Friday, June 29, 2012

What I Wrote On My Summer Vacation

People rarely ask me what I did over my summer vacation, but I usually write.  Sometimes I write at home.  Sometimes I take my writing on the road.

At any rate, I do plan to do some writing over my summer vacation.  In fact, I have more than I can handle.

I may not write this blog for a week, but don't forget about visiting . . . I'll be back with plenty of new fodder for "Between Pages" when the pages start to turn again.

Until then . . . I'll be basking in the ovens of summer, keeping the fire burning.  I won't know what I have until I can put myself on ice.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Assignment

I love it when an editor gives me an assignment.  It makes me feel tough . . . like I'm starring in one of those old Mission Impossible episodes where the voice on the tape recorder says:

Your mission . . . should you decide to accept it . . . is to deliver 1000 words to my desk in 24-hours.  But beware of people like your wife, who will attempt to distract your attention toward the leaky kitchen faucet or that hole in the basement drywall.  Don't give in to these diversions and don't entertain any thoughts of going out for a late-night Dairy Queen treat.  Stay focused!  Keep writing!  This tape will self-destruct as soon you begin writing the first sentence.

Last night I was able to fulfill my most recent assignment in spite of the diversions.  It was fun polishing off a piece and still finding time to eat dinner out of a can.

Over the years I've come to realize that most people who want to write an article, a book, or even a poem, often don't complete these because they don't have an assignment . . . they don't have a deadline or a drop-dead date that tells them:  get it done, or else!

That's why it is important to keep that tape recorder running in your head and in your heart, even if you don't have an actual assignment.  Set up an artificial date.  Establish a goal.  And make-believe that if you don't complete the piece by then, it's just too late and you didn't make it to press.  All is lost.

For some reason I've been able to set these dates in my head since I was ten, or eleven, or twelve years old.  I've always had that tape running, and I owe it all to Mission Impossible.  I don't want that tape self-destructing while I am patching basement drywall instead of writing.  I don't want to have my hand blown off by a tape recorder while I am fixing a faucet. 

I'd rather be at the keyboard, punching up words and sentences and whole paragraphs before the tape explodes.

Which reminds me . . . I've got another deadline to meet.  And I'd better get moving.  The rest of the MI team is waiting for me.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Scent of Two Books

Talk about disparity.  Harlan Ellison's short story collection, Troublemakers, and Vladamir Nabokov's, Details of a Sunset: Stories, are as wildly divergent as one could imagine. But I completed both last night.

Ellison, though difficult to classify, is often regarded as one of the "Big" four or five science fiction writers--a guy who had his start in the 1970s during the classical period of science fiction writing.  But Ellison, I think, is more eclectic, combining fantasy, memoir, and humor in his unique style.  Nabokov, on the other hand, was a touted literary force from Russia who wrote his strongest works (primarily novels) in English.

The Nabokov book (a first edition without dust jacket) came into my possession via the New York public library of Binghamton with library card intact.  I couldn't help but notice that the last person to check the book out of the library was a guy named Stephen Seeberg.  The date was May 17, 1977.

I enjoy having these types of books in my personal library.  Displaying these books on my shelves (or stuffing them into boxes) offers me a connection with the past.  A used book is, well . . . used.  It already has a history of being coddled and held, kind of like a baby.  The Nabokov book even smells old.  It smells like library.

The scent makes me wonder if there's not a marketing opportunity.  How about a scent called "Book" or "Pages" or "Library"?  I would know that smell anywhere . . . and I'd buy it.

I still have a massive pile of books to read . . . but it was fun finishing two.  Two down, as they say.  And miles to go before I sleep . . . .

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

More Fan Mail

Last week I received several bits of fan mail from locations as diverse as my home town to Brazil (South America).  I'm always amazed by these letters.  I have no idea why anyone would take the time to write to me.

One of these letters asked the question:  "Are you working on any new books?"

Answer:  Well, yes, Virginia.  But I'm always working on new books.  I have many new books in process.  Some of these books are comprised of the first sentence only; others are represented by whole paragraphs about gophers, or pirates, or Wilda Beasts.  But the concepts for these books are there--some of them whole, others partial.  I just have to actually write them.

One young lady from Brazil wrote to me in a combination of English and Portuguese to ask if I might encourage her in her own writing.  Naturally, I was glad to oblige.  Just pick a language, I told her.

