Stupid, Brave, or Desperate

So this quiz says I’m… HEY, WAIT A MINUTE!!!

Here’s three connected things for the day. At least, they’re connected in MY head.

Thing One. I have a morning ritual. I check my email to see if anything’s on fire. Then I go to the Comics Kingdom website and do the Battleships puzzle, the Calcudoku puzzle, and then read the comic strip Zits. And one of the things that I think is remarkable is that the comics all have comment sections. I’m picturing some recently retired guy in a trailer park in Florida, reading the day’s installment of Jeremy and his parents and his friends, and imagining that the world needs to hear his thoughts. Today, Jeremy and his friend Hector are goofing around in a little kids’ playground. Some comments include:

  • Young, inexperienced, adventurous, and not a lick of sense….as Granny would say.
  • How today, ignore all rules…
  • That’s not a playground, it’s an entertainment center for snowflakes, people that will grow up with absolutely no ability to cope with a cloudy day

I understand the grumpy old man impulse. I have it all the time. But really, dude, do you need your inept social commentary attached to a freakin’ comic strip?

Thing Two. I was walking the cat this morning (yep, cat on a leash) and we went by the vacation house down the road. Nobody lives there full-time, so they only get junk mail, and the mailbox door has fallen off years ago. The cat was eating some grass, so I was stopped for a minute, and glanced at the mailbox where I was standing. A couple of envelopes and the most recent copy of the Lakes Region Free Press, rolled up and crushed in. The LRFP is a free weekly ad newspaper, with inserts from the supermarket and the hardware store, classified ads and a few display ads, surrounded by photos of kids sports teams and other small-town Rockwelliana. They send out tens of thousands of copies every week, one to every mailing address in our region, which is great because I need to light the wood stove with something.

Really, there’s a significant amount of creative energy invested in every week’s copy of that paper, (which they pay postage for to give it away to me for free!!), and it has almost never contained anything I chose to read. Literally, it comes in the door, I put the glossy inserts into the recycling and the newsprint into the basket next to the wood stove. It never even sits on the kitchen table for half an hour to raise the question about whether it’ll be read. It just won’t be.

Thing Three. I had a random thought this morning, about comedy clubs. They’re the bravest environment I know of. You don’t have to be brave to be an established stand-up comic, because you have fans. People come to your shows because they know your stuff, and already like it, and want more. You have a brand. You ARE a brand. If you’re Nikki Glazer, you’re the pretty, slutty sex comic. If you’re Ali Wong, you’re the angry, potty-mouthed mommy comic. If you’re Bill Burr, you’re the reactionary, “everybody’s stupid” Bostonian-barroom comic. As audience members, we know that coming in the door. We bought tickets specifically to see that. It’s a safe room, for audience and performer alike.

But comedy clubs are a dog’s breakfast. Four or five performers you don’t know, each with a radically different style and tone and topical content. If you like Nikki Glazer but go to a club and get Ron White, that’s just not going to speak to you the same way. You’re buying a product that you know nothing about in advance. And for the performers themselves, they go in with absolutely no warm-up and no reputation points on the board. They have to work from raw skill, as performers and writers. They have to earn every laugh.

Sum of Three Things. My writing group met on Sunday, and we had a long talk about motivation and purpose. We talked easily about our motivations for writing, for actually sitting down in front of a keyboard and making stories. But it was much harder to talk about our motivations for wanting readers. That’s embarrassing. It’s needy. We’re asking other people to pay attention to us. 

I mean, I have a blog. This post today is the 295th in the past two years since I started it. Nobody asked for that. I’ve written a bunch of novels. What makes that different from the grumpy old guy in his BarcaLounger shaking his fist at the online comic strip because nobody else will listen to him anymore? What makes it different from the Lakes Region Free Press?

Nothing, that’s what. 

But I prefer to think of it in the bravery mode. I’m going to take my few minutes in the club, as an unknown, and see if I can help my audience have a good time. I’ve invested the effort in the craft, and now I’m setting it out into the world to see if it connects, like pollen, to a receptive reader.

So just for fun, here’s the offer. I’ve had a few copies of my most recent novel, Trailing Spouse, printed in paperback. Here’s the blurb:

From grade-school spelling to top-tier PhD, Kurt Genier had always been an academic star. But his university career failed to launch, and he followed his wife Megan to her new faculty position at a third-rung college in rural Vermont. Kurt was just a trailing spouse, far away from friends, from scholarly life, from urban diversity. 

When their closest friends were deported, Kurt and Megan were called upon to serve a child they’d never met. They fought against the weight of bureaucracy and habit, defended an unfamiliar family life from those for whom differentmeant dangerous. Kurt had to use his intellectual gifts in an entirely new way—to move from star to servant.

Trailing Spouse shows what can happen to a child when the interests of individuals, families and cultures collide. Shows who we can be, after who we were has collapsed. Shows how far we would go to protect the future of another.

If that sounds like a book you’d be interested in reading, let me know. I’ll send a free copy to up to ten people. Here’s the rules:

  • I’ll take the first ten requests I receive. One copy only per request.
  • You can contact me by e-mail, if you know it, or through messaging me on LinkedIn, if you’re a member, or through the Keep In Touch tab on the website.
  • Include your name and mailing address. (US addresses only! I’m willing to spend three bucks to send it out domestically, but not twenty-five for international mail.) 

Now’s your chance to become a fan!

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