March 31, 2016

The Garage Sale How-To Guide

Retail store shopping isn’t exactly my thing, but when it comes to garage sales, I could shop all day. I’ve been a die-hard garage sale goer for more than three decades, and more times than I care to confess, I’ve come home with a car fully loaded with second-hand bargains I couldn’t resist.

Anyone who buys too much stuff, whether it be from retail stores or someone’s garage, eventually ends up with way more than they need. Truth be told, I’ve been in that predicament regularly for about 25 years now and only through conscientious effort have I been able to keep all the excess junk from getting out of hand in my house. In order to help maintain the balance of stuff coming in with stuff going out I try to get rid of stuff I’m not using by having a blow-out, kick-ass garage sale every year or two.

Naturally, everyone who knows me knows I have a lot of experience running garage sales, so they often tap into my expertise when they have their own sales. And…because I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to hard work that I don’t get paid for, I usually volunteer to help them. Next thing I know, I’m knee deep in their junk helping them do their sale.

From helping many others as well as running my own sales, I’ve become pretty proficient at it, building up my knowledge about what works and what doesn't. I’ve learned enough that I could write a book about the topic, so I did. My new book, “The Garage Sale How-To Guide” is full of tips and advice that I’ve been giving out for years to friends, acquaintances, and assorted relatives on the best way to pull off a successful sale.

If you’re planning your own garage sale, please consider buying a copy, either in print or e-version. Sorry, I can’t personally come and help everyone with their sales (even though everyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for doing that), but if you purchase a copy of my book, it will help you do for yourself what I would have done for you.

June 12, 2013

Having Fun With Vintage Dick and Jane Books

It’s no big secret that I am a collector. I collect all kinds of things--old toys, vintage dolls, rejection slips. I also accumulate things. The difference between collecting and accumulating is when you collect, you actively go out and search for something. When you accumulate, it seems to just happen. Like osmosis, accumulating does not require any input of energy. It took plenty of energy to acquire all my rejection slips, which is the reason I say I collected rather than accumulated them. Granted, I didn’t set out to acquire my rejection collection--I set out to get acceptances, so if you look at it that way, I guess it’s also fair to say I accumulated them--obviously, without meaning to. 

Something else I managed to accumulate was a fairly impressive stash of vintage Dick and Jane type readers. The accumulation started when I happened to find a Dick and Jane book for a mere quarter at a garage sale. How could I not buy it for that price? Then I found another one for cheap at a flea market, then another at a thrift shop, and over time I ended up with a small hoard of vintage children’s school books. I didn’t just limit myself to Dick and Jane books—pretty much any old school reader I stumbled on piqued my interest. If it was inexpensive, I took it home, regardless of the condition. A true book collector would have taken into consideration the condition of the books when purchasing them, which is one reason I don’t call my accumulation a real collection. I didn’t intentionally set out to collect these books--much like I didn’t intend to collect all those rejection slips, but…as you know…stuff happens.

Countless kids grew up reading Dick and Jane so it’s a given that there will be some serious reminiscing going on any time a person leafs through the pages of these books for the first time as an adult. The intrigue of the books isn’t because they are well written, that’s for sure. The text is so cheesy your cholesterol level goes up just reading them. Check out these sample pages:


All I can say is, wow!  It’s not just cholesterol that is rising here. That little Dick was really getting some action back then—with his sisters! And if Jane and Sally weren’t around to help, he was boy enough to just do the job himself.

While I’ll admit the text is hilarious (especially when taken out of context), it’s the nostalgia of these books that is the big draw. Like so many other “vintage” kids, I remember learning to read with repetitive sentences like, “See Spot run. Run, Spot. Run.” I adore the illustrations in the old readers, but again, it is the nostalgia of simpler times that especially draws me to them—Mom in the kitchen cooking dinner or dressed in her two-piece tailored suit, matching hat, and white gloves just to go visit the neighbor up the street. Then there’s Dad in his suit, tie, and of course, wearing his hat, driving the lone family car off to work. Let’s not overlook the little girls wearing pretty pastel-colored dresses and their Mary Jane shoes running around at the playground, fearless of exposing their days-of-the-week ruffled panties when they turned upside down on the monkey bars. Those were the days, right?

