Friday, February 29, 2008


Every writer knows that good quotes are essential in an essay. I've got dozens of quote books that I use, and the internet is filled to overflowing with quotable quotations. Of course, I have my favorites, but tend to quote a little too much around the house, and from arcane sources. Such as:

Who wanted to take the shortcut? I didn't want to take the shortcut. Shortcut will only get us in trouble, I said to myself. But no, you wanted to take the shortcut.
Floyd the Barber, Andy Griffith Show, as said to Becky last week when we were late to a meeting. It was a cold night.

I'm not a smart man . . . but I know what love is.
Forrest Gump quote spoken to the dog as I filled his dish with food.

From A Street Car Named Desire, yelled outside our bedroom window when Becky was still putting on her makeup and we were late for the same meeting in which I used the Floyd the Barber Quote. Very cold night. Very cold.

I once met the Dalai Lama. Nice guy, the Lama. He told me that, when I die, I will achieve total consciousness. So I have that going for me on the side.
Carl the Groundskeeper (Bill Murray), from Caddyshack, as spoken to a funeral director last week when I was preparing to walk in for a funeral service.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reading Tuna

Lately I've been reading a lot of labels on tuna fish cans. The reason? Our director of youth ministries made a bet with me that he could eat tuna on toast every day for lunch. I told him: if he's that insane, and if he could keep the streak alive, I'd buy his tuna.

He's that insane. Now he has cans of tuna stockpiled in his office. But I'm worried.

Did you know that a can of tuna contains 170 mg of salt if its water packed and that tuna has more mercury per square mg than any fish in the sea? Sure, you've got your protein, your low fat, your low carbs . . . but mercury?

Here's what's going to happen. Some time in August we will be watching the slow transformation of a bright young man into a walking thermometer. He will begin to glow in the dark and will suddenly be at risk to the visisitudes of temperature change. His hair will fall out. His scalp will begin to scale (I'm talking wrath of God, Armeggedon-type scaling). His eyes will bulge.

And that rancid fish smell you think is coming from the church office? Need I say more?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Bucket of Books List

I have a long list of books I intend to buy--and the list get's longer by the month. Among the various books I intend to order soon are:

Come, Be My Light--Mother Teresa
The Birth Narrative of Jesus--Marcus Borg (real heady stuff)
The Resurrection Narratives of Jesus--Marcus Borg (more theology from this dude)
1491: The Year Before Columbus Discovered America

Something Wicked This Way Comes--Ray Bradbury
The Shack (not about the basketball player!)
90 Minutes in Heaven (is this fiction, fantasy, memoir??)

This is just a small portion of my list, which now consumes 4-5 notebook pages. I'll get to them all somehow.

Happy reading.

Monday, February 25, 2008

What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

Now and again, people ask me: "How do you manage to find time to write so much?"

Well, here goes.

First, writing is like anything else in life. How does a person have time to watch an entire Colts game on T.V., or have time to watch a one hour television show every night of the week? How does a person have time to drive an hour through rush hour traffic every morning and afternoon? How does a person have time to keep a house in order, or clean windows?

Like anything else, it's just taking the time to do the things we like to do. For me, that has always been writing. In fact, I like the process of writing more than I like actually producing a written work. I like writing more than reading. I like to write more than I like to watch television. My wife might even say that I like writing more than I like to . . . well, that's her opinion.

Actually, writing is a pretty simple equation. I do it every day. Sometimes I write early in the mornings. Sometimes it's late at night. There are some days when I will write (yes, actually write) for eight, ten, twelve hours or more without stopping (except to refuel, refresh, etc.). Sometimes I write for fun, sometimes to meet a deadline, and sometimes I write to see how well I can write it. It's not so much about frequency as it is about establishing a pattern of time and space.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I Am Legend

Last week I mailed my manscript for School's Out to Agingdon Press, our United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, Tennessee. This will be my eighth book with Abingdon (thirteen if I count five others I've contributed do, but those don't have my name on the cover, so they don't count!). My manuscript delivery was three months before deadline, and yesterday I received an email from the editor. "I've got other books I have to edit right now," he told me. Then he said, "Actually, your ability to deliver high quality manuscripts far ahead of deadline has become legendary around here."

So there you have it. I am a legend. Well, at least in Nashville I am.

Once, I got a call from a distraught editor who needed a ten thousand word section of curriculum in forty-eight hours. "The other writer dropped out. Can you do it?" she asked me. I stayed up all night and had it faxed over the following morning. Another time, I turned in a manuscript nearly a year before deadline and the blame thing nearly got lost. "I swear I sent it in," I told them. "Have you looked in the recycle bin? It was probably discarded as junk."

Actually, it's sort of fun being a legend. Here are a few other testimonials that can give substance to what I'm saying:

He's legendary for never picking up a pair of socks, I can tell you that!
The Legend's Mom

He's legendary all right. I'm still waiting on a fine piece of jewelry on my anniversary!
The Legend's Wife

Yeah, he's legendary around the house. You should see some of the whoppers he pulls out of his nose!
The Legend's Son

He's the main reason I can't wait to get to college!
The Legend's Daughter

Friday, February 22, 2008


A few days ago I purshased a book written by Gary Kasparov, the Russian grand-master chessplayer who is the reigning and undisputed world-champ. Over the years I've read quite a few chess books, including a fascinating thirty-year retrospective on the Fischer-Spasky match back in 1974 entitled, Bobby Fischer Goes to War. The Fischer-Spasky match has had no rivals, but Fischer died last year in Iceland after being, to say the least, quite insane for a number of years.