My fan mail, of course, is just a smattering.  I don't have to hire a personal secretary to handle the load.  I can even write this blog without dictation.  And some of my thoughts are actually original.  But I'm not sure anyone would want to plagiarize my work.  Why bother with insanity?

I do enjoy getting fan letters, of course.  These actually inflate my ego for a few hours and cause my wife to ask, "Why are you so giddy today?  Wipe that silly grin off your face . . . people will think we've been making out."

I never tell her I've received letters of adulation, however.  That would be too much and it might cause her to believe (wrongly) that she is married to a man who can strike a match on his butt.  I would rather she accept me as I am and continue to harbor the helpful attitude needed to care for someone who is totally inept and who, any day now, might die in a freak cicada-swarm accident.

But until I receive my next piece of fan mail from an adoring readership, I'll just hole up in the office every morning and each night and continue writing my current essay on Blackjack Chewing Gum. 

Somebody's gotta write it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Father's Day . . . a Week Later

I don't normally think of "Father's Day" when it comes to writing and communication with editors, but last Sunday there were a surpising number of editors who were willing to converse.  One editor wrote informing me that he was accepting my essay about (get this . . . ) my take on the disparity between authorship and fame.  Doesn't sound like a hot topic to most people, but it's one of the best essays I've written in the past two years and I'm grateful he noted the import of it.  He also invited me to be a part of an ongoing online discussion between publishers, editors and writers surrounding a special magazine issue that will be published in the fall.  Sounds like it could be a fruitful conversation in this ever-changing world of publishing.

I also felt compelled to write on "Father's Day" on Father's Day, and have submitted several pieces for consideration to a number of magazines.  This was my Father's Day (post wedding) and, although I was exhausted, the writing gave me hope.

A year from now, I'll certainly be an older father.  I'm inching ever closer to that magic number "55" when so many of the "senior citizen" discounts kick in.  I have, indeed, noted the steep discounts available in some restaurants, stores and catalogues.

Seems to me I'll have to write a blog about this (on Manopause!).  I may not call attention to my discount status when I do reach that illustrious age, but it's good to know that my age will count for something.

And who knows . . . by then I might be an expert on "Father's Day".  More than my children may be calling me "Pops".

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kelly Ripa, Her Wedding, and Me

As a father who recently financed his daughter's wedding, I noted that, yesterday, Kelly Ripa revealed the cost of her wedding on her TV show.  Evidently, when Ripa was married sixteen years ago, she spent a whopping $270 TOTAL on her wedding--which included free air miles, cut-rate hotel accommodations, and a destination no-cost ceremony.

Good for Kelly.

I've been writing about low-cost or debt-free weddings for years . . . first in national bridal magazines, and then in book form (Before You Say "I Do" & Your Beautiful Wedding on Any Budget) and on my four-year old blog,  And having just financed my daughter's wedding (debt-free I might add--but not no cost), I can sleep well knowing my daughter has a keen grasp of simplicity, basic elegance, and a do-it-yourself attitude.

What else would one expect from a girl who wanted to get married in a barn surrounded by cow pies?

Having recently re-vamped my debt-free wedding blog, I noted yesterday that I've helped about 5000 brides create a low-cost or debt-free wedding.  And with the average cost of a wedding topping out at a whopping $27,000, it's no wonder that the greatest stresses in marriage turn out to be financial ones, and that many weddings destroy the family before a marriage can be birthed on a solid financial footing.

I enjoy writing about weddings . . . and have done so for decades.  And now that I've written the last check for my daughter's wedding, I've got a file folder filled with new ideas.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

From Dad's Wedding Journal

During the months leading up to my daughter's wedding, I wrote a copious amount of material from a Dad's perspective.  Dad's perspective, of course, is skewed and given to emotional outbursts.

Still, I did write a few decent pieces about weddings, including this other poem that I considered reading (but did not).

But here it is:

On My Daughter's Wedding Day

How lovely your years have collided on this day
Of laughter, love, and indelible light,
Your face a flower, your dress a bouquet
Of memories in white.

Your smile and beauty makes your father blessed,
Though as I grieve your years exhaled
I wish I could through love's excess
Redeem where I have failed.

