple still didn’t fully believe what everyone had said about the owner of the Coronation, she felt that she needed to know regardless. And to truly know, she would have to fail.
For once in her life, success was not an option.
Months had passed, and Mayapple (shockingly) was still queen. A few small prices still had to be paid along the way, however. She barely felt like she was the author of her new series anymore—for Linton had rewritten and meddled with at least half of the story to ‘fit in with modern audiences.’ It had still turned out fine, but she was becoming increasingly irritated with the glamorous life of a queen. If she couldn’t even take ownership of her own work, then who was she? A famous writer or just someone else in the crowd?
Her life in the Coronation became increasingly dull. Work on a fake outline for her third series (the short story option was still forbidden, to her anger and dismay), chatter with some of the other members, meet with Linton (who was nowhere near as charming as she’d found him before), go to autograph signings, guest star on Neovision shows she didn’t even care about, then it was immediately off to the interview circuit. Glamour. Fame. Spotlight. Recognition. Wealth. Fandom.
Happiness? Not so much. The life of an author? She barely got enough time to make the maddeningly short deadlines that Linton gave her. Her dream? It was beginning to go back the other way, into the zone of nightmares.
Despite all this, however, Mayapple’s home life (or rather, the little stub of a home life she still had) was filled with happiness and laughter. She was plotting to see just how true Angria’s conspiracy theories were by pushing the limits of what Linton’s precious ‘target audience’ would allow. Her real third series idea was filled with clichés, an attitude that none of this had ever been done before, confusing ideas, hodgepodges of otherwise logical genres... and romance. Of course, Mayapple wouldn’t come up with something like this for anything other than a joke or an investigation, but she had to admit that it was fun. Bad writing was harder than it looked, but it was worth it.
Within weeks, she finally had the complete first draft for Linton to look over, complete with a laughable title: The Stapler Chronicles. (The story itself had nothing to do with staplers.) She chuckled the whole way to work, waiting in anticipation to see the look on Linton’s face.
A whole day of work went by and Mayapple could tell that Linton was acting strangely. In the morning, he read the tale, and many said that his jaws were agape for so long that he had trouble moving his mouth for the rest of the day. As for the afternoon, she noticed that many of the items on her desk were disappearing one by one. First the quill, then the ink, then the paper, and so on. After a while, even the desk was gone.
When the day ended, Linton didn’t even bother to explain. He only talked for about five minutes about how this story would never sell, how she was the greatest disappointment he’d ever seen, and how Angria would make a much better queen than she was. With a quick explanation of “You’re fired,” Mayapple—now Kalliopa once again—was out the door.
But here’s the strange thing—she was finally happy. Just as Angria had said, rejection was a second chance. A chance for improvement.
The queen after Kalliopa, Pyria (pseudonym Cloudberry) didn’t last much longer than she did. Rumor had it that fame got to her so much that she just quit. After that came Angria, who was called Sweetbriar. She lasted longer than most, but at her one-year anniversary of being published (a luxury that the majority didn’t have), she issued a press conference on Neovision. Even if someone didn’t watch it, they’d heard about it. Sweetbriar had publicly dismissed her time as queen in front of a huge viewing audience, brought Kalliopa and other former Coronation employees along, and told Linton’s secret to the whole of Neopia. Linton tried to silence her, but it was useless. He had accidentally said a statement about the queens being worthless that he couldn’t take back. It was then that the audience—and Linton’s loyal admirers—finally saw his true colors. A true gentleman wouldn’t have made them go through all of this.
As Kalliopa walked through the familiar streets, she saw the Coronation headquarters, now vacant and only a distant reminder of what had happened in the past. Angria and the former queens had finally brought it down, and it would never return to its former glory again.
She did not look at it with a wistful eye, however, but sped right past it. Kalliopa was now an employee of New Start Publishing, a company founded just after the Coronation went out of business. It was the other’s polar opposite: anyone could submit, they could work until they retire, they could use their real name, and they could finally be themselves. Best of all, while she still wrote a few series, Kalliopa was best known for her short stories, a format that Linton would never let her write in.
For a moment, she wondered what she ever saw in him. As she passed by the Coronation to her new future, she noted that she saw him as a gentleman of culture, an expert in his work, someone to cheer her on, and someone to accept the others. He was none of these things. As long as Linton was around, your heart and your life were never accepted or held over. They were always rejected.
Her life as Mayapple was only a slight blip in her mind now. Kalliopa didn’t regret a thing she did outside of the Coronation.
Happiness? Yes. The life of an author? Most definitely. Her dream? She couldn’t ask for more.
She wasn’t a queen. She was a writer.