Kasparov's book is suppossed to be a comparison of Chess to life, but I doubt he had in mind the kind of chess I used to play, where pieces would frequently go flying across the room. Logan and I still play a game now and again, but it's a game that takes dedication and copious amounts of time to master.

I do, however, have my favorites when it comes to chess. I really like the little horsies that move in an "L" shape, and, of course, I love my bishop. I love my queen, too, and call her Becky. I am her pawn. But in life, as in chess, I often feel that I'm getting rooked.

I wonder if this is what Kasparov had in mind?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Writing Songs

In recent years I've noted that many musicians have written autobiographies. Some publish anthologies of their lyrics. And there are many creative ways that musicians have started getting their songs out there through the internet.

A few weekends ago I visited my brother and he reminded me that I was once the lead singer/songwriter for our band, MANNA--a group of post high school friends who were really terrible, but all of us had the bright idea we could sing. Actually, it's how I got my start preaching in churches. We played nearly every weekend some place; we sang original songs, made a few bucks; and I preached, usually, at the end.

Like my brother pointed out: we were short on talent, but we sure did have guts. I must have written twenty songs over a two year span. I played rhythm guitar. My brother played lead. We have two friends who played drums and bass.

We were BAAADDD! No, not the good kind of BAAADDD! Just Bad. I've not written another song since.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Reading Keillor

I think I have all the books that Garrison Keillor--host of the Prairie Home Companion--has written. His most recent title, Pontoon, is another in the Lake Woebegon series that has entertained me for years. When I travel long distances, I always take along a thick supply of Keillor CDs to listen to. I once drove all the way to and from Knoxville, TN with Keillor barking at me from the dashboard.

Keillor loves to talk about boats, and the humorous things that can happen on the water, and I've had my share of these tales, too.

Some years ago Becky and I went sailing with a friend who had purchased a small keelboat. We nearly capzised sailing out of the marina, and our friend nearly knocked himself unconscious on several occassions when the boom swung back and hit him in the side of the head. To keep from being in harm's way, I lay down on the deck and sailed from a prone position.

Still, it was all I could do to keep from standing up on the bow, holding out my arms and screaming: "I'm the king of the world!"

Can't wait till spring!

Friday, February 15, 2008


At last I am nearing the completion of School's Out--the book I am writing for Abingdon. All of my royalties are going to Calvary's building projects, so I hope it makes a bundle.

Having completed the manuscript on Wednesday night, I am now proofing my own writing, which I hate. So far I have discovered four typos (small things like "an" instead of "and"), a couple of unheralded commas that I'm going to expunge, and one sentence that reads like I wrote it with a hack saw. All in all, though, not bad for a four month effort.

Some people want to know: once the book finds its way to print, do you ever sit down with the book and read it?

No way...I've read what I've written so many times in the writing itself, I'm sick of it. Although, every now and then, when I pick up a book I've completed, I often ask: "Did I write that?"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Greeting Cards

When Becky gets home today, she'll have a Hallmark card waiting for her along with a box of assorted chocolates. I will want her to know that I spent hours searching for just the right card to express my love and that the box of chocolates I purchased doesn't already have empty slotes inside, where I have strategically removed all of the hard centers. It's her diet and she'll have to live with it.

Like me, I noted dozens of men strolling through the Greeting Card section at the grocery. We all gave each other embarassing nods (sort of like...nice choice, buddy! or better go sentimental instead of humorous if you want some nookie!). I must have read a hundred cards and I have to ask: Who writes these things?

I wrote better love poetry as a college sophomore. And really, how many words can you rhyme with "love"? Whoever this Valentine guy was, he should be drawn and quartered. It's a sick display of a semi-holiday.

As for me and my house, I'm sticking to my hiakus. I can write these in my sleep, and I've also got a few good limericks.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Funny Valentine

Valentines Day is one of those occasions when I will break down and write poetry to my wife. I've written lines that have brought tears to her eyes and reduced her resistence to my advances to point where. . . Oh, well, here are the hiakus I'm giving her on Valentines Day. (And in case you've forgotten, a hiaku is a three line poem containing 5,7, and 5 syllables respectively.) Happy loving!

Sitting on the couch,
I am in love with Seinfeld.
Could you be Elaine?

Watching Gomer Pyle,
I feel the need to say it:
The dog really stinks.

Eating lots of chips,
I dream of holding you, babe.
Can you eat just one?

Sipping Nescafe,
My funny Valentine is
Nodding by the fire.

