Edited by Kaitlyn Johnson kjohnsonfreelance.com


It's 1996, dawn of the internet gold rush, and Barrie Isaacs should probably stock up on Motrin. Or, possibly, Prozac.

A neurotic but wildly-profitable website producer, Barrie is a dot-com rockstar unable to crack the upper levels of management, aka the boys’ club. It doesn't help that her noodgy parents wonder why she chucked her graduate degree for a career on this. . .web thing? In Virginia? Worse, she panics each time she contemplates moving from professional to personal with her long-time work crush Josh, a Southern charmer and Stanford genius. There should be a Nice Jewish Girl's Handbook for handling this sort of thing!

When management brings in a couple of Hollywood heavies to glitz up the joint, Barrie and Josh join forces to retain their hard-fought positions in the company. The Left Coast bigwigs have an agenda—giving new meaning to the term promoting from within—and Barrie’s career subsequently starts to tank. No Yahoo search results can teach Barrie how to navigate the shark-infested hallways, but technology—specifically a newfangled web cam—may be the key to fighting back. Barrie must click her Doc Marten’d heels together and create an out-of-the-box idea to wow everyone before the company goes public and she loses her stock option payday, her burgeoning career, and her chance with Josh.

GIRL(DOT)COM, a 92,000 word work of #ownvoices contemporary adult fiction, combines the romantic comedy ethos and musical obsession of NICK HORNBY'S works with the colorful internet universe of TV's SILICON VALLEY to create a nostalgic, historical tiptoe through the land of nerds in love. It is a fictionalized picture of the early days of AOL (where I worked), a place bursting with change and possibilities—but also with sexism issues with which women still grapple to this day. Until recently, I worked as a freelance writer, contributing stories to The Washington Post's “On Parenting”, “Travel”, and “Local Living” sections. One of my short stories was published in the anthology Electric Grace: Still More Fiction by Washington Area Women.

I'm delighted to share the first five pages of GIRL(DOT)COM with you for your perusal. I appreciate your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Sheryl Stein


First Five Pages:

1996: Before the gold rush


There wasn’t enough Prozac in the world to help me survive this party.

Sitting cross-legged atop the tapestry-covered loveseat I favored as a child, my flowy boho skirt covered everything that would otherwise show (except for the book in my lap) thanks to my ungraceful pose. My elbow carried the weight of my aching head as I furtively watched my sister inhale all the love, laughter, and oxygen from our parents’ living room. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and people whom I’d frankly never seen before thronged Esther and her new fiancé, Jerrold. My mother Edie beamed, her second (of probably several) vodka and limes waggling in one hand while the other pointed like an insistent compass at my sister, raptly engaged in conversation with the future mother-in-law.

I imagined the soundtrack to this blessed event. Flight of the Bumblebees? Definitely on it.

Meanwhile, my father, noting my mother’s distraction, dashed over to the hors d’oeuvres table. He piled a plate high with latkes and Hebrew Nationals in blankets, squirting on a healthy mound of Heinz, looking side to side to make sure Mom didn’t see him grinning like the cat who ate the canary. Spooning a blob of applesauce on his plate, he turned and noticed me staring. His plate tipped to one side; one little hotdog rolled off his plate onto the floor.


After that little piggy went wee wee wee under the table, Dad carefully balanced his plate, his fork, and his countenance, sauntered over, and plopped down on the arm of my chair. “You won’t tell your mother, will you?”

I shrugged. “Who died and made me the food police?”

Dad smiled, his secret safe with me, as always. He picked up a mini latke, rolled it side-to-side like a pizza slice, dipped it in applesauce, and took a bite. A mouth full of food did not stop him from conversation. “So, what do you think about Jerrold? Is he good enough for our Esther?”

Would anything ever be good enough for our Esther? I wondered. At thirty, she was a well-respected therapist specializing in women with body issues. She owned a swanky place in Brooklyn (the concept still somewhat alien to me as that was where we visited Bubbe when we were little, and it was decidedly unswanky then). And now? Newly engaged to a doctor. A Jewish doctor, I should point out. This, to my parents, was like hitting the offspring trifecta. Her unnatural blonde hair streaked by some expensive beautician in the City, my sister’s halo glowed.

My heart filled with joy for Esther despite my parents doing everything in their power to prevent that—a lifelong hobby of theirs. “I’m sure they’ll be very happy together,” I said. “It’s beshert, all predestined, like everything else in her charmed life.”

Dad heard the sigh in my words. “Sweetheart, one day, it will happen for you, too. You’ll see.”

“Maybe it won’t happen—and maybe that’s totally fine, too. I like my job. I like the people at work.”

He pushed his plate toward me, offering me a nibble, probably the quicker to hide the evidence should my mother stride by. Daintily, I picked up a latke and dipped it.

“You know, your mother thinks you should have gone on to law school and become a professional.”