I see you slip away, coiled in his arms,
My child, my fair phenomenon,
Desiring to save you both from this world's harms
And kiss you with a song.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wedding Writ

Chelsey (the Bride) age 4, holding two toad suitors and preparing for a kiss (Noblesville, summer 1993)

I'm not sure I have ever seen my daughter so happy as she was on her wedding day.  It was a wonderful day--though hot--and all of it passed by so quickly.  And I do know that I will never be able to listen to the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" without tearing up (Chelsey and I danced to this song).  I thank my family and friends for being a part of this day.  I love you all.

I will say, there's no way to describe the accumulation of thoughts and feelings that a parent encounters at a son or daughter's wedding.  It was all so surreal.  I'm still recovering, and probably will be for some time.

Many people asked me about the poem I read at the wedding:  when I wrote it, why, and if they could read it, etc.

I have actually written many "wedding" pieces over the past year, and have been keeping a "Father's Wedding Journal", which contained random thoughts, feelings, essays and quite a number of poems.  But with one or two exceptions, no one has read any of these prose or poetry pieces except a few trustworthy editors and, on occasion, my wife.

Out of this array of wedding writ, I did settle upon a couple of essays and poems that I felt were publication-worthy (and also had enough confidence to read aloud).

So, for those who asked about it, here's the poem I read on Saturday.

A Prayer on My Daughter's Wedding Day

Would it be selfish, Lord, to pray for gifts
Of such illimitable, marvelous wonder--
Poured from your gracious hand, unsung or
Unrelenting--as my provision drifts

In a father's weakness, though my love
Is strong?  And could I ask for such as these:
But a bountiful earth, the salt of seas,

And guiding stars arrayed in splendor above?

My these two know such joys and sweetened leaven
In all their days ahead, such as you give.
And may their years bless us, as you forgive,
To carry them, at last, across the threshold of your heaven.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thoughts on My Daughter's Wedding

As my readers know, this blog is usually shot-through with jocularity and my warped sense of humor.  But today, on the cusp of my daughter's wedding, I thought I would share a few somber thoughts.  (I can write in this vein, too!)

There's no way to describe a father's love. I have words, but all of them seem inadequate.  And as I ponder the homily for my daughter's wedding, I realize that I will only be able to share those thoughts that will not lead me down a path of emotional annihilation.  But I may get there yet.

When a father walks his daughter down the aisle, he is dragging her full history behind him.  He sees her in the light of the cradle, full of promise and bloom, and at once sets out to protect her and to be her guardian.  This is short-lived, however, and unattainable, as life intervenes, and with it the hurts, and slights, and injuries that a child cannot avoid and which a parent cannot shield. 

A father, if he is wise, learns to allow his children the necessary pains, but these injure him also, and when he strides with his daughter down the aisle he hopes and prays that he was more of a refuge from, than a source of, life's miseries.  Did I do enough?  Did I do too little?  Were our conversations helpful?  Did I offer enough support? What will happen to her now . . . this adult version of my little girl?

Eventually the father falls back on the promise of love, and is redeemed by the eventualities of life's progression, even through his failures.  If he is a praying man, a man of faith, he sees God's hand and God's handiwork.  Yes, she is beautiful!  She has come of age.  She is one of the miracles he woke to each day, and discussed, and reached toward.  But often he missed her.  He did not see her. Not fully.  Not completely.  But through a glass dimly.  Not as God sees.  He knows only the faint shadow of the life as she lived it with him, and the rest if known only but to God.

He brings her down the aisle to another man.  He cannot give her.  Who can give another human life but God?  But he can offer her promise, what he has come to know about her, and hope that she will see herself and all of her future endeavors as being born out of the One great love.  This will be enough.  As it has been enough for his own life, and has been enough for the world, which God has redeemed by love.

A father thinks these thoughts sometimes, late at night, when he is alone and when others cannot see his tears.  He rarely speaks of them.  He cannot give voice to the depth of it all.  

He brings her to that moment in life called a wedding, and a marriage, and a future of promise.  He hopes he has done enough, though there is more to be done.  

She is now leaving the house.  And he prays she will leave by God's grace for good, and make a new home birthed in her own love.   


Wednesday, June 13, 2012


The letter came a few days back:  an invitation from the publisher to purchase the remaindered supply of one of my titles before the publisher burns them.  Well, I assume publishers burn their unpurchased books.  That would only be fitting.  But at any rate, this publisher won't be printing any more of those books with my name on the cover, and the last copies can be mine for a fraction of the printing cost.

