My son loves to read. When I say “read” what I really mean is that he’s not quite two but loves to look at books, get books, have books read to him or pretend to be a grown-up and sit in his little easy chair curled up with a book. So when I got “Flippy and Toadpole” written by John Mese and Dawn Kelsey and illustrated by Chanler Holden, I was excited (Part of the Flippy and Friends network of awesomeness). New book, new chance to get cute kid reaction– good or bad. So I put the reviewing of the book in little Ben’s hands. I got it out, he grabbed it, examined it and handed it back to me. After the first reading, he said “Again!”— three times. The book was a hit. It’s quirky, sing-songy and with adorable, friendly, wide-eyed characters with poppy names. Big hit. Then I broke out a review copy of “Flippy Goes on a Road Trippy” (coming out in January) and Ben, well, flippy-ed out. This one was long, with lyrical rhymes describing an exciting cross-country road trip with friends including Crawdaddy, Eartha and others. He actually paid attention through the whole book, which reads for kids a little older than him. He loved scanning the pages filled with exciting animals, landscapes and cars and wanted me to read it to him twice more. Success! I love these books and they’re very cool and hip but with the mind of a child at the center of the narratives. Flippy Fantasteriffy.
So last year my friend John started this great online mag called Shuffleboil.com where he gathered up a bunch of his writer friends and we all contributed to his brilliant work. The mag is something new and great and all his own now, but I was reading through some old posts and I thought I would reinvigorate (and rewrite) some here.
ODE TO WRITERS
When I watch the Oscars, my favorite category is Best Writing. Why it’s not Best Writer, I really don’t know. It’s a crime. I am consistently amazed at novelists, essayists and short story writers who engage me so completely that I dream about their characters and I physically feel as though I’ve been transported to another place and time. It’s magic.
And while I get a lot of pleasure out of my book learnin’ ways and my critically-acclaimed film tastes, I always stand ready to praise the quality of writing that I see on television when merited. Sure, most of the dramas and comedies they pass off as entertainment doesn’t even get a second glance from me. But today, I watched a new episode of Mad Men. I am riveted by how thoroughly I was carried into the dialogue and mannerisms of ad guys in Manhattan in 1960. The characters depict a picture of restraint and rage duking it out over the neatly folded over tear in the book of genders. It is a world of men and their women—whores or saints—peddling through a haze of cigarettes, whiskey and lies. I have never seen such an honest depiction of this time in the evolution of American society and culture. The sixties are here, and everything is about to change. This would be the last few years where openly speaking about “catching a husband” or “private executive bank accounts for men who need to keep certain matters from their wives” would be even remotely socially acceptable. There is one’s inside-your-own-head voice and the one you use to maneuver through daily life. I might even dare to say that the guys in Mad Men are the great envy of many men today.
So while the best writers in the industry—the women and men you depend on for that storyline, those characters, that fleeting escape—are constantly fighting to get their fair share and keep writing and providing for their families, I would like to pitch my own reality show while supporting my fellow writers. This is my small way of bringing the two sides come together. A little win-win never hurt, right? Here goes.
The Write Stuff!
Take a group of sixteen writers and make them compete for a chance to be named America ’s #1 Writer! Prize package includes a lifetime supply of paper, pens, ink cartridges, giant cans of coffee and stress balls (provided by Office Depot). The winner will receive health insurance for his ENTIRE family (provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield), and a steady annual income of $150K per year until death (provided by the network) and 10% of all profits from his or her own work. The winner will also receive a 100% matching 401K and free financial planning (provided by ING). Finally, America’s #1 Writer will have a brand new office outfitted with ergonomically correct chair and desk (provided by IKEA) complete with both a desktop and laptop networked computer (provided by Apple) pimped out with every piece of writing software available. America ’s #1 writer will also receive a t-shirt that says “Hey, America , I’m Your #1 Writer!”
The contestants can be screenwriters, novelists, poets, mystery writers, journalists, whoever calls himself a writer by trade. The sixteen writers will compete in Survivor-style reward and immunity challenges like:
1) Balance as many Jane Austen novels on your head as possible while wearing a corset and walking around a big dining room table—last one standing wins.
2) Write your own life story in 15 minutes with your least dominant hand—whoever has the best penmanship wins.
3) From five racks of clothing, speed to dress like a critically-acclaimed author for a photo shoot. You’re being shot for your book jacket by world-renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibowitz—best book jacket photo wins.
4) With a team, act out the scene from a great American play using mime only—team that guesses the most scenes in allotted time wins.
5) Make your own quills and sell them on the street—whoever sells the most wins.
6) Write a children’s story using only vitamins, safety equipment or dentists as characters and read it aloud—children are the judges, best story wins.
7) Pitch your movie idea to three different studio executives… sort of a writer’s “go-see.” You’ll be transported to each pitch meeting on the back of a Vespa driven by a hot Italian guy or girl—whoever impresses the judges the most wins.
8) Stage a poetry reading titled “Voices of Sorrow, Faces of Poverty: A Consciousness-Raising Event to Benefit the Homeless” in the financial district and promote it however you can– whoever has the most audience members wins.
9) Spelling Bee
10) Start a fire with only two rocks, a stick, a piece of string and a pile of Stephen King books
Notes: The only food provided for the contestants during their time on the show will be Ramen, Slim Jims, rice, Tic Tacs, Saltines and ketchup packets. Limitless cigarettes. Judges are beloved American poet Maya Angelou (regular Oprah guest), hefty humor writer Bruce Vilanch (Celebrity Fit Club) and one of America ’s most famous Academy Award-Winning Screenwriters, Ben Affleck (Project Greenlight)
So cheer up, writers. One of you just may get everything you’ve ever wanted, everything you’ve ever needed and probably more! Just know that this writer has your back, and good luck. We’re all counting on you.