Sunday, January 13, 2008

Writing to Say Goodbye....

I've had lots of assignments in my writing career. "Interview Kutless, please." "Get a few good quotes from the Chicago Bears training camp sidelines." "Talk to the Chancellor about the budget cuts."

None of my assignments in more than 20 years of writing has been more important than the one I received this weekend. It doesn't matter how many books I write or ghostwrite or how many articles I prepare for national magazines, THIS is the most important writing assignment of my life.

My brother called last night to tell me that he had just said goodbye to his best friend of many years. Choking back tears, he told me that within the next hour Scot's family would allow the medical team to administer a morphine drip that would assist Scot in peacefully departing from this earth. For a few years, Scot had fought a deadly disease that was finally claiming his 36-year-old life. His long fight was coming to an end, and even though family and friends had prepared for this moment for a long time, no one had really prepared to say goodbye.

Listening to my brother tell tales of the past years with Scot, together we laughed and we cried. Scot's generosity to others, his friendship and his sense of humor always rose to the top of the conversation. And after listening to my brother for more than 20 minutes, I realized that his words were his eulogy to his good friend. I encouraged him to ask the family for a few minutes to speak at the funeral. He quickly told me that was out of the question. He admitted he wasn't strong enough to pull it off. We talked about how his final words would bring healing to Scot's family and friends, but again my brother declined, saying that it would be just too hard. "So, ask someone else to read your words for you," I said. This time he didn't say no. Instead, he thoughtfully said: "I'm not the writer in the family. You are. How about I tell you all the stories and you whip up something good?" There it was. The toughest assignment ever. Not only did I need to help my brother capture his words in an eloquent fashion, but I needed to write them so that someone else...possibly the pastor...could convey my brother's heartfelt message to the congregation.

I'm sitting here tonight trying to finish a book for a deadline that comes later this week. After hours of writing, I finally have writer's block. I'll push through it though, knowing that once this book is printed later this summer, students all over the country will find value in the words I'm stringing together today. But in the bigger picture, my book about one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time is not really that important. It's a fun writing assignment, but it's long-time value pales in comparison to the writing assignment I was given only a few hours ago.

I'm putting my football book away for a while. I have to write to say goodbye.....

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

January 2008 Update

Happy New Year! This is "The Year of 20" for me!
  • I want to look 20 years younger. (OK, maybe that ship has sailed!!!)

  • I want to lose 20 pounds. (A little more attainable with a lot of hard work!!)

  • I want to send out 20 queries to publications each month. (Pretty ambitious!)

  • I want to become published in 20 additional publications this year. (Probably more attainable than losing 20 pounds!)

  • And I'm hoping to have book contracts for two long-awaited manuscripts. (20 is divisible by two, so this counts!!!!!)
I'm looking forward to what this year will bring. If it's anything like 2007, it should be another whirlwind of writing activity. So what am I up to now? Well, here it goes...

I started the year by finishing off my two biography books about two of today's hottest R&B stars. Doing two books at once and getting a feel for the publisher's expections was difficult at times, but I made it through, and I'm thrilled to have turned in both manuscripts a few weeks before my deadline. That must have impressed the publisher because she asked me to write the next book (before the end of January) about a VERY legendary quarterback. My contract prevents me from releasing all the details, so check again to find out who it is -- when I can let the cat out of the bag! Let's just say I'm having a great time and can't wait to complete this manuscript. All three books will be out sometime around May or June.

On the interviewing side, my Kutless article was posted on on Jan. 4. I just LOVED spending time with them when they were in town for a concert in Madison on November 8. This month, I will be interviewing members of the very popular group Christian groups Avalon and Sanctus Real. Those articles will be posted in February.

Very exciting as well...I have an assignment to interview NFL Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy. An interview time is being established, so stop back next month to see how it went!

As usual, there are lots of other things in the hopper...more on that in February!

Stay warm!

I Have a Little Problem...

The best piece of advice I can offer is this: don't ask me to loan you a book. No doubt, I will say "Sure!", but if you watch my face closely, you'll see the pain behind the smile. I would probably loan you my small children before I would loan you a book. And if I do, I'll hand the book off to you with a list of rules, and you can be sure I will have removed the dust jacket before sending it out the door.

I have always loved the printed word, and even more than that I love the way words look when they are packaged. I have a very neurotic set of unwritten rules. Hard cover books should have glossy dust covers that are fingerprint-free, and I probably won't read it if the dust cover has crinkles or rips. At the bookstore, I will always dig to the back to find the book that hasn't seen daylight...or fingers. Hard cover books should be as elegant as a fine piece of art.

I have the same rules for soft cover books, but this is where my insanity catapults to a new galaxy. Soft cover books should never have broken spines. They shouldn't even have creases! If you want to witness me in a panic attack, accompany me on a flight sometime. Sad broken-down books are everywhere!!! Travelers from coast to coast treat their books with no more respect than a napkin. I know! I watch them. And then I wince in pain.

During my last flight home from Orlando, I sat next to a seemingly normal middle-age woman. She lovingly tucked her small daughter into the seat next to her, giving her a blanket, sippie cup and a much loved stuffed dog. She kissed the top of her head and whispered something in her daughter's ear that brought an instant giggle. I decided I liked her. But then it happened! She pulled out the novel she'd probably started on an earlier flight, and all that love disappeared. She cranked that thing open, bending the covers back so far they touched on the other side. And then she proceeded to repeatedly press the palm of her hand over the inside spine to flatten the pages out a little more. I nearly reached for the air sickness bag! And if the oxygen mask would have been in reach, it would have come in handy, too. In my mind, that sweet woman went from loving to evil in 2.14 seconds. How could someone so caring be so destructive to such a precious thing?

Having just released my first book, I proudly sat at my book-signing a few months ago with more than 700 people lined up for an autograph. After passing by my table and stepping aside to peruse the pages, I noticed most of the buyers were like the lady on the plane. They couldn’t wait to dig in and read, and in doing so, they nearly mutilated the perfect soft cover. And I nearly stood up, walked through the gymnasium and collected the books again.

You're getting this, right? You're seeing that I'm a little over the top? Well, it doesn't stop there because I haven't addressed my neurosis with magazines yet! Like books, magazine pages should never be dog-eared, never have fingerprints, nor should their covers be torn or even slightly ripped. Like books, I carefully select them off the store shelf, only purchasing copies that haven't yet been "loved" (or "unloved"). My dilemma happens when my subscriptions show up in the mailbox. I cringe every time I slide one of my new mags out of the aluminum postal box, knowing in the course of its delivery that it has already been: a) dropped, b) torn, c) read by the postman, d) run over by the mail truck, or e) snagged in the mail sorter at the post office, leaving ugly tracks across the cover. Very rarely have I received a perfect issue, yet I continue to put myself through the grueling task of renewing my subscriptions. Two years ago when my Martha Stewart Living magazine showed up in a heavy plastic wrapping, I was so pleased I wrote to the company to thank them for caring about my magazine. Two months later, they must have looked for cost-saving options because the protective cover disappeared and my April issue showed up – without a cover! I didn't even read it. There was no point.

So, you can see that I have a little problem. I care way too much about the presentation of the printed word. I don't enjoy movies because there's nothing to read. And don't even ask me if I want to borrow your set of John Grisham books on tape. words. Not interested. Thanks for thinking of me, though.

And while you're at it, don't ask to borrow any of my many books or magazines. It's not worth your stress. Or mine!!!

It’s sad, but it’s true.

God bless the printed word!