Monday, November 21, 2011

The Family Chuckle

My long-time friend, Donna Scofield, has been writing a weekly column, The Family Chuckle, for our local newspaper for a number of years. I'm happy to say her collection of wit and wisdom is about to appear in book form, just in time for Christmas. FYI, the book's cover features the farm house where Donna and her family once lived. The Family Chuckle will be available soon from Amazon and your local bookstore and I say, "It's about darn time!"
Welcome to Book Blather, Donna.      

   I had pretty much decided to self-publish by the time I read postings on the subject on this blog. The information gained here gave me just the little nudge I needed to replace words with action.
         I’ve been writing for years, some it not the kind you’re proud of. My first word processor was purchased with money earned by writing “true confessions”…those lurid first-person accounts of passion and heartbreak. The author is required to sign a document stating that the story happened to her, or could have happened to her or someone she knew. It was quick and easy, but the plot farm suffered a drought when the people at work leaned that many of my stories came from little tidbits overheard in the break room. I was ready to quit, anyhow. My tee-totaler mother was very upset with my last story, “Mom Loved Us, but She Loved the Bottle More.
         Next I sold a romance novelette to Harlequin/Silhouette…a step up from true confessions, but a very shallow step. The amazing part of that feat is that I don’t even like romances, and never read them.
         I decided it wasn’t fun to write stuff you were ashamed of, so I tried a different genre.  I came close with a chapter book for middle-grade readers, about a couple of big-city boys experiencing the Oregon Trail by time travel. It got out of the slush pile at a reputable children’s fiction publisher, was read by a copy editor and passed up the line to the next one. He liked it, and wanted a bibliography. I’d done mountains of research about the subject, so I spent a day going through my material and produced a very satisfactory bibliography. That’s when they decided their firm didn’t do time travel.  
         Humor jump-started my writing life. I was going to say “career” instead of life, but decided that lying should only be allowed when it makes something funnier.  If writing was my career, I’d be eating cat food and sleeping in a refrigerator box.
          Soon I had a big file of short family humor pieces, and no market for them until a friend from writers’ group took charge. She and I picked out a few of the pieces we liked best, and she wangled an appointment with one of the editors at the Yakima Herald Republic newspaper. Evidently it’s easier to be pushy for someone else than for yourself. Or maybe she just had some agent genes in her make-up. Whatever the reason, she succeeded, and nine years ago the newspaper began publishing my column twice a month.
         Quite a few people asked if the columns were available in book form; said they’d really love to have a copy.  I formatted a collection of columns and began stalking agents and publishers on the internet. When that failed I investigated self-publishing. Absolute Write and Writer Beware web sites were helpful in learning which to avoid. Many of them sound promising until you get right down to the nitty-gritty…how much it would cost. I decided that paying three-thousand (or more) dollars to hold my book in my hand really defined the meaning of “vanity press.” Many of the companies  threw a monkey-wrench into the works by adding expensive requirements at extra cost, like having the manuscript read by a reputable copy editor (with their own company, of course). One that seemed like a perfect fit for my book advertised that it would cost me nothing; they made their money from the sale of the book. Unfortunately, you had to hire a four thousand dollar marketing specialist.
         So I’m going with Lulu. I’ve talked to people who were pleased with their service. I’m paying to have the book professionally formatted, and the cover designed by somebody who knows what they’re doing. If this works, I’ve got an historical fiction book ready to go. If I’m not satisfied with Lulu, I might try CreateSpace.
         I’m not going to wait for the publisher angel to perch on my shoulder. As Erma Bombeck said, I’m too old to buy green bananas and wait for them to ripen. I’ll do whatever I can to sell the book: have signings (if my pushy friend can get them for me), give out bookmarks, buy an ad in the Herald and hope they can put it right beside my column.
         I know I won’t be the next Nora Roberts. I don’t think she writes all those books herself, anyhow. I think she has a stable of ghost-writers. I’d just like to break even., so I’ll start small. At a writers’ conference I met a columnist from Idaho whose readers urged her to print a column of her books. “Now I’ve got boxes of the damned books stacked in my basement,” she snarled.
         But on the positive side, our family decided that this is the Christmas we’re only giving handmade gifts. Hah! My Christmas shopping’s almost done!  



  1. What a great interview! I love Donna's journey as a writer and her "voice" really shines through. The book sounds like a lot of fun. Let us know when it's available!

  2. I agree. Donna's voice is unique and it definitely shines through in her columns. When her book comes out, I'll be sure to post it on Book Blather.