Here, for the first time, I reveal a writing secret.

People often say to me, “George, what are the secrets to writing well?” I’ll mumble something about there not being any. But of course I’m lying. Why? As a freelance writer, I am loath to divulge these secrets. Give away one here, another there, and before long a client might make an ugly comment such as, “Do we really need George?”

But I’m not an overly secretive person. So now, for the first time, I will reveal a single writing secret that’s been so closely guarded it has not once appeared in any book on writing (of which I own all but two or three thanks to my unfortunate discovery of Bookfinder.com). (Tempted to click on that? Wouldn’t if I were you.)

All right, here goes. There comes a stage in composition when editing on paper provides a writer with a helpful change of perspective. Problems and alternatives stand out in ways that they never did on the computer monitor. When this moment arrives, the tendency is to reach for a red pen. All you amateurs, this is a colossal mistake.

Seeing red? Uh oh. 

Among the colors of the spectrum, red is the most aggressive hue—and it’s never consented to anger management. Red is the color of war, of blood, of heat. Red admonishes, e.g. Stop here, or else. Red warns, e.g., CHECK ENGINE. Red assigns blame, e.g., The Scarlet Letter.

Consider some “red” expressions. A business in the red? Doomed. Red-faced? Embarrassed beyond belief. Red card? Not only ejected from the match, but from the sidelines, too. A Red? A communist. Red herring? To be misled on purpose and feel foolish about thinking it actually was the butler who did it.

So unless you’re into self-flagellation (and if you happen to be, please seek help immediately), avoid editing in this angry color.

(Of course if you’re Chinese, red is a lucky, happy color that brings good fortune; and the above Western biases would not apply.)

Feeling blue? Not good. Not good at all.

Blue? Blue is a “neh” color for editing. Blue is nonchalant. An edit in blue says, “Make this change. Or don’t. No one really cares.”

And when blue isn’t diffident, what is it? Depressed. They don’t call the blues the blues for nothing. That English rock group The Moody Blues? Sucessful, sure, but no one would call them happy. Those NYC rockers, Blues Magoos? Forgotten, sadly.

Take “blue” expressions. A person blue in the face is extremely exasperated. Or dead. If something goes into the blue, it went far into the unknown—and good luck getting it back. Out of the blue? Appearing out of nowhere, and that’s rarely associated with a positive development. Bluetooth? Short-range wireless technology that disconnects for no known reason. Devil in a tan dress? Little black dress? White strapless evening gown? No, it’s devil in a blue dress. Black and blue? In a bruise, yes. In an edit, forget this namby-pamby color.

But combine those two flawed primaries and the result is perfect purple.

Don’t laugh. Purple has one positive connotation after another. Purple has long been been associated with royalty. As far back as ancient Rome, purple denoted rank, authority, and privilege. Today, the Purple Heart honors those wounded in battle.

But is purple more? Purple is more. Purple is fun, e.g., the 1958 hit single, “The Purple People Eater.” Purple is playful, e.g., Barney the Dinosaur. Purple is a revelation, e.g., Who knew Oprah could act until The Color Purple?

So edit in a color of positive connotations; edit in purple, the secondary color that writers in the know reach for first. Not too laid back, not too emotional, friendly purple pops off the page and says, “Yes! Yes you can write The Great American Novel—or at the very least a pretty decent essay for that grad school application.”

What shade of purple? I personally recommend the Pentel EnerGel® Deluxe RTX Retractable Liquid Gel-Ink Pen in the 0.7 medium metal tip, in violet. I get my editing mojo on with that pen.

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When I helped make safe sex more available

The take-one brochure I wrote. Email me for a free PDF to share with friends and neighbors.

Now for a modest account of the historic role I played in bringing condoms out into broad daylight, or rather the cool white fluorescent lighting of convenience stores. This is a true story: I did breakthrough condom work. Make that breakthrough work in condoms. In the advertising sense, I should add.

It was the late 1980s, a time when family planning sections were few. Condom perusal was an unknown shopping concept, and young men lived in fear of having to ask the adult at the pharmacy cash register to show them the condoms. Then along came the AIDS epidemic, and just like that merchants everywhere became pro prophylactics display.

At the time, I was doing freelance work for Williford, Winstead, James, a small ad agency in Raleigh. WWJ had a niche focus: convenience stores, or c-stores in the parlance of the trade. If a company wanted to get its products into c-stores, WWJ had the expertise to do it.