There is no denying Dick and Jane helped millions of school children learn to read. Thanks in part to them, many of those readers grew up to become writers--including the person writing this.

Leave a comment if you grew up with Dick and Jane, and even if you didn't, leave a comment anyway.


If you’d like to learn a little about the history behind the Dick and Jane books, check out this site:

May 28, 2013

Writing for an Audience (and how I learned to type)

When I was in high school, most computers were epic-sized machines owned only by businesses with boatloads of money at their disposal. No mortal person who made less than a king’s salary could actually afford to own a computer, and even if you could afford one, computers were so big they would take up your entire living room. Back then when a student had to type a paper for school, we used something called a TYPEWRITER.

Now, for the record, typewriters were better for doing a school paper than using a pen or a pencil—but only if you actually knew how to type. When I first started high school I only knew how to hunt and peck my way around a keyboard. The first time one of my teachers assigned a term paper that had to be typed, naturally, in typical high school fashion, I waited until the night before it was due to start typing it.

First, I had to dig out and dust off the old typewriter that had been in the family probably since the Eisenhower years.  It was a manual typewriter--i.e. a typewriter that doesn’t run on electricity or batteries but only on human finger power. I stayed up most of the night, desperately fumbling around the typewriter keys to find where the correct letters were located. The word “delete” hadn’t even been invented yet, and too many mistakes on a page meant starting the whole page over. Major frustration and a lot of ripped up paper happened that night as I banged out the assignment. The next morning I headed to school with a term-paper hangover and the realization that I needed to learn how to handle my typewriter better to avoid suffering through another typing binge like that again.

When course selection time came around for the next school year I signed up for “Intro to Typing.”  My sister who was a year ahead of me in school also happened to sign up for it, and as luck would have it—or perhaps due to the sisterly scheming we did—the two of us ended up in the same typing class.

Each day in class we were given a typing assignment, and after we finished it the teacher let us spend the rest of the class practicing on our own. During the practice time we were allowed to type anything we wanted, whether it be other class assignments, NFL sports stats, or all the swear words in the dictionary. My sister and I always spent that practice time typing letters to each other. We’d make our letters as funny as we could, and as we typed them, the two of us would be giggling to ourselves because we thought they were the funniest things ever written. At the end of class we’d exchange letters before going our separate ways to our next class. The rule was we weren’t allowed to read the other person’s letter until we were sitting in a really boring class--which, to us, meant pretty much any of them. When we were sitting in that boring class NOT listening to the teacher, we would sneakily read the letter. Our goal was to write such a funny letter that we would make the other person laugh out loud in class. It happened many times when one or the other of us burst out laughing in an otherwise quiet classroom because of something the other had written.

Not only did we type letters to each other in typing class, but anytime we were withering away in boredom in any class we’d write each other notes. Sometimes we would write the usual “algebra is sooooooo boring…,”  but mostly, we wrote notes loaded with tons of inside jokes that were only funny to us.  As we passed in the hall between classes, we’d hand off our notes to each other, then we’d sit in our next class stifling giggles or out loud laughs from all the goofy stuff the other person had written. 

 I still have the notes my sister wrote me in high school, both the typed ones and the hand written ones. I saved all hers and she saved all mine. Now when we read them, we don’t understand half the inside jokes we wrote in them—memory purges over the years wiped out the stories surrounding the jokes. Even though we can’t always remember what made them funny to us when we were in high school, they still make us laugh because now they are so NOT funny, they’re funny. The grammar was terrible, the spelling was worse, but we reached our goal of entertaining our audience (in our cases, each other).  

I credit my high school notes to my sister as being an exercise in learning to write for an audience. Sure, a person can write for fame or fortunate, but isn’t entertaining your audience what really makes writing successful?