I never buy these books, however.  It's just too depressing.  I don't need a hundred (or even another thousand) copies of one of my book failures taking up room in a closet or piled in the garage.  Burn 'em, I say.  Burn 'em all!

The memory of writing the book still lingers.  That's enough for me.  Or, perhaps, it was that first jolt of the book cover emerging from the box of author's copies.  Or, perhaps, the joy of finding one of my titles on a bookstore shelf in Denver, or Louisville, or Akron.  I don't need the remaindered copies sitting around my house reminding me that no one purchased the book and that it was a dismal failure.  Again.

Keeping a box of these books in the house doesn't make me feel better about myself.  The box sits there, gathering dust.  A visible reminder that the publisher couldn't sell the copies and had to resort to a last ditch effort: namely, to have me, the author, take these unsold books off their hands.

In a way I deal in the redemption business, but when it comes to books, I'm irredeemable.  I won't buy, and I won't bite.  The books can burn.

There is, however, a kind of sadness that overtakes a writer when he learns, once again, that he is "out-of-print".  In this new digital age, what with all the print-on-demand and digital publishing being performed on computers and hand-held devices the size of Post-It Notes, it's difficult to be a dinosaur bound in the traditional publishing world of paper and ink and time.  But "out-of-print" is what I am.  I will no longer exist on paper and these words produced will, like time itself, gather into the dustbin of history.

I am gone, and my words are lost.  Again.

But perhaps, somewhere in future ages, a kid will find a copy of my book in an antique store and will ask his mother, "What's this?"

She will say:  "That is called 'a book.'"

I can sleep on that thought tonight and be happy enough.  And for a writer, it's all there is.

Give Me Strength

Yesterday I completed my read of Now, Discover Your Strengths (Strengths Finder) by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton.  The book also includes an on-line test and printout designed to provide my top five strengths.  I found the book, and the accompanying test, to be elucidating and spot on.  I asked my wife to read my analysis and comment on the accuracy of it, and she concurred.  So . . .

Interesting that "Achiever" was my top strength.  According to the analysis, I'm a person who gets things done, and I am quite comfortable working on many tasks at once.  Operative words here were "prolific" and "hard-working".  And another of my strengths--which was not actually in the book:  "Consistency".  I seem to operate equally well, even consistently well, through high levels of adversity or low ebbs of ease.  My strengths analysis revealed that I hold to a course or goal and stick to it regardless.

There were other strengths, too, but these intrigued me.  Especially when it comes to writing.  Through the years I've had a number of editors tell me, "I can count on you to deliver the goods on deadline" or "I like the fact that you write every day and you never waver from your routines and disciplines."

Naturally, these strengths also have their drawbacks.  As my wife points out, I can be boring.  A relaxing Friday night for me would be producing 2000 words of new material.  A productive morning would be rising at 4 a.m. to write for three hours before I go to the gym.  I am stretching my comfort zone when I have to go to Walmart and purchase a new box of floppy disks (which are, by the way, increasingly difficult to find). And when I go on vacation I make it a point to write essays and have, on occasion, even garnered a writing assignment to work on while "relaxing".  I have also been known to go on vacation and work up an entire year's worth of sermon themes and topics.  In essence, these "strengths" can drive my wife bonkers.

I would recommend this book to any organization's staff.  I think it would be fun, and perceptive, to have this type of information about everyone in an organization.  It would help people to understand each other, and to appreciate the diversity of strengths that make an organization run effectively.  Everybody has strengths and these should be utilized to their fullest.

My wife is going to take this test, too.  But I already know what her strengths are!  Her analysis will reveal that she is "at ease around boring men" and "patient with idiots" and "receptive to the hideous ideas of men with bad cooking skills."   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Blogging Future

Last week at our annual conference I met several people who kindly commented on my Together column.  "I enjoy reading your column," some said; while others told me, "I read your column first thing."  Well, okay then.

I also met some folks who said to me, "Hey, aren't you that guy who writes that column?"  Funny thing what a photo can do.  I should have worn dark sunglasses.

A few other people also told me that they read my blogs and they wondered what else I was working on in the future.  I told them I am already looking ahead to 2013 and have several new ideas.