Carter-Wallace, Inc., the maker of Trojan® brand condoms, wanted to make a splash in c-stores nationwide, and they engaged WWJ to create advertising and sales-support materials promoting the profit potential the leading condom brand offered, plus the small-footprint, countertop merchandiser unit they had designed to tempt the titillated, impulse buyer.

An advertising career can be full of painful disappointments, e.g., this brilliant but doomed print-ad concept for the condom merchandiser unit.

Kristie Freeman, WWJ’s art director, and I developed a sales brochure—“Trojan condoms have come out from under the counter” its cover proclaimed—and a small take-one brochure for a side pocket on the merchadiser. After answering the pressing question of why to choose the Trojan brand, the copy went into “Instructions for condom use. (Reading level: third-grade, stupid about sex.) Step 10—Carter-Wallace wanted to be thorough—read as follows: Remember—never reuse a condom. I won’t even begin to guess at the number of unwanted pregnancies that admonition saved.

I’m proud that I helped bring condoms out of the dark, making safe sex available to more. So proud that I believe a highway historical marker near our neighborhood entrance might be justified. Surprisingly, the Commonwealth of Virginia has not gotten back to me on my application. I’ve heard that some state offices are severely understaffed. Probably a waiting list for historical markers, too, I imagine. If so, I hope my offer to write (or at least collaborate) on the marker’s text moves me closer to the front of the queue.

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Here an editor, there an editor

Before launching this blog, I sent the link to a client, John Homs, and asked him what he thought. His office called to say John was out, but he wanted to chat online. I got on iChat and saw John’s robot-head icon with a green “available” dot.

I typed, “Where are you? And how do you like my blog?”

His typing bubble appeared. Pop! “Bogota, Colombia”

Wow, being a hemisphere away didn’t deter John from helping me. Was he a great client or was he a great client?

Pop! “Writing hit me wrong. I found it tiring and self-conscious.”

Or semi-great in John’s case, to be perfectly frank.

I typed, “The entire blog?” barely restraining my left pinky from a string of girly exclamation marks.

Pop! “First post. You’re much funnier, much more sophisticated than that.”

Semi-great, yes, but John does have his moments of sheer greatness.

I dragged the draft of an alternative post into the chat window. John liked it; I decided to go with it. But would another pair of eyes lend confirmation? I asked my wife Maria to read the draft.

Getting too close to the writing is an occupational hazard for any writer. To safeguard against it, I grab the nearest warm body and say, "Read this, and tell me what you think without the least regard for my delicate, writer's psyche."

A quick aside on a long-held theory of mine: When someone asks for advice, then disagrees with it, what the advisee actually wanted was confirmation of an opinion already reached. I return to my story.

Maria said, “I like it, but it’s a little slow in that second paragraph.”

I said, “I worked on that paragraph a lot, and I think it reads pretty quickly,” with a slight inflection of some kind.

“You asked me for my opinion—and I told it to you.”

She had. She had. But I was struck by the value of something else: We’d just proven my advice giving-and-receiving theory—and emphatically, at that.

Could Maria’s take be corroborated? Could mine? I asked the recent college grad to read it. When Anna looked up, I told her, in a neutral tone so as not to prejudice her response, what her mother had said. (Also, Maria may have been sitting there at the moment.)

“I liked that paragraph,” Anna said.

Vindication, baby!

Then she added, “But it does go on about half as long as it should.”

Correction, partial vindication for me (maybe), and for Maria, vindication in the 100-percent range. But after tweaking that paragraph, the debut post would be good to go.

Anna said, “I have some other comments, if you’d care to hear them.”

Huh, she wasn’t finished. “Sure,” I said, in the (perhaps begrudging) spirit of collaboration.

Anna suggested tightening cuts, with such illuminating comments as, “This is too cute!” and “What’s that supposed to mean because I don’t get it?” and “The armpit joke isn’t working.”

What was the joke about? Not much, which is why it wasn’t working. I mean, obviously.

I had two takeaways from this post-writing experience—continue to ask others to read my writing, and when they give advice bite my tongue—and one realization: I had no idea I lived in a household of keen editorial insight.

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Private eye for a day

A few years ago, I came home one June day to find a TV news crew two doors away. A neighbor had been arrested on charges of indecent exposure. He’d been luring women to his house by way of Craigslist help-wanted ads, leaving a note on the door saying to come in. What it didn’t say was, “You’ll find me masturbating.” The reporter had knocked on our door; Maria had told her we had no comment.