May 20, 2013

Friday’s Celebrate the Small Things on Monday - Successful Book Sale!

I didn’t have time to post last Friday’s “Celebrate the Small Things” so I’m posting it today instead—a few days late, but…oh, well. Welcome to the We-Don’t-Follow-No-Stinkin’-Rules Blog. Okay…just kidding (sort of). Friday I was too busy to sit down, no less sit down at my computer and post something to my blog. For those visitors hearing about the “Celebrate the Small Things” for the first time, take a look at my previous post to see what it’s all about.

This week I’m celebrating my local library’s successful book sale. Twice a year a group of volunteers put their lives on hold for a week to run a used book sale at our local library. During book sale week, the volunteers’ families don’t get fed, their dirty laundry piles up, and everything in their personal lives gets put on hold because by the end of the day they’re too tired to want to do anything but sleep. I’m one of those masochist volunteers who helps with the book sale (and, yeah, lets my dirty laundry pile up).

Although the public only sees volunteers working during the sale (keeping the books organized, helping people find books, or carrying books to customers’ cars) some volunteers work all year long getting things ready for the sale. A group of people collect, sort, and stack mountains of books for months leading up to the sale, plus start advertising the sale well before it happens. Then the week of the sale as many bodies as can be recruited lug thousands of books out of the storage area and to the sales room.  Anywhere from two to three full days are spent getting the sales room set up with all the books in their proper categories. The actual book sale lasts only three and a half days—although to those of us working it, it seems so much longer. Those are the days we only have time to shovel in handfuls of M&Ms for nutrition and when we start to notice how neglected our yards are looking as we pull out of the driveway each morning. After the sale is over, it takes several more hours to pack up and move the leftover books to wherever else they end up. Running the book sale takes a lot of sacrifice and hard work by a devoted group of people--or by a group of zombie-like creatures who don't know better. It hasn't definitely been established which category the volunteers fall into.

Why do these volunteers do this year after year, putting in countless hours without being paid? First off, maybe no one told them that slavery is illegal in this country. Okay...kidding again. Maybe. Or, perhaps they just appreciate how many people benefit from the book sale. Local people get to de-clutter their houses of excess books they no longer want. People coming to the sale get to buy books they DO want at bargain prices. Parents tend to buy their children tons more books than they ever could afford to buy new. Students and teachers also get to buy books that they also couldn’t afford to buy new. Adults find books they had as children. Dealers and other lucky customers occasionally find books that are worth a lot of money on the secondary market. Our two town libraries get extra money for things their regular budget doesn’t cover, and those items that get purchased or the programs they offer benefit the community. And…this year, the leftover books will be donated to help set up libraries in underprivileged areas of Africa, so the sale is even helping people in other parts of the world. It’s a win-win-win-win-win situation.

As a writer, I want people to read, and offering low costs books helps encourage reading. Also, helping with this sale gives me a  boot-camp-worthy workout from all the lugging, lifting, moving, and shelving books. Why pay to join a gym when I can get a complete workout (for free) helping the community?

So, this week I am celebrating successfully raising money for a good cause, promoting reading to people in the community, donating leftover books to areas of the world that don't have the luxury of books available like we do, plus getting physically fit in the process.

Now, if only I could find some volunteers to tackle the mountains of dirty laundry piled up in my house I’d celebrate even more. Please leave a comment and make my day (not as much as if you came to my house and did my laundry for me, but I guess I can’t get too greedy here, can I?)

May 7, 2013

Facebook and Twitter and Blogs (et al.)

Most of us know how easily social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads can become time-sucking vortexes. Sure, some of those sites are great places to network, but they are also places to lose a full day of work. Or a full week. In order to build up a following on any networking site, you must post regularly, as well as respond to your followers’ posts because obviously, it’s important to give as much as you take. While you’re busy posting, sharing, reading, and responding, you have less time for actual working.