But I'm not sure how well any of these would be received.  Tell me what you think:

Coming Out of the Closet
     This blog would allow me to clean out some of the boxes in my writer's closet, and would feature the old writing I would dig up:  the unpublished work I've accumulated over the years and shoved into the nooks and crannies of my closet (and my hundreds of floppy disks).  Question is:  since so much of this work was rejected by dozens of editors, who would want to read it now? Does the attic have any relevance (unless you are Emily Dickenson)?

Some Guy's Love Poems
     Okay, here's the deal.  I have, for many years now, written love poems to my wife.  Most of these poems she has never read.  Would she read this blog?  I'm sure I could find 300+ decent love poems to post on this blog in 2013 (including a goodly number that were published and that padded my bank account but my wife still hasn't read!).  But who the heck wants to read the love poems I write to Becky (besides the editors who are sometimes willing to pay me)?

Church Chat
     The magazine I miss writing for the most is The Wittenburg Door: The World's Pretty Much Only Magazine of Religious Satire.  The Door went out of business (again) a few years ago and I've been in mourning and remission ever since.  I began writing for the magazine when Mike Yaconelli served as editor, continued to contribute when Joe Bob Briggs and Bob Darden began editing, and was holding out hope that Ole Anthony and The Trinity Foundation would be able to keep the magazine solvent . . . but it was not to be.  I have dozens of published pieces I could glean from the magazine (and to which I still hold the rights) and dozens more that I either wrote for The Door or could create fresh for a new day.  Question is:  would anyone want to read religious satire--and my fun take on the church, pastors, televangelists, etc.--and actually laugh with it?  This from a pastor who once received a note from Ole Anthony informing him that one of my Door pieces had offended Tony Campolo (Tony C. called The Door office demanding my head on a platter!) and another editorial note telling me that one of my pieces could not be published because even The Door felt it would be too incendiary . . . and that's why they were publishing it, and great job!  I loved being on assignment for The Door, too . . . and I suppose I'd be willing to write a religious satire blog if folks would read it (and get it!).  

So there you have some of my 2013 meanderings.

Anything interesting here?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ray Bradbury

Last Tuesday one of my favorite writers died.  I will miss Ray Bradbury.

Bradbury was still producing work into his nineties, as evidenced by the essay that Bradbury had contributed to the most recent issue of The New Yorker--a double-issue (June 4 & 11) dedicated to science fiction.  Bradbury himself eschewed his place as a science fiction writer, although his most famous works, Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, are certainly of the genre.

But Bradbury defied categorization, I think . . . especially when one looks at his entire body of work.  His three short story collections are among my favorite books, and I often turn to them on rainy days.  He has always had that sort of effect on me--like comfort food.

Well, I will miss Bradbury.  I began reading him when I was ten or eleven years old and his style, as well as the depth and breadth of his work, was always surprising and marvelous.  Bradbury often called himself a magician instead of a writer, and I think he always set out to delight and please in everything he wrote. 

So that's how I'll leave him. 

Thanks, Mr. Bradbury.  Although you have passed from this life your life lives on through your words . . . and I'll carry them on my shelves always.

Friday, June 8, 2012

More Limericks for Annual Conference

In the event my first installment of limericks did not satisfy your appetite for annual conference fun . . . here's a second helping.  Limericks, of course, are often regarded as base and dirty . . . and they can be.  
But in the event you don't like these limericks, don't blame me.  I only write 'em.  I don't read 'em. 

I also include this disclaimer before you read and would ask that you sign your name below if you plan to partake of this fare:

DISCLAIMER:  I ________ (your fake name here) hereby affirm that I will not hold this Methodist pastor (Todd Outcalt) responsible for any emotional or psychological trauma that I experience from reading these warped limericks.  I accept full responsibility for reading them and will not hold him responsible, although God only knows why his wife laughs at his stupid jokes.  I also agree that, if I read them, that I will not hold the author responsible for any outcome they may produce, including but not limited to: a slight feeling of discomfort when I am near the bishop, conflicted thoughts regarding whether I should find these humorous or politically correct, or an insatiable desire to visit the Cokesbury table to locate copies of the author's books. 


A pastor who went by the Book
Shot his wife a bold, feverish look.
But she said, "It's a sin
To give me that grin
And I'm not letting you off the hook!"