“Heck, I’ll go talk to her,” I said.

“You will not.”

“Will so.”

We repeated this exchange several times, suggesting one of us was being childish.

I said, “Look, I’ve seen that scumbag at the end of his driveway fetching his mail with only a bath towel around his waist. Now we know why his rear neighbor put up that Berlin Wall of a side fence: He’s like living next door to a live peep show. I’ll just talk to the reporter for a moment.”

“George Tisdale, you will not.”

“Oh yeah, little woman?” I would’ve said if I’d been braver. Instead I opted for, “OK, I won’t talk to the stupid reporter.” Because one, it’s entirely possible a given reporter could be dense, and two, I recalled that when my mother began a comment with my full name it was akin to the sound of a diamondback’s rattle.

An essential tool of the private eye, the magnifying glass can be repurposed at career's end as a handy phone-book-reading aid.

Our pervert-neighbor’s arrest shed a disturbing light on his rental of a room to female tenants. The renter’s car would always be parked on the street by the entrance to his driveway; but after the arrest, no car parked there. Then about a year later, a small, two-door coupe began parking in the spot. One day I saw a woman driving it. God, I thought, she has no idea who she’s living with. He’s probably spying on her through hidden bedroom and bathroom peepholes. What if I were to warn her? The idea gripped me; I had to do it. A copy of a news article on his arrest would do the trick. No need to tell Maria. Obviously.

Days later, we had a moonless night. I folded a print-off of the story into a thick, playing card-sized rectangle, walked to the woman’s car, paused for a 360-scan, and wedged it into the crack between the driver’s door and the panel behind. The good deed was done; and I’d done it.

The next morning, cup of coffee in hand, I assumed the air of taking the air on our wraparound front porch so I could look down the street. The car’s brake lights were on. The woman was inside. She had to be reading—and shocked.

“What are you doing?” Maria said, from behind me, to my flinch.

I divulged all, adding, “She’ll move away now and be safe—thanks to me, your husband the hero.”

“George?”

“Hmm?” I said, my eyes on the street.

“That woman doesn’t live in his house. She lives across the street.”

Had some woman mimicking Maria said that? I looked around. Just the two of us. Unfortunately. Then something struck me: I’d had my fill of the air and it was time to go inside.

“Are you sure?” I said, pausing in our doorway.

“Uh-huh. See for yourself.”

I didn’t exactly feel the need to, but Maria was doing that come-here thing with an index finger. I crept along the wall—I often do that for the sheer fun of it—and stopped where the side porch met the front to peer around the corner. The woman from the car was talking to Mr. Pervert’s across-the-street neighbor. They were walking together to the neighbor’s house where, to my utter surprise, they went in together.

“Oops,” I said.

Not long after, I retired from being a private investigator. I was about halfway to the kitchen at the time.

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How I became a writer, part three (and the end)

An untitled painting from my Blue Period at VCU, a.k.a. "I'm painting abstractly and have no idea what I'm doing."

After two more (mostly trouble-free) years at Virginia Military Institute, sprinkled with compliments on my writing from English profs along the way, I earned my BA and took the traditional route of the English major: left college without a job. But with typical English-major practicality, I had a plan: Go to art school.

I had four years of higher-education abnormality to make up for. And what better way to do a 180 from VMI than to go to Virginia Commonwealth University and work towards an MFA? I say “work towards” for a reason: Due to VMI’s lack of an art curriculum (a void it and other military colleges ignore to this day), I would have to rack up a sufficient number of undergraduate hours to be eligible for a graduate program. But fun undergraduate hours, which was the point. I painted. I sculpted. I declared sculpture my major. Art school was indeed liberating. Baffling for someone fresh from six years of military school, but liberating.

In art school, I eschewed traditional sculpture materials for those that fit my budget (e.g., scrap cardboard). What exactly was I thinking when I created this piece? "Hope I get an A."

My confusion didn’t last long. Mid-first semester, fate intervened in the form of an invitation from the United States Army to attend its upcoming three-month armor officer basic course at Ft. Knox, KY. The letter may have may begun with, “You are hereby ordered to attend …” It was a good while ago.

Near the end of those three months of playing in the winter mud of Kentucky and pulling the triggers on guns so large they were not then or now available for purchase at a Bass Pro Shop, I learned the army needed young, innocent lieutenants. In an impulsive act that makes me shake my head to this day, I chose to go on active duty. (Ever since, I have looked kindly on the temporary insanity defense). In less than 24 hours, I had orders for Tok Mok Nowhere, South Korea. Not once did Lillian admit her joy at the thought of me being stationed halfway around the world at a remote, hilltop missile battery, with little to do but play ping pong and write her letters. My mother never acted on the stage, but she had the talent, she really did.