Now we turn out lights
And turn down red flannel sheets.
I have a headache.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hoosier Methodists

Currently I'm reading (what might turn out to be) the most expensive book I've ever purchased page-for-page. It's a thin little volume published by the University of Indianapolis Press entitled, Forward Be Our Watchword. Basically, it's a history of the Methodist movement in the state of Indiana, and tells the story of a church that went from being on the margins of society, to shaping the very fabric of the state and its institutions (hospitals, universities, etc.).

Reading about Methodists, however, always fills me with dread. Though I am one, I've never been comfortable with pieces of our history, and, at other times, feel a sense of worthlessness when my life is compared to those who made enormous sacrifices on the frontier. There was also a time when Methodists comprised the largest religious body in the state (much larger than Catholics, even), and this shows in the fact that today we are the only Protestant body with congregations in every county in the state.

Still, I'm worried that I haven't sacrificed enough. So, I these count?

I have forgotten five of my wedding anniversaries because I had important church meetings or weddings to attend to.
I often forget my childrens' names because I have so many church meetings, our paths rarely cross.
I've buried a fair number of people on days my own children had important sporting events, band concerts, or school activities.
I once threw up after a church dinner where rancid pork was served.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I am currently reading three new books, the freshest of which is Coach, edited by Andrew Blauner--a collection of essays about the various coaches and teachers who have influenced the writers. Speaking of coaches, I've had several who have influenced my life positively. There are also some unforgettable locker room moments. Including the following:

6th grade...I'm the backup center for John Wilson (a gangly six footer with a gap-toothed grin) who is the star of the 8th grade basketball team (no joke). We are in the locker room before the game. Our coach--Mr. Jones--comes in and notices that John Wilson is wearing the elastic from a pair of Fruit-of-the-Loom underwear for a sweat band.

"Wilson," the coach asks, "what is that?"
"It's a sweat band, coach," he says sheepishly.
The coach ponders the moment and then answers: "Then you'd better sweat!"

A classic line. I've never forgotten it!
Oh, and I wear boxers!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tony the Tiger

Every now and again Becky (my wife) will ask me: "What are you writing now?"
My answer is invariably, "Anything I want."
Sometimes, I am working on some rather esoteric stuff, so far out that not many people get it. However, here's a little list I've been working on for those who like humor of a odd shape.


"They're Average!"
"They're Really Something!"
"They're Good!"
"They're Crap!"
"They're Just Flakes!"
"They're Sugary!"
"They're Scrumpdillyishus!"
"They're High in Fiber!"
"They're Overpriced!"
"They're Rip-Roaring!"
"They're Okay!"
"They're High in Calories!"

Monday, February 4, 2008


I had a very productive Super Bowl this year, as I was able to actually do four things at the same time (and no, one didn't involve chewing gum). In addition to watching the game, I also managed to finish reading my biography of Charles Schulz, and I also read an entire 240 page book, The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches, by Jeff Yeager. While watching and reading, I also managed to eat a lot of food and ignore my wife's attempts at conversation. Oh, occassionally I would grunt or make pig sounds, but between the game, the books and the food, I doubt she noted any difference between my game sounds and my usual grunts and head bobbing.

Oh well . . . reading Jeff Yeager's book, I wondered if I would qualify as a cheapskate. The answer is sometimes, but certainly not to the extent of Jeff Yeager. I don't, for example, save airplane barf bags and use them for a month at a time for sack lunches. And I certainly don't recycle my table scraps with bullion cubes to make odd sounding soups. I mean, this guy is CHEAP!

I do, however, have a few pet peeves and ways I cut corners, including:
Using my razor blades for so long that, toward the end of their life, they are actually plucking the hair on my face instead of cutting the whiskers.
Driving my 1991 Caprice Wagon for 160,000 miles without a tune up and not changing the tires until the fabric pokes through.
Refusing the buy new underwear until I get a pack from my mother for Christmas (an annual event).

Happy saving!

Saturday, February 2, 2008


This weekend--during the Super Bowl--I plan to finish reading my 4th book of 2008: Schulz and Peanuts, the 650 page biography of famed cartoonist Charles "Sparky" Schulz, written by David Michaelis. This book has been following me around for a couple of weeks, as I've carried it with me and read spordically on the go. When I purchased the book, the guy at the register told me, "I've heard this is a depressing book."

Well, it's not depressing, really, although C. Schulz certainly suffered from melancholy most of his life. The saddest thing about this American life is the guy just couldn't seem to be happy earning upwards of $100 million dollars a year toward the end of his life.

Reading about Sparky Schulz made me realize it doesn't take much to be depressed. I've been depressed earning a lot less cash, and, unlike Sparky, I can usually find many more reasons to feel rotten about myself. In fact, who am I kidding? Between me and George Costanza, Schulz doesn't even know what a loser is!

Friday, February 1, 2008


The editor called yesterday to ask, "How's the book coming along?" (ie: why haven't you sent me a draft by now?)

I told her, "Give me a few more days and I'll have a first draft for you. I'm in the homestretch now."

Actually, killing off a book is tough business. Most books refuse to die with elegance or dignity. And, when you're just trying to meet a deadline, it gets even tougher.

The happiest day is when the book is finally complete, it's "in the mail" (or attached to email today) and I get my life back.

If I'm not finished in a couple of weeks, I'm going to toss my computer out the window.