When John Wesley rode among folk
He was frequently tired and quite broke
But when Asbury said,
"Ordain me instead!"
Wesley told him, "No!  I prefer Coke."

A bishop who bished 90 years
Lived so long that he outlived his peers
He refused to retire
So they bronzed him entire
And the whole conference had a few beers.

A pastor who majored in Barth
Created her sermons as art
But when she ate beans
She would split at the seams
And stand at the pulpit and  . . . (sing How Great Thou Art).

Some pastors don't like limericks
But regard them as foul, dirty tricks.
But there still are a few
(And maybe that's YOU)
Who can read them to get a few kicks.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Susanna Wesley Goes to Annual Conference

There are many women who think I am misogynistic, sexist, and completely out of line . . . but these are the women who know me, and the rest shouldn't care.  Naturally, my blog ( doesn't help my case either.

But what women don't understand is that I actually have a mother.  She loves me.  Sometimes she even likes me.  And that's why I had to write this poem about Susanna Wesley.  It's for all you clergy ladies out there who don't think a guy like me can be sensitive, caring, soft, empathetic, charming, wonderful, marvelous, and historically accurate.  (I hope I don't get sued!  But my wife already has access to my life insurance benefits should I meet with an untimely needlepoint or bludgeoning death.)

Susanna Wesley Goes to Annual Conference

Years ago when Methodists
Convened for work and prayer
Every man arrived on horse
And there were no women there.

But Wesley's mother, as his guide,
Said, "Hey, John, let us in!
Are you afraid of women, John?
Or just our estrogen?"

So Wesley prayed and read the Word
And came to the conclusion
That every man at conference
Should welcome their inclusion.

And that's when men at conference
Gave up their powdered wigs
And forfeited their dresses and
Their frilly frocks and digs.

And by and by at conferences
From New York to Cheyenne,
That's why you'll see more women now
Than you will powdered men.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Limericks for Annual Conference

Legendary science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, in his memoirs, wrote an entire chapter about the genesis of his limerick books (he wrote three).  He noted that, once he began writing limericks, he could not stop.  "It was like a fever," he said, and he would spend hours at a time, sometimes entire days, writing page after page of them.

I can identify.  I felt like that once I began writing these limericks for Annual Conference, though I can write a limerick, usually, in a couple of minutes.  (I'll have two installments:  this one, and another later in the week).

Anyway . . . I do hope you'll take offense at these!  I put my heart into them, and my wit (what little I have). 

Enjoy these during the conference plenary session . . . if you dare!

There once was a pastor from Clark
Who could not find a place she could park
But it rained and it blew
And she said, "Yes, I knew
That I should have arrived in the ark."

Ten pastors became rather giddy
When they conferenced uptown in the city
But as Methodists
Their conscience insists
They create yet another committee.

John Wesley conducted research
While eating red beans and fried perch
It was after this meal
History would reveal
That he journaled and belched out a church.

An old fart from Kalamazoo
Was ordained after years of review
But he died just before
His first sermon could score
And he gave 'em the old switcheroo.

Some pastors who met over lunch
Felt pinched by a financial crunch
So to lighten the mood
They fasted from food
And decided to spike the church punch.

Some pastors who shall go un-named
Believe that these poems are lame
But they never will laugh
At a joke or a gaff
So they'll go back the way that they came.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Nite Lite

Late last night I found myself writing my author bio for an upcoming piece that will be published in a nature magazine.  But I was asked to write my biography in the unique style of the magazine (one sentence notwithstanding), including references to the waterways and flora and fauna that surround me.

Well, that's not exactly difficult . . . seeing as how I live on White Lick Creek and encounter beaver, red fox, deer, muskrats, coyote, and raccoons on a regular basis.  I also attempted to portray my wife as a wild animal (foxy?) and my children as goats (kids?).

I was thankful, too, that the editor seemed so welcoming to my work and was open to receiving more of what I had to offer.  (I'm not sure what I have to offer, but do plan to submit more.)

In the event the editor wants a biography that's much wilder, I thought I'd allow her to choose from either of these.

Todd Outcalt is a wild man who could (if he chose) live off the four-and-a-half acres of grass that his son mows, complete with peach trees, apple trees, walnuts, mulberries, and plenty of animal carcases that he finds along the roadside where he and his wife frequently recline under the stars.