Two years later, I left the army and came home for an extended period of relaxation. After a few (and possibly six) months of this, Lillian threw up her parent of a-mooching-adult-child hands and showed me the door. But I was ready to leave. The time had come to venture forth into the world and ask an important question: How long would my sister put up with me? Fairly long, it turned out, as my residence agreement included no-charge babysitting services. I did find time to poke around for a job. I found one in a small advertising agency and made a significant discovery: they paid writers to write advertising. I had written flowerly award citations in the army; I could do this. And so I have ever since, working in several ad agencies and, for a long time now, on my own. My clients not only pay me to write, they pay to edit my writing. It’s a pleasing arrangement.

Of course advertising writing is writing about subjects one would not choose to write about without pay. I couldn’t help but wonder what I might write on my own. A number of years ago, I started a novel. And in the best tradition of all budding fiction writers, I put it in a drawer and forgot about it. I was off to an auspicious start! Then I did National Novel Writing Month and in 28 days (I’ll have you know) wrote a 50,000-word novel. See “This is all about me” for what happened next. (I hate to repeat myself.) In a nutshell, that novel is the reason for this blog. What kind of nutshell? Pecan. I’m a Southerner.

When I finish the latest draft of my book tentatively titled Honestly, Scott, beta readers await. Then come the agent query letters.

Letters! I can hardly wait.

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How I became a writer, part two (incarceration)

A few years back, I edited a client’s draft of a website page about his company’s headquarters location. The text began, “Ah, Petersburg.” Now, in George’s Style Manual (Make-believe Publications, 2008, page such and such) that expression falls under “Corny clichés to avoid,” where I give it a five-ear rating. (One ear equals the annual harvest of a leading, corn-growing state.) Is there any instance when one may write “Ah, (something)”? Not really. And in certain cases, the expression would be laughable as well as inconceivable. Take “Ah,  totalitarianism,” for example, or “Ah, Virginia Military Institute.” Some subjects simply cannot be romanced via trite expression or otherwise.

Hand-tinted postcard of VMI barracks

Marching was a popular activity at VMI, as was standing in formation.

From the moment I arrived at VMI, I discovered that Augusta Military Academy was its secondary-school equivalent in imagination only. How bad was VMI? It was back-of-fridge, mayo-based, eons past sell-date bad.

One’s first year was the worst. VMI didn’t allow freshmen, or as we were affectionately called in the corps of cadets, “Rats,” to have radios or stereos. The only respite was mail. To encourage its daily arrival, I wrote letters night and day, often revising them, sometimes illustrating them. I wrote to anyone who’d write back—the furthest of distant cousins, the slightest of casual friends, even my sister. When I discovered that certain businesses loved having pen pals, I struck up ongoing correspondence with them. (In industry terms, they are often referred to as “direct marketers.”) I wrote so many letters that I neglected the world of letters along with the worlds of science, mathematics, et al., and as my Rat Year drew to a close, I found myself in a world of academic hurt: academic probation.

My Rat photo in the VMI Bomb

What did I have to smile about for my first VMI yearbook photo? Not much.

My problems didn’t end there. I was also on conduct probation for one too many demerits. Well, to be precise, it was not one; it was a 72-ish number. And I was on confinement to barracks for an I-don’t-remember-what transgression. Unlike my poor GPA, however, these other problems had nothing whatsoever to do with excessive letter writing. No, they were the natural effects of an extended period of incarceration. But at least my first year at VMI was over, and I had a nice break coming before I had to return to VMI for both summer school sessions and more letter writing.

My sophomore year at VMI, life began to look up as I undertook the only major I was suited for: English. Under the onslaught of essays, letter writing waned. Then came the day I called an Air Force Captain an SOB for giving my roommate a demerit. Fortunately, the officer had just left our room. Unfortunately, he was standing outside the door listening. The next day, I stood before the Commandant of Cadets (read “unfriendly dean of students”) who said to me, “Tisdale, you’re not the kind of cadet we want at VMI.” In principle, I agreed with him, but VMI’s Superintendent (read “aloof but kind college president”) took pity on me and let me stay for the cost of a months-long penalty of confinement, which included 40 hour-long personal tours of the front of barracks with a rifle resting on my shoulder. And so, restricted to VMI and its environs, I returned to my default coping mechanism: writing letters by the bushelful.