“A professional what?” I elbowed him gently, the humor lost on him.

“I’m serious. All this internet stuff is fine and good, but what about a career like—”

“Like Esther’s, right?”

“Well, yes, like Esther’s. What’s wrong with what she’s done?”

“Nothing. She’s awesome. She single-handedly got me through Calculus back in the day. But... I have a career, too. I manage a group of zany people who create web businesses. We make all sorts of neat online stuff.”

“That’s great, honey, but do you have any clue what your career path is?”

There was nothing clear about career paths in my brave new industry. I shrugged. “I don’t know,” I said, “but I do know that tomorrow, I plan to march in and request a promotion.”

“That’s my girl!” His face brightened. “But—”

His words hung there, pre-empted, as we watched my mother zipping over to us. Instinctively, my dad dropped his paper plate with the remaining latkes and piggies flat onto the floor beside my chair.

“Oh, I saw what you did there, Steven Isaacs!” All my mother was missing was a hand on her hip and a rolling pin, the latter a huge assumption considering (1) she did not own one because (2) she probably hadn’t cooked since the 70s.

“You know, he’s old enough to eat what he likes,” I said, watching my dad sheepishly pick up the plate, still filled. “You don’t have to talk to him like he’s a child.”

“Act like a child, be treated like a child.” She took a sip of her drink.

I glanced at my dad, whose head fell half-staff. “Mom, maybe—”

“Just a second, Barrie. Steven, why don’t you go say hello to the Dornfelds? They drove all the way from Staten Island to join us today.” Dad dutifully nodded. “And you can throw out that plate on your way.” Dad slunk off to greet people he presumably knew more about than I did. "Now, what were you going to say, Punim?"

“Nothing.” No sense in rushing this tidal wave. “Anyway, who are the Dornfelds?”

“Snowbirds we know from Boca. Anyway, one day, we will be celebrating your engagement, hmmm?”

“Don’t hold your breath.” I looked at the time on my Indiglo watch. One more hour to go and then this was all technically over. Then again, the Jewish goodbyes would start at that time. Who was I kidding? This was going to go on for hours. I laid back against the seat back, defeated.

Mom’s eye began to involuntarily twitch. “Maybe you should move back home to New Jersey. Are you ever going to meet a Jewish boy down there? Do they even have Jews in Virginia?”

“That went so well the last time, Mom.”

“Well, you could have known he was gay. I mean, Brandon was into Broadway musicals!”

Daddy is into Broadway musicals, Mom, so what does that mean?”

My mother rubbed her now-reddening eye. Her non-twitchy eye caught sight of someone far more interesting than I. “You’re just being ridiculous. I’ll be back. Oh, Mindy! So glad you could join us!” And off she swanned, leaving me to brazenly open my book and join a better world.

And they wondered why I’d moved.

By the time I’d completed the four-hour drive home from New Jersey (perking myself up by listening to my Supershiny Barrie 90s Mix, which always makes everything better), I’d already mentally prepared another playlist, this one to serve as a soundtrack to the book I read at my folks’ house. I’d planned to put that playlist together just as soon as I’d lugged in my giant purple duffel and checked on Chairman Miao, my cranky Siamese cat. Cameron, my next-door neighbor, had other ideas. As the key clicked in my front door, his head popped out of his door like whack-a-mole-man.

“Let me guess.” Cameron said. “Esther’s still perfect, and your parents want you to move to New Jersey or Florida, where they'll fix you up with their friend’s son and you'll live happily ever after with 2.2 kids and a bad perm? Am I right?”

I turned my head, grinning despite my exhaustion. “We should mess with them and get married.” Cameron nearly fell out of his doorway, doubled over in laughter but barely spilling his can of soda. (In this era of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Cameron bravely told me. I honored that and held the information close to my vest. Besides, being each other’s plus-one had its familial advantages for both of us.) “Seriously, I missed you, too. Did you at least leave me some of my Ben & Jerry’s?” Cameron kindly watched my cat while I was away, and he was content to be compensated with ice cream. Good ice cream, not the store brand shit, he’d said.

“There’s still a pint of Phish Food. I figured you’d need it stat upon arrival.”

I dragged my bag in, Cameron floating behind me in my wake carrying my book. Looking over at my couch, I saw the Chairman perched on a folded-up fleece blanket my parents had sent for him last Chanukah. They called him their Grand Kitty. The Chairman opened one bright blue eye, then slammed it shut. “I’m guessing the Chairman gave you no trouble, right?”

“He was easy-peasy. He’s rested and fed and ready for. . .more resting and food.” Cameron marched over to the freezer, pulled out the last pint, then grabbed two spoons. “You don’t have to tell me all about it,” he said, pushing the pint toward me. He looked at the book in his hands. “I bet you’ve already created a playlist for this thing in self-defense.”

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Loved it can't wait to read more.
Written on Thu, 25 May 2017 04:21:52 by Matt