About 6 years ago, I got sucked into Flickr. As a hobbyist photographer who likes to take nature pictures, Flickr was a great place to showcase my photos and get feedback on them. I spent many hours posting my nature photos, then basking in the ego-stroking comments viewers made about them. I loved getting those comments, and of course, I’d return the favor by commenting back on other people’s photos. Meanwhile, I was spending less time writing and more time taking pictures, uploading them, posting them to different Flickr groups for the extra exposure they’d get, and commenting on other people’s photos, hoping they’d comment on mine too. Appropriately, my screen name on Flickr was writergoofnoff. The more I got involved with taking photos for Flickr, the less I spent on writing.

Once I weaned myself from posting there, I moved on to another time-slaying social site—Facebook. At first I could justify spending time on Facebook because I was promoting my vintage toy business there. However, it didn’t take long for the promotional stuff to be overtaken by the need to see what everyone else was posting on Facebook—their family pictures, their latest venture, what they ate for breakfast. Soon it became apparent that I couldn’t let the day go by without finding out what all my Facebook friends were up to, not just once a day, but all day long. Naturally, checking all those statuses was cutting into my writing time.

Around the same time I also started my blog—which initially was a place for visitors of my website to get to know me better as a writer. Only instead of spending time writing stuff for my own blog, I ended up reading everyone else's. And commenting on them. By the time I finished reading all the blogs my constantly-clicking mouse led me to, I was overdosing on higher levels of the recommended amount of information a person should consume in one day. After all that blog hopping, I was usually too incapacitated to work on my own blog.

Don’t even get me started on the more recent time sucking vampire known as Pinterest. While I haven’t (yet) signed up there fearing there aren’t enough hours left in the day to start pinning photos, I’ve spent more time the last month perusing photos other people have pinned than I’ve spent making meals for my family. Every day there are new sites out there vying for my attention, causing me to put off other things of lesser importance—like doing laundry…or eating.

As if visiting writing sites, posting on discussion boards, reading blogs, facebooking (that’s a verb, right?), tweeting, twittering, tracking, and tapping into every social networking site isn’t taking up enough of my time, I managed to find another way to be unproductive—by creating fun stuff like this nifty cover for the book I really should write some day:

If you want to be unproductive like me and want to see the cover of your book (or your dog, your boyfriend, or yourself) in a museum,

if you enjoy making custom post-it-notes like this,

...or if you want to see your picture on the cover of a magazine, your face on a different body, or want to play with a random insult generator so you’re fully armed for the next jerk who comes along, add the site  to the online places you visit—just in case you need one more excuse to keep from working or cooking dinner for your family. Or writing your next book.

May 30, 2011

Readers Great and Small

My doll reference books are primarily geared towards adult collectors, but over the years, some moms have shared photos or stories with me about how their young children have enjoyed my books as well. Two weeks ago while attending the Tammy Collector's Convention I got to witness a child in action enjoying my books. Here is seven-year old Sage getting her first look at "The Collector's Guide to Dolls of the 1960s and 1970s": 

Sage’s Mom and I have been online, long-distance friends for more than a dozen years. The first time her mom and I met in person was at a large doll show and flea market. Neither of us knew the other would be at the show, and Sage’s mom actually picked me out in a crowd of a zillion people, recognizing me only from earlier photos she had seen of me.

That first meeting, Sage was just a bulge in her mom’s belly, and the second time we met, Sage was still a baby. This was only the third time I got to meet Sage in person, but I feel like I know her intimately since she’s practically a youtube star. She’s bright and articulate, and would give a younger Dakota Fanning a run for her money if Sage’s mom ever decides to put her in showbiz.

Here is one of my favorite youtube videos of Sage back when she just turned four telling the story of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Part 1
Part 2:
Part 3:

Check out some of her other youtube videos and let me know if you fall in love with her sweet little voice and adorable personality the way I did. Knowing this young collector-in-training is now a fan of my doll books is one of the wonderful fringe benefits of being an author.