Was that Air Force officer an SOB? Yes, indeed he was. And as much as I might liked to have lied about it, VMI has a rather strict honor code. I had no choice but to tell the truth. It was a real-life Catch-22.

Next post, my circuitous route to becoming a writer takes me from art school to the U. S. Army to advertising, all in all, a natural progression.

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How I became a writer, part one (abridged version)

My first writing teacher, Lillian Tisdale, a.k.a., Mother, schooled me in the art of the brief thank-you note. My birthday and Christmas fell a week apart (and still do, actually), and so each January became a bulk, thank-you-note writing time of misery for me.

(I could digress here on the enduring disappointments of “Merry Christmas/Happy Birthday” presents, but I won’t.)

Writing those notes was a chore, but years later the practice paid dividends when Lillian threw up her parenting hands and shipped me off to Augusta Military Academy, a sort of prep-school gulag for underachievers. This was during the days when long distance calls were major purchase decisions, so I began to write letters. I discovered that all that thank-you-note writing had given birth to a special talent: I could tell a story in an entertaining way. The letter-writing bug bit hard, and I began to dispatch letter upon letter to almost everyone I knew.

Augusta Military Academy in the guise of an idyllic picture postcard

For the benefit of younger readers, here’s an historical note: Long before email, chatting and texting, people actually sent one another handwritten letters on pricey stationery by way of the U. S. Mail. (Few people know that stationery has an archaic second meaning: infuriating handwriting mistakes in ink.) One could write friends, cousins, that aunt one’s parents admonished one to write—and they would all write back. A letter would typically travel from the East to West Coast in days, a week at most, unless it was mailed with insufficient postage from, for example, a tourist trap in Germany. Then it might not arrive until months after a girlfriend had written one off as uncaring and moved on to a new boyfriend.

Letters enabled me to be creative in telling what I’d been up to. “George writes such interesting letters,” my many correspondents relayed to Lillian. Had I suspected the unintended consequence of those reports, I might have looked at stamp or coin collecting to while away the lonely hours. For when college-choosing time rolled around, I barely got the “Uni” of a University-of-Montana wish beyond my lips when Lillian said, “You’re going to Virginia Military Institute.” Like it or not, I understood her logic: AMA’s military educational model had worked for her son, so why mess with a winning formula, especially one that had such a delightful, epistolary byproduct?

And so VMI it was. VMI had a longer tradition than AMA of young men being coerced into attending it. But since AMA had been modeled on VMI, I wasn’t worried. I was an old hand at the military school business. How bad could VMI be?

Next post: How bad VMI was (and other things)

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Cats, the post

For my second post, I thought we might continue to get to know one another. While I promised to never do another imaginary Q&A, this would still require a conversation of some kind. I began it this way.

Me: What’s your name?

You: (silence)

That was a no-go from the get-go. Then I recalled what Rebecca Schinsky (a.k.a., She Who Knows All Things Social Media/Blogging/Books) had said about my second post: nothing. I could write a post about anything. Our cats, for example. Correction. My cats.

It all began a few years ago—many past events do, I find—when our younger daughter Anna broke up with boyfriend I-forget-the-number. As with previous breakups (and those to come), Anna was distraught. My most heartfelt and practical advice—“Don’t worry, sweetie, you’ll have another boyfriend one day”—didn’t lift her spirits. Like men often do with women, I had misread the situation: My job was to listen; and if anything could make Anna feel better, she’d let me know. At last, she did.

“I want a cat,” she said.

Not what I was expecting, but before long Family Tisdale was en route to PetSmart, where we went to look at the adult cats up for adoption. An older, calmer cat, wiser from a life of hard knocks, desperate to please a new owner, sounded like the right cat-acquisition strategy to me. Looking through the glass at a big, sleeping, neutered (informative window sticker) grey tomcat sporting white, baby-booty paws, I said, “I like the looks of him. What do you think?” No reply came, but then it never does when others aren’t present. The girls—wife Maria, Anna and sister Sara—were in the center aisle gushing over the kittens.

I moseyed over to the kitten cages. Anna handed me a brown tabby. Worn out from all the attention it had been receiving, it settled down for a snooze in my arms. Anna added a grey tabby to my arm cradle. It promptly climbed onto my shoulder and then atop my head, proof that even at an early age a cat has a strong need to do what’s in its nature: Look down on us humans. They were both cute. Which one would we choose?

