“What are you working on these days?”
“What’s next for you?”
Questions like these, often posed with the best of intentions, fill me with anxiety. The implication of such queries is that I, as a (relatively) young and ambitious professional, should have something novel and exciting to boast about in response. But I don’t really — which is why I find them so oppressive.
I’ve had the same job, running the legal website Above the Law, for more than six years. I’ve lived in the same apartment for more than four years. I’ve been in the same relationship for almost three years. And I’m happy about all of these things.
But the implication of “What’s new?” or “What’s next?” is that these things are not enough (even if they are enough for me, and even if they make me happy). I am supposed to be richer, more famous, and more fabulous. And if I’m not, well, then I need to be more ambitious. Supremely ambitious.
Hence this project, which I have dubbed Supreme Ambitions.
The genesis of this project lies in my desire to launch something new — which I haven’t done in a while, at least not in terms of a completely new website. I launched Underneath Their Robes on June 5, 2004, or more than eight years ago. I launched Above the Law on August 30, 2006, or a little over six years ago. It’s about time for Act III.
Welcome to Supreme Ambitions. When someone asks me what’s new, I now have a URL to give them.
Although this project arises out of my desire to feign ambition when asked what’s next for me, it’s actually far from ambitious. I’m not doing it for fortune or fame. I’m not doing it to make a living. I’m doing it just for fun, for my own amusement — for “s**ts and giggles,” as an old friend from law school used to say.
In this sense, then, Supreme Ambitions is more like Underneath Their Robes (“UTR”) than Above the Law (“ATL”). I launched UTR on a lark, as a hobby, in an effort to do some writing that didn’t require Bluebook-compliant citation. ATL, in contrast, started off as a job from the outset — a fun and exciting job, to be sure, but still a vocation rather than an avocation.
Supreme Ambitions will also be more like UTR than ATL in terms of its subject matter and sensibility. Underneath Their Robes obsessed about a small, elite world, namely, the federal judiciary. Above the Law, in contrast, covers the legal profession at large, in a sweeping, high/low mix — from the heights of the U.S. Supreme Court to the depths of disgraced and depraved attorneys.
Supreme Ambitions is a novel set in the federal judiciary. Yes, that’s right — unlike UTR or ATL, it’s fiction. I read mostly fiction for pleasure, but I haven’t written any fiction since college. I’d like to try my hand at it again; I think it will be enjoyable and challenging.
At this point, though, I should issue a warning: it isn’t going to be good fiction. I haven’t written fiction for more than 15 years, and even when I dabbled in it during college, I didn’t excel at it. My mind and my writing were too analytical and too linear for me to be a natural creative writer — and the years I spent as a practicing lawyer before going into journalism certainly didn’t help.
Why should you read Supreme Ambitions? Well, maybe you shouldn’t. Part of me actually misses the intimacy of the UTR audience compared to the vastness of the ATL audience, so I’m envisioning Supreme Ambitions as something of a niche project. If I get a few hundred or even a few dozen regular readers, I will be pleased; I’m definitely not aiming for the hundreds of thousands of unique visitors that ATL receives each month. (I’m not even expecting all my friends to read it; it’s just for hard-core Article III Groupies.)
You should read Supreme Ambitions for the same reason you’d read anything else that’s not required for work or school: because you find it interesting. Here is a brief description to help you decide whether SA might appeal to you:
Supreme Ambitions is the story of Audrey Coyne, a bright young lawyer in pursuit of her dream job: a clerkship with the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”). After graduating from Yale Law School, Audrey moves out to California to clerk for the Honorable Christina Wong Stinson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Stinson, a prominent and well-regarded conservative on a predominantly liberal court, is a “feeder judge” — a judge with the ability to “feed” Audrey into a Supreme Court clerkship, provided that Judge Stinson is pleased and impressed by Audrey’s work as her law clerk.
But a variety of challenges confront Audrey in her quest for a SCOTUS clerkship. She faces competition from rival clerks within Judge Stinson’s chambers and also beyond them, including clerks from higher-ranked feeder judges. She must deftly handle a headline-making appeal with major national implications. And she must carefully coordinate her own ambitions with those of her intensely demanding boss, Judge Stinson — who, as a high-profile and conservative woman judge, covets not a mere clerkship, but a seat on the Supreme Court itself. Will Audrey be able to achieve her dreams without losing her sanity or her soul?
Yes, that’s right — Supreme Ambitions is a form of “clerk lit.” It follows in the footsteps of such clerkship novels as Tropical Depression (2011) by Arin Greenwood, Chambermaid (2007) by Saira Rao, The Law Clerk (2007) by Scott Douglas Gerber, and The Tenth Justice (1998) by Brad Meltzer (affiliate links).
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a very good fiction writer. But I am hoping to improve, which is the main reason why I’m posting my fiction to the web, turning this project into a giant writing workshop. I welcome your feedback — complaints, praise, ideas for plot developments or characters or jokes — in the comments or by email, to SupremeAmbitions@gmail.com. I can’t promise to respond to every message, seeing as I’m already saddled with a huge email backlog, but I will certainly try my best. I don’t think Supreme Ambitions will be quite as interactive as Saving Face, Dahlia Lithwick’s innovative collaborative novel — after all, I already have a decent idea of where I want to go with my story — but I do hope to incorporate a fair number of reader suggestions.
I do not plan to change any posts after they’ve been published to the web, since part of the point of fiction on the web is that there is no editing, but your responses will help me improve my writing going forward. It’s also possible that I might take all the posts, revise them based on reader feedback, and self-publish them in book form — but that’s not my current plan. (Why self-publication? I’ve been told that Supreme Ambitions is too “inside baseball” to appeal to a commercial publisher.)
In terms of a publication schedule, I intend to post new installments twice a week, on Wednesdays and on Sundays. If this sounds like something that might interest you, check back this Sunday for the first chapter.
Thank you for visiting, and I hope to see some of you again!