May 20, 2011

It's Official: My Book Is Out

This past weekend my fourth doll book, Tammy Rarities From Around The World, made it’s publishing debut. Thanks to a group of generous, dedicated, doll collecting friends, the book was featured at the Tammy Collectors’ Convention in Chicago. The book received much fanfare at the convention, and even the theme of the convention centered around the book. As an author, it doesn’t get much better than that unless you happen to get a call while you’re at the convention saying your book just hit the New York Time’s Bestseller’s List…but…oh well…maybe next year...  

There were many things that happened this past weekend that touched me, but there were two things that especially amazed me and caused my head to swell just enough that I had to poke it a few times to stay grounded. One of those things was gushing comments made by a Tammy collector about the new book. Listening to her tell me how the book turned things around for her at a point in her life when she really needed it wasn’t just an ego booster, but it also humbled me to know the book had such a positive impact on someone. The other thing that really touched me was when one of the convention attendees came up to me with all four of my books and asked if I could sign them for her. Later, she told that I was like a rock star to her and how thrilled she was to meet me. Hearing someone say something like that totally blew me away. Both these people, as well as many others I spoke to this weekend, made me appreciate the fact that as a writer you can touch people’s lives--hopefully, in a positive way.

I can’t thank the chairpersons of the convention enough for all they did to honor my co-author and me at the convention this past weekend. I also am indebted to many of the convention attendees, some who have been following the journey of this book since I first started work on it, which now seems like a million years ago. Without their constant encouragement (and yup, sometimes nagging), I might have abandoned the idea for the book. Many of them also contributed photos to the book, and without their help and contributions, the book would not have been what it is. Of course, a big thank you goes to my co-author who came to my aid at a time when the book looked like it would never get published. She gave the project a jump start when it needed it, and added so much to the book since coming on board.  

I’m still catching up on much needed sleep from the wonderful convention weekend. I'm also keeping the phones lines open, just in case the New York Times wants to call to congratulate me for making their bestseller’s list.
Hey, it could happen!

*convention logo by Dal Lowenbein--who also helped design the cover of the Tammy Rarities book

April 4, 2011

My 30 Seconds of Fame That Didn't Happen

When my second doll book was still in its just-published infancy, I “almost” had my thirty seconds of fame. I was scheduled to sell at a doll show when the promoter called me a couple of days beforehand. “How would you like to be interviewed on The Today Show?” she asked. 

The Sunday edition of The Today Show was going to report live from the doll show and wanted to interview some of the vendors there. The promoter thought since I was the author of a doll book AND a vendor, I would be a great candidate. She instructed me to bring plenty of copies of my book to the show because when people saw me on television, they would flock to my booth to buy my book and I’d sell millions of copies.


So here’s what really happened:

Thursday afternoon: I learn I am going to be interviewed live on-location by The Today Show (I am thrilled, excited, terrified).

Thursday night: I count how many copies of my book I have on hand and discover I don’t have nearly enough for the droves of Today Show fans who will rush to the doll show to buy it after seeing me on television.

Friday morning: I call my publisher to get more copies of my book. I instruct them to FedEx them Overnight Express to be delivered early the next morning (shipping cost: $135.95). 

Saturday 10:00 am: Books don’t arrive.

Saturday 10:30 am: I call FedEx to find out why my books haven’t arrived. I’m told they will be delivered on Monday morning. (I begin to hyperventilate). FedEx Customer Service Person explains there is no way I can get them that day as they are located in some airplane hanger somewhere with no one working that facility on weekends. I hang up the phone in despair.

Saturday 10:45 am: I recover from despair and become empowered. I call FedEx back and ask to speak with a manager. FedEx Manager calmly tells me someone will research the problem and will get back to me in about an hour. I inquire what are the odds of getting the books that day and she admits, “not very good.” I insist I need the packages on Saturday and not on Monday and that I hadn't paid $135.95 to have them delivered a day later than I needed them. Manager calmly keeps repeating her mantra, “Someone will research the problem and will get back to you.”