Todd Outcalt is not your average nature-lover, as he frequently wears a suit and tie and rarely eats anything without preservatives, despite the fact that his son is a health-nut who chides him for drinking diet colas and eating piles of donuts.

Most of these editors seem to have a good sense of humor.  They must have something if they want to work with me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

May Day Away

Where did May go?  Certainly not into my database! 

Looking back on the past month, I see that I was not very productive (as far as writing is concerned). Oh, I wroteA lot.  But I didn't produce material of any weight or import.  Most of my essays, articles, and poems didn't hit paydirt . . . and I have to look back on those thirty-one pots of morning coffee as something of a lark, as my early-bird writer's life didn't catch any worms.

But June is here!

I like June.  It's one of those "warm" months that, while providing some very busy days, also offers some longer mornings and evenings (the longest "day" being June 21).  In June I can sit outside in daylight until 10:30 p.m. and write in natural light.  I can rise at 4:30 a.m. to witness the first peek of sun.  I drink more coffee in order to fuel these long days and, during the best of times, I can write 4 hours every morning and 4 hours every night and still get plenty of sleep.

Last night, when my wife began asking me about our summer vacation, I admitted that I would love to sell enough essays in June to at least pay for our airfare.  But I'll have to hustle.  That will require a full arsenal of pages and some dumb luck.  And I'll need to hit upon some ideas that my editors can't pass up when they are handing out pay.

So there.  Goodbye, May.  Hello, June.  We welcome you.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Siskel to My Ebert

Yesterday I received my first assignment as a movie reviewer.  My mission, should I decide to accept it, is to view the movie, write about it, deliver it whole to the editor, and then wait on my check to arrive. 

I can handle that.

But I rarely go to movies these days.  Call me weird, but when I watch a movie I am most interested in the credits (who directed, produced, and adapted the movie, etc.).  I am insanely interested in the script (whether original or adapted from a novel) and I make a game out of trying to guess who wrote the screenplay based on the dialogue, the style, the pace, and the themes.  In more recent years I have been able to identify some of these screen writers before the credits roll.

I'm not sure why I was given this assignment to review a movie.  I guess the editor thought I could handle it, though I am not a film critic by any stretch.  I'm going to have to practice writing the review, too . . . it's all so new to me.  But I like new.  I adore new challenges.

So, here's my practice round for your approval.  I hope I get another assignment.

My Practice Review
     This reviewer has not seen the movie yet, but he did order a large buttered popcorn for practice and ate the whole tub while standing on one foot in the lobby.  He consumed all $8.00 worth of the product in five minutes but ran out of cash and could not purchase a $5.00 small soda.  Going into the theatre he had money for a ticket, but with the purchase of the popcorn he will have to watch the movie another time.
     He does, however, have some idea what this movie is about from studying the movie poster.  It looks to be good.  The camera man probably changed his lenses before shooting began (the images look clear), and the actors look fresh and highly-paid.  Most of these actors don't look like they eat buttered popcorn, but probably subsist on low-calorie sushi and sage advice from personal trainers.  In essence, they look good.
     The movie poster looked good.  It should help attract customers.  The script on the movie poster looked good, too.  Everything looked good to me.  It should be a good movie when I get around to watching it.  And I hope I write a good review.
     I plan to wear my 3-D glasses when I see this movie.  Though the movie was not shot in 3-D, I like to look cool when I watch a movie, especially if my wife is not with me and there are younger women in the lobby eating buttered popcorn.  I often wear my 3-D glasses to bed at night so that my wife looks better, too.  Everything looks better in 3-D . . . almost like I am actually there in the bed, and when my wife tells me I look like a nerd, it seems so real I think she is actually talking to me, even though her voice sounds like it is in Dolby Surround-Sound.
     I plan to save enough money so I can see this movie next week, and I won't buy popcorn this time.  I won't study the movie poster either, I'll head straight for my seat and pull a Snickers bar out of my pocket when the opening credits start to roll. I will also make notes on a small slip of paper as I watch the movie, or write on the back of the seat in front of me with a felt-tipped marker.  When the lights come up at the end credits, I will write the review immediately so it will all be fresh in my mind.
     Not like the popcorn.  And I'll buy a soda afterwards.