So I was writing in a library when Calyce Tate appeared. She stood on my right, a foot from my shoulder with her arms crossed, staring down at me with her head cocked like a parrot. You know the look. That one-eyed thing your mom did when she knew you were lying to her when you said you were studying but you weren’t.
Her foot was tapping. I couldn’t see it but I felt it somehow. Maybe the rhythm made that one beady eye dance. Calyce (“pronounced like Alice with a C,” she told me that first day) was impatient for me to begin telling her story.
Instantly I had two thoughts: one, so this is how it happens. Your lead character materializes out of nowhere fully formed and attitudinal and you’re reduced to being an amanuensis unforgivably delaying.
And two, she’s black, and I’m not. How will I do this?
“Me?” I asked her, pointing to myself like a kid being called on in class.
“You,” her parrot face told me.
But then it became the story of Alternate Endings and as it arrived, I realized that it was a tale about women, all women of a certain age. It’s universal. Calyce was an Everywoman. Not “a black Everywoman,” not some subcategory. And I realized that I was an Everywriter, just as Shonda Rhimes is an Everywriter. Calyce Tate is my Meredith Grey. Respect for the character and her story is all it takes.
By appearing to me that day in the library, Calyce took me to a place I had never been and gave me a pen and told me to get it all down. That was all that mattered.