Now for the record, I don’t lose my cool too often, but by this time the good-natured, fun-loving me was replaced by some crazy, panicked, hysterical person. This person (who I swear does not normally live in my house or in my body) begins to yell at the poor FedEx Manager, “I am going to be on The Today Show promoting my book tomorrow morning and if the boxes of books I was expecting are not in my hands by then I will be sure to tell the entire world how FedEx could not deliver on time!”  I hang up the phone angry, frustrated, and a little bit embarrassed that I actually yelled.

Saturday, 15 minutes later:  Mr. Big Wig from Corporate FedEx calls me to assure me they are doing everything they can to locate my books. Apparently my bad publicity threat triggered enough fear to move my case up the ranks.

Saturday, One Hour Later: Local FedEx Center calls to tell me they have my books in hand and I can come pick them up.

Saturday, Shortly After That Call: The Husband picks up a couple of boxes of books at Local FedEx Center and Clerk asks, “So…is your wife the one who is going to bad-mouth FedEx on TV?” 

Amazing how name dropping The Today Show gets results, right?

There is more craziness to this story that followed after we had the books in hand, but since I’m shortening it to the Reader’s Digest condensed version size, I’ll just zoom to the ending.

Sunday morning after waking at 3:30 a.m. and arriving early at the doll show to set up my booth, I learn The Today Show had cancelled because of flooding throughout the state. Apparently they felt the flooding deserved more coverage than the doll show and some little-known author who wrote a book about dolls.

So there you have it--my near brush with the big time. I certainly didn’t gain any fame from television, but who knows what kind of notoriety I received in FedEx offices and airplane hangers around the country.  If anyone from FedEx sees this, I humbly apologize. I have no idea who that crazy person was who took over my body and made the whole company jump through hoops to deliver my packages, but thank you for going beyond the scope of every day service to get them to me in time for my Almost 30 seconds of fame. And if anyone from The Today Show happens to see this, I’m still available for interviews.

March 21, 2011

Why Write When You Can eBay?

Had I known I could auction off my book ideas on Ebay for millions of dollars, I would have saved myself years of hard work and the bother of waiting for those royalty checks to trickle in.

All over the blogosphere are posts about a guy who was trying to sell his story idea on eBay for an opening bid of three million dollars with a buy-it-now for ten million dollars. He claims this great idea of his “will bring in endless fame and money to anyone who takes it.”

After hearing about the auction, I had to see for myself if this “sell your story idea” is worth doing because I have a head full of ideas that I know will make someone rich (obviously not me, but someone). I headed over to eBay to research how viable this selling of ideas could be. Unfortunately, it seems to be a slow week on eBay and no one is actually selling any brilliant story ideas right now, which might turn out to be a good thing because if I do go this route, there will be little competition for my own brilliant ideas.

Even though there were no story ideas for sale, there were plenty of other interesting auctions listed. I found an author trying to sell all rights to his book including the book, movie,“et al” for a cool $1,500,000-- that’s one million, five hundred-thousand dollars, just to clarify.

Another author was selling the movie rights for his book for a bargain price of only $95,000. That price doesn’t include a copy of the actual book, which the seller says the winner can purchase on Amazon. You’d think he’d at least throw in a copy of his book to whoever buys the movie rights, but I guess that’s why it’s such a bargain price.

It’s not just book ideas or movie rights that people are trying to sell on eBay. I also found for sale a used copy of a book for $6,099,577.95. Again…so your brain can wrap around a figure that size, it’s six million, ninety-nine thousand, five hundred seventy-seven AND ninety-five cents. That’s over $6 million dollars for a used book, and not even a rare antique book. It’s a book published in 2008 that is available on Amazon for as low as $9.18. The only thing I could figure is that the book on eBay was printed on a solid gold brick lined with diamond studs. But even at that, you’d think it would be worth only about $3 million because it’s USED.

My own books often turn up on ebay and one time a seller actually tried to sell a copy for $900. That same book was readily available all over the internet for $24.95. Needless to say, the book didn’t sell--not even when the seller dropped the price down to $358. I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered the seller thought my book was worthy enough to command those prices or be insulted that it didn’t sell. If it had sold, I would have jumped on the eBay bandwagon and offered a signed copy for double the selling price. Seriously, who needs royalty checks from a publisher if you can get eBay prices like that? Come to think of it, why even write books if you can just sell the ideas for them for a few million dollars?

You have to say this about eBay—it is the sales-land of opportunity. Anyone with the guts not to care if people think the asking price is delusional has the chance to hit it big—either in dollars if the item actually sells or in fame based on the number of blog posts and tweets the auction generates.

If I ever have a brilliant story idea that rivals Harry Potter, I’m going to think about posting it on eBay instead of wasting time working on it myself. Even if I never sell another book, I could still earn my fame as a writer with a multi-million dollar eBay listing. And to help sweeten the deal...any of my ideas that I sell on ebay will include FREE shipping.

March 15, 2011

Presenting the New, Soon-To-Be-Released Tammy Book

You saw it here first, folks!  Here's a sneak preview of the cover of Tammy Rarities From Around The World:

The book, written by me and my co-author Rebecca Wingler, will be out in May, however, pre-orders start April 1st at It was a long time coming, but finally--Tammy Rarities will make its publishing debut in just a matter of weeks. Champagne, anyone?

February 14, 2011

It's Almost a Real Book!

On Friday the book proofs for “Tammy Rarities From Around The World” were delivered to my home.
Here’s a sneak preview of what the book is shaping up to look like: 

 After snapping this photo, I thought about jumping in the middle of the pile and rolling around in it, but being the refined and dignified person that I am, I resisted. 


February 8, 2011

So Close, Yet...Not

Big News! Harper Collins called my home. Harper Collins, as in one of the world’s leading publishing houses!!!
When I saw their name on caller ID I nearly piddled myself with excitement thinking they were calling to tell me they wanted to publish one of my YA books. But then confusion took over and I wondered how they even knew I had an unpublished YA book since I had never contacted them telling that? Could a friend of a friend of a friend’s brother-in-law’s cousin have mentioned to someone who worked there that I write YA books?
I picked up the phone using my most bestselling-author-like voice.
Me: Hello?
HC Person: Is this Representative Boehner’s office?
*pause while confusion boggled my brain, then…*
Me: No, I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.
HC Person: Oh, I’m sorry.
Phone: *click*

That was the closest I’ve ever been to negotiations with a major publishing house.

*logo copyright HarperCollins

August 19, 2008

Getting Not-So-Serious About Writing

Nothing satisfies my attention-seeking-middle-child-syndrome like making people laugh. I love to make people laugh, and have no problem making myself the brunt of any joke if I think someone will get a good laugh out of it.

Early in my writing career I tried my hand at writing a few short funny pieces. One of those humor pieces got me a job with a local newspaper whose editor must have liked the piece so much she hired me as a regular contributor to write serious pieces for the newspaper. Ironically, she didn’t invite me to write more humorous pieces for her. Each month the serious editor assigned a serious topic for me to write about, and requested I interview some serious people for the article. From that job I learned how to write about things I knew little about as well as the art of serious interviewing. It was a wonderfully serious learning experience.

Fast forward years later…I was at a writing seminar and I was joking with some people about two of the YA books I was working on--both of them on serious, edgy topics and one person asked me, “Why do you write about such serious topics? You seem so funny, I figured you’d write about funny things.”

And a light bulb suddenly flicked on in my overly-cluttered head where the lights don’t always work. Somewhere along the line of trying to be a serious writer, I lost my writing sense of humor. After I got home from the seminar, I took out one of the dark, edgy, serious-topic manuscripts I had written and started lightening it up a little. My characters became more sarcastic and funny. Serious parts were rewritten so they had some humorous scenes sprinkled in. And the story, which is about such a serious topic, has only gotten better taken with a little bit of humor. Kind of like life.