Seeing our indecision, someone (possibly an interfering PetSmart staffer) said, “If you get two, they can play with each other.”

This was choosing-between-two-kittens advice? The mob-rule element of House Tisdale thought so. I wasn’t so sure. We needed to think this over. And away from PetSmart, too.

We went to a nearby deli for lunch. As we ate, Maria, Sara and Anna stared at me. We returned to PetSmart, where it was time for me to be firm. I had a tough decision to make. I was going to make it.

“We’ll take them both,” I said.

After all, if one is going to cave, one might as well cave lock, stock, and litter box.

We named the brown tabby, Coco, and the grey one, Lola. They grew up fast—though not as quickly as Maria returned to work, Sara left town for points north, and Anna decamped to college dorms and apartments. Meanwhile, back on the home and freelance-writing front, I continued in the role of constant-cats companion.

What else can I tell you about the Cats Tisdale? Like other female members of the family, they like things their way. And of course they do charming cat things (e.g., fireplace-mantle sitting, hair-tie playing) as well as irritating cat things (e.g., midnight blind “I want to go out” banging, bathroom activity sharing [and that's any activity]).

Do cats help the writing process? When not catatonic, and in the mood, yes, they can be able assistant editors, though more in limited, desk-accessory roles, such as furry paperweights and printer-operation observers. Sad to say, cat talents don’t carry over into composition. But in the event I did get a special request for something written in stream of cattishness (e.g., nnnnnnnnnnnnjjjjjjjjlllllllllllllllllll?//////’), I know I have the capable staff to take it on.

 

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My first post and last ever Q&A
(I promise)

Welcome to the debut post on my blog. Just as you thought, given the masthead, I’m George Tisdale. Otherwise you might be feeling disappointed and it’s much too early in our delicate blogger-reader relationship for that.

Why am I blogging? My social-media consultant, Rebecca Schinsky (a.k.a., The Book Lady), told me I had to have an established online presence well before I submitted my novel manuscript to agents this year. I pay Rebecca for her advice, and rarely win an argument with her, so here I am.

What will I be writing about?

Hold a sec. I’ve posed two questions in the first three paragraphs. Let’s switch to a Q&A format where I imagine you asking me questions and me answering them. This could be fun. Or weird.

Q May I continue?
A Be my imagined guest.

Q What will you be writing about?
A It’s early days — actually, moments — here on the blog, but my plan is pretty simple: write about a variety of subjects and hope to entertain (more than I am in this current sentence).

Q Did you start writing early and were you encouraged?
A Yes, although I was writing letters and didn’t know I was becoming a writer. And yes to being encouraged, discounting the comment a certain aunt once made about my spelling.

Q Do you spell well today?
A Absolutely, with special thanks to my copy of 20,000 Words (McGraw-Hill, 7th Edition) by renowned speller Lewis A. Leslie, plus the world’s greatest spell-guesser, Google.

Q Are you a professional writer?
A I write for a living, yes (and on some days live better than others).

Q Why have I never heard of you?
A Advertising materials don’t get signed by their writers. We’re ghostwriters of a kind.

Q What made you decide to write a novel?
A Advertising did.

Q What sort of ad was it?
A I didn’t mean that in that sense. I was unclear, a painful admission for any writer. But anyway, writing advertising is writing in the voice of the advertiser. Not once in my career has a client said, “George, use your own voice when you write for us.” I know, can you believe it? I wanted to write a story in my own voice, simple as that.

Q How has a career in advertising influenced your fiction writing?
A It’s honed my sense of humor.

Q Does that mean your novel is funny?
A It’s hilarious.

Q Should I just take your word for that bold claim?
A Actually, I have a bunch of words you’re free to take. Please see my “Meet Scott … ” excerpt.

Q What’s your novel about?
A A young sculptor who stumbles into advertising to make a living while he sculpts pieces for his next show, tries to track down his lost girlfriend, worries about his mother’s relationship with a sleazy motivational speaker, and, well, I’m giving too much away.

Q So it’s autobiographical?
A It is not autobiographical! I use elements from my life. All fiction writers do. (And those using my life had better stop it.)

Q What makes your novel funny?
A If I had to guess, the voice of the first-person narrator.

Q Do I have to re-read your excerpt? I know it by heart.
A Just couldn’t stay in character for the entire Q&A